As the Products Get Smaller, the Challenges of Shielding Get Bigger; New Dynamics in the RF EMI Shielding IndustryRandy Mitchell
Most of the electronic devices of today are getting smaller and smaller due to the increasing tendency of the consumer to want everything to be light and portable, witness the change in size of the cellular telephone since its inception in 1973. The size of the first cell phone ever used was 9″x 5″x 1.8″ with a weight of a little more than 2.4 pounds. Today’s cell phones are 5″ x 2″x o.5″ and carry a fraction of the weight. Phones aren’t the only things getting smaller. The effect is the same in the automotive industry, where the current goal is to use less and less metal, which is an excellent shielding material, in the autobody construction. The car is lighter, which is great for gas mileage, but plastics don’t provide the necessary shielding required to allow all the many electrical components of the car to function at their best, in an environment with little RF and EMI. As the footprint size of the products decreases, the FCC imposed Shielding requirements for RF and EMI compliance are becoming ever stricter, challenging the engineers to use shielding material that amounts to a small fraction of the size and weight of the product while conforming to ever tightening tolerances.
The RF EMI Shielding Industry is experiencing record growth due to decreasing changes in product size. The smaller size requires shielding designers to use thinner and lighter materials to get a compliant shielding job done, while providing the components an RF and EMI environment that allows them to function optimally together. At the same time, the FCC is ever tightening the requirements regarding RF and EMI emission. The biggest challenges for the shielding industry for the OEM market are the “Big Three”: smaller size, higher cost, and stricter requirements for regulatory compliance.