Can plastic be electrically conductive?

Can plastic be electrically conductive?

Plastic is never normally regarded as having the ability to be conductive. Plastic is plastic and that’s it, right? Wrong! With a little bit of modern-day sorcery, yes – plastic can be electrically conductive.

There are a couple of ways that this can be achieved, but we will focus on what we believe is the most superior version available, and that is using a conductive coating, namely Indium Tin Oxide. More commonly known as ITO, this is both transparent and conductive, making it ideal for a variety of uses across a multitude of industries.

Conductive plastic – How?

A thin and uniform coating of ITO can be applied to a variety of plastics including polycarbonate, polyester and acrylic within a vacuum and at a low temperature. Our parent company Diamond Coatings actually designed and built their own production plant, which has the ability to produce conductive plastic using ITO coatings.

We have the ability to coat flat, curved or injection moulded shapes of up to 1000 mm by 1000 mm in size with sheet resistances ranging from 8 to 1000 Ohms/sq

Why do you need conductive plastic?

There are a huge number of applications for a conductive plastic, such as EMI/RFI shielding and flexible printed circuits, resistive touch screens, medical sensors, membrane switches, electroluminescent lamps and optical clear heaters.

The most widely used application hidden in there is the resistive touch screen. These are common in public facing areas (touchscreen order facility in takeaway restaurants, ticket ordering kiosks, touch ATM machines as some examples)

Types of conductive plastic

Polycarbonates – Widely used within modern manufacturing, these substrates boast a range of interesting properties including optical properties and both impact and temperature resistance. Available with/without anti-refelctive or hard-coat coatings, polycarbonates are a group of easily machined and coated thermoplastic polyesters.

Offering different polycarbonate grades with flame retardant and other properties, we can also supply these substrates with anti-reflective finishes suitable for a wide range of applications.

Acrylic – Also available with/without hard-coat/antireflective coatings, acrylic substrates are better optically although not as resilient as polycarbonates.

Further scratch resistant properties may be added together with anti-reflective coatings.

Resembling glass yet possibly superior to glass (the main advantage being weight, as acrylic is significantly lighter than glass), our acrylic substrates are hand-made and invariably inspected to exceptionally high optical specifications.

ITO Coated Films – In addition, we offer a range of ITO coated films on substrates including polyester, polyimide, polypropylene, and polycarbonate.

Diamond Coatings supplies ITO coated conductive plastic to large numbers of original equipment manufacturers within electrical and electronic industries throughout Europe, the Far East and the USA.

If you would like to know more or speak with us about your own requirements, please get in touch.

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