After years of anticipation, 5G — the fifth generation of mobile broadband — is slowly becoming reality, and plastics will play a big part in it.
The new technology enables close networking of devices such as cell phones, tablets, vehicles, household appliances, industrial plants and many others to form an Internet of Things (IoT).
For Covestro AG, 5G presents new opportunities. Demand for base stations, active antenna units (AAU) and other equipment will increase dramatically with 5G installations.
Covestro’s polycarbonates and their blends have proven themselves in a wide range of electrical and electronic applications and, thanks to their outstanding properties, should also be the materials of choice for 5G technology, said Fabian Grote, member of the global 5G team at Covestro.
Polycarbonates are mechanically robust, lightweight, transparent to radio frequencies and suitable for injection molding. Some grades also show good weather resistance, thermal conductivity or are suitable for two-component injection molding and laser direct structuring, he said.
Covestro is collaborating with Deutsche Telekom and students from the Umea Institute of Design to develop material solutions and contributing to a smart infrastructure, including sensor technologies and a digital communication environment. The project includes the development of attractive base stations, their color matching and surface structuring. Düsseldorf, Germany, served as a reference city for the project. Düsseldorf also is the home of the K Show, set for Oct. 16-24.
Various prototypes will be presented at K 2019, including a series of technical and design prototypes for small cells in the frequency range of 3.5 GHz and 28 GHz, within the scope of an antenna design project.
5G will also impact smartphone design, as the antennas for 5G technology require more space. As a result, the metal backs of these devices will be replaced by ceramics, glass or plastics. Covestro said it has has developed a Makrofol SR multilayer film solution with acrylic top layer which, combined with a new manufacturing process, results in mobile phone back covers that look like glass but are not fragile.
The film laminate can be formed in three dimensions, and the film solution also meets the requirements for transmission at high radio frequencies, said Echol Zhao, head of Specialty Films Greater China at Covestro.
More than 50 percent of the mobile phone market in China is currently switching to such multi-layer PC/PMMA film solutions.