Test & Measurement

IDTechEx explores new developments in EMI shielding

19th February 2024
Kristian McCann

Electromagnetic interference (EMI) shielding is adapting to meet the demands of evolving communications technology. 

Personal devices are ubiquitous, and as they become thinner, the components within each device are positioned closer together, making EMI shielding increasingly recognised as a critical solution.

Delicate signals

Consumers are attracted to the latest smartphones for their cutting-edge technology and superior communication capabilities. The advent of 5G network connections offers faster data transmission, yet what is often overlooked is the fragility of these high frequencies. EMI shielding is crucial in preventing the slightest interference.

EMI shielding processes have been refined to such a minute scale that they enable phones to be both intelligent and sleek, relegating bulky devices to history and facilitating a more streamlined design. Where previously shielding was applied on a larger and simpler scale, it is now evolving to meet the demands of the technology market, proving so effective that the average consumer may be unaware of its existence.

Smooth talking

Each year, mobile phones become more compact and aesthetically pleasing, a trend that extends to the concealed technology within. Antennas, once large and conspicuous components, are now sufficiently small to be integrated within devices, enhancing performance. This necessitates stronger shielding for other components, like radio frequency chips, to avoid interference with antenna functionality.

Historically, board-level shielding with metallic box-shaped enclosures was employed to prevent electromagnetic signals from interfering with antennas. However, the expectation is for conformal package-level shielding to become prevalent as system-in-package architectures gain traction in miniaturised commercial electronics. Achieving this requires shielding materials that are not only highly conductive and effective but also cost-efficient and compatible with standard scalable deposition techniques.

As frequencies increase, enabling swift and high-quality signals, shielding must evolve to protect the delicate nature of these frequencies. Innovations in shielding methods, including intricate spray techniques and the use of metallic inks like silver for stronger, particle-free protection, are forthcoming. These advanced methods could eventually supplant the small boxes currently made from plastics and metals. Selective deposition might offer more precise shielding, enabling further miniaturisation of devices without compromising on effectiveness.

The evolution of EMI shielding has kept pace with the rapid transformations in mobile phone design, showcasing the dynamic and fast-paced nature of this technology. While it may have been underestimated previously, it is now gaining recognition as an essential component of modern devices, with its ability to adapt to changing trends and provide reliable protection.

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