China's Xiaomi plastic smartphone finds success where bigger names failed

James Snodgrass
EUROPEAN PLASTICS NEWS

Published: April 8, 2014 5:09 pm ET
Updated: April 8, 2014 5:14 pm ET

Image By: Sabic Innovative Plastics China's Xiaomi debuted its plastic smartphone before Apple's iPhone 5c, and is continuing to find success with it.

Related to this story

Topics Electronics, Injection Molding

He’s being dubbed “China’s Steve Jobs,” so will plastic smartphones give a little Apple-sparkle to Lei Jun’s Xiaomi? 

He wears a black polo shirt with his jeans, instead of a black turtle neck. And his footwear is Converse, not New Balance. But the image is carefully cultivated. Lei Jun, CEO of China-based Xiaomi Inc. wants to be China’s Steve Jobs. The company he founded in Beijing less than four years ago already has over 3,000 employees and revenue in 2013 of 6.25 billion euros ($8.6 billion). It works on a direct sales model, selling its smartphones only from its own “experience” stores and its website.

The company’s range of smartphones has been a hit in Xiaomi’s native China since the release of its first phone, the Mi-One in December 2011, and the company is now diversifying into network drives and smart TVs.

Like the company Jun hopes to emulate, Xiaomi has gone “beautifully, unapologetically plastic” — to borrow a phrase used by Apple’s design chief, Jonathan Ive, on the launch of the iPhone 5c — with the design of its Mi2A smartphone. The slimline phone is available in a palette of bright and strangely familiar colors (note, however, that Mi2A launched some months before the iPhone 5c and may outlive the phone, which Apple watchers consider a failure).

To achieve the required effect, Xiaomi turned to Sabic Innovative Plastics, the Saudi Arabia-based polymer producer, selecting its polycarbonate grades Thermocomp LDS and Lexan EXL. Why did Xiaomi opt for these particular grades?

“Each of the three Sabic materials chosen for this application are PC based,” said Matt Gray, consumer electronics market director for Sabic. “However, each resin and compound has been specially formulated with additives and fillers, using proprietary Sabic processes, to achieve the desired performance based on the requirements of the application.

“Sabic’s Thermocomp DX10311 — a glass fiber reinforced PC — was chosen for the internal frame as it delivered the balanced mechanical properties required by the customer, such as stiffness and strength, as well as good impact resistance. The Thermocomp DX10311 compound was also found to be particularly suitable for this application as it helped to provide a surface that enabled a high yield rate for non-conductive vacuum metallization and painting, two processes that are often used on device frames.”

To keep the form of the Mi2A slim, its antenna is integrated into the frame. This necessitated a sophisticated manufacturing process, laser direct structuring, or LDS, to integrate electronics and mechanical functions into a single part.

 “Sabic specially developed this compound to be a good candidate for applications requiring the LDS process, which can help enable design flexibility and space consolidation that can ultimately help device makers to reduce the depth of a phone to less than 10mm, and to meet the industry trend towards thinner, more lightweight technology.’

The glossy “unapologetically plastic” back case was molded from Lexan EXL1414 resin. Gray said: “Lexan EXL1414 copolymer resin is a medium flow opaque injection-molding grade. It was chosen for the battery cover/back of the phone because it enables a variety of rich color options, helping manufacturers to design an aesthetically pleasing smartphone housing with colors that meet the demands of consumers.”

He said the material has other important features, including superior impact resistance, low temperature ductility (down to -40°C) and chemical resistance. It also enables shorter injection molding cycle times when compared to standard PC resins.

The Xiaomi Mi2A smartphone was introduced to the Chinese market in May 2013. It has not yet been officially imported into the European market, although grey-market imports are available from online retailers.


Comments

China's Xiaomi plastic smartphone finds success where bigger names failed

James Snodgrass
EUROPEAN PLASTICS NEWS

Published: April 8, 2014 5:09 pm ET
Updated: April 8, 2014 5:14 pm ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Jarden hiring for new plastics plant

December 19, 2014 1:45 pm ET

Consumer products conglomerate Jarden Corp. is hiring plastics technicians for a new operation in Erlanger, Ky.    More

Image

The return of HPM's big presses

December 19, 2014 11:47 am ET

HPM is back in big injection molding machines.    More

Image

Sabic: Rapid demand growth led to Ultem shortage

December 18, 2014 12:06 pm ET

Sabic Innovative Plastics has been increasing production capacity for its Ultem polyetherimide but it still got caught short by increasing demand for ...    More

Image

Indian auto parts maker set to buy assets in Germany, Mexico

December 18, 2014 10:35 am ET

Indian auto parts maker Samvardhana Motherson Gropup is buying the assets of insolvent German plastics car parts producer Scherer & Trier (S&T).    More

Image

Milacron opening Mexico technical center, considers another in Brazil

December 16, 2014 12:58 pm ET

Milacron LLC plans to officially open a new technical center in Querétaro, 140 miles northwest of Mexico City, early in 2015, and the company is consi...    More

Market Reports

Flexible Packaging Trends in North America

Our latest RESEARCH report examines trends in FLEXIBLE PACKAGING impacting the North American market including a review of economic conditions, key drivers of growth, materials pricing, M&A activity, sustainability challenges and the outlook for 2015.

Learn more

Plastics in Brazil - State of the Industry Report

This in-depth report examines the Brazilian plastics industry from a historical and geographical context. Our analysts provide insight on economic trends and forecasts, growing manufacturing sectors that utilize plastics, private investment opportunities, market environment challenges, and innovations in R&D.

Data tables and charts on producer prices, trade, plastics production and end market indicators is also included.

Learn more

Plastics Recycling Trends in North America

This report is a review and analysis of the North American Plastics Recycling Industry, including key trends and statistics based on 2013 performance. We examine market environment factors, regulatory issues, industry challenges, key drivers and emerging trends in post-consumer and post-industrial recycling.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

June 2, 2015 - June 3, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - Chicago 2015

September 16, 2015 - September 18, 2015Plastics Caps & Closures - September 2015

October 27, 2015 - October 29, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - New York - 2015

More Events