Understanding EMC markets

Kemtron’s chairman, David Wall, walks readers through the past, present and future of the EMC sector

Q. How has the EMC, RFI and EMI sector evolved over recent years and what is the impact for purchasers? 

The last 10-years has seen little change in traditional EMI shielding products such as knitted wire mesh gasket strip and conductive fabric over foam. However, as higher frequencies become the norm, performance materials such as electrically conductive elastomers are becoming more popular. A decade ago, EMI shielding up to 18GHz represented the upper end of requirements but 40GHz is now common, with 5G possibly going higher. Higher frequencies, coupled with the electrification and automation of things, has made EMC more important to ensure equipment works in harmony. 

Q. What EMC compliance solutions are available when a product is at R&D stage? 

Kemtron always recommends customers discuss their EMI/RFI shielding needs early in the design stage so its engineering team can offer the best shielding advice for the application. Kemtron’s web site shows the product ranges on offer however, there can be many variations on a theme. The skill is knowing which questions to ask to direct customers to the best, cost-effective product for their application. Fifty per cent of Kemtron’s manufacturing is bespoke to ensure it fully meets customers’ needs.

Q. What shielding sectors are showing growth? 

The pandemic has seen a reduction in commercial aerospace markets but defence and other traditional markets remain buoyant. Dramatic growth was seen in medical markets initially for the ventilator business which quickly levelled off, but medical diagnostics is still growing for obvious reasons. Organic growth is taking place in developing industries such as 5G infrastructure and Industry 4.0, the ongoing automation of traditional manufacturing and industrial practices. Other growth areas are within renewable energy and the electrification of the automotive industry which includes charging infrastructure and vehicle EMI mitigation. 

Q.How will EMC solutions advance in coming years? 

Electrically conductive elastomers, now known as performance materials, are where most advances are being made. These products are silicones and fluorosilicones heavily loaded with electrically conductive particles. The most popular being silver plated aluminium and nickel coated graphite. Kemtron is launching a range of nickel plated aluminium filled silicones and fluorosilicones which offer excellent shielding effectiveness while also addressing the problem of galvanic compatibility with the gasket mating surfaces. The company’s research and development department is also working on graphene and carbon nanotube loaded polymers to exploit their

superior electrical and thermal characteristics. 3D printing of flexible electrically conductive polymers is an area being actively developed to enable production of complex soft flexible electrically conductive components.