Conformal coating is a thin layer of protected polymeric coating applied to printed circuit boards (PCBs) and electronic components. Its goal is to provide environmental and mechanical protection for the components and circuits, allowing them to last longer and be more reliable. It maintains long-term surface insulation resistance values by being electrically insulating, ensuring the assembly’s operational integrity. It also prevents corrosion by acting as a barrier to airborne pollutants from the operational environment, like salt spray.
Conformal coatings are often applied in the 25-250 micron range. Parylene films, on the other hand, are applied significantly thinner and can be fractions of a micron thick. Conformal coatings are a flexible covering that will secure the printed circuit board assembly from the environment it is in by filtering out air pollutants and ensuring long-term interface resistance value while also allowing any moisture trapped in the circuit board to dissipate.
The notion of conformal electronics coating was first conceived and refined through research decades ago to suit the rigorous requirements of the military. HumiSeal was a pioneer and leader in that early research and the company has remained a pioneer and leader for over 60 years as the technology has spread to a variety of industries, including:
- Industrial Controls
- Automobiles like Hybrid and Electric Vehicles
- Traditional and renewable energy
- White thing
Conformal coating types
While there are many other types of coatings, including a few specialist forms, five primary categories are depending on the chemical makeup of the substances.
- Urethane Resin (UR):
Single-part or two-part urethane resins are available. It is chemically resistant as well as humidity resistance. On the other side, it is simple to remove and rework with a soldering iron.
- Acrylic Resin (AR):
Preformed acrylic polymers that have been dissolved in a solvent are known as acrylic. Typically, they are one-part compounds. It is inexpensive and simple to apply and remove. During the curing method, there is no distortion.
- Epoxy Resin (ER):
Epoxy coatings are typically two-part compounds, but a one-part option is also available. It has moistures. It performs admirably in adverse conditions.
- Silicone Resin (SR):
Silicone resin coatings are one-component materials that are frequently used on devices that will be exposed to severe temperatures. Even at high temperatures, it performs excellently. It can stick to almost any PCB material.
- Parylene (XY)
Chemical vapor deposition is the method used to apply parylene coatings. When heated, parylene turns into a gas. It is then placed in a vacuum chamber to polymerize and form a film after cooling. After that, the film is applied over the circuitry. It is translucent and colorless. It is the ideal solvent for coating and can be done at room temperature.
Uses of conformal coating
When today’s dynamic electronics are faced with significant environments, additional protection is required to ensure proper operation. Moisture, salt sprays, strong chemicals and solvents, vapors, dust, abrasion, and even organic assault have all been proved to be resistant to conformal coatings. Furthermore, it has been demonstrated that the impact of mechanical stress and disturbances on the circuit and its functionality in severe temperature ranges can be reduced by using the right material. Conformal coatings protect the product while also improving its reliability. As a result, the negative impacts of early field failures are reduced, as is the potential cost. We use conformal coating for:
- It works as a moisture and humidity-resistant barrier, resulting in lower leakage currents, converse, and electrical and chemical transfer throughout the board.
- The coating has the potential to improve the strength of dielectric conductors.
- The coating provides a high level of insulation safety, allowing conductor space to be reduced.
- It prevents the board from chemical and corrosive attacks that can cause corrosion. It also protects against damage caused by hard handling, as well as thermal and mechanical load.
- The coating prevents particle pollutants from reaching the board’s surface.
Method of conformal coating
The following are types of common Printed Circuit Board conformal coatings:
Brushing a conformal coating is a popular method of application. Although this is a simple procedure, it needs the use of a trained operator to ensure the coating’s quality and finish. A brush, a container for storing the coating, and a specified area for application are all required. The coating material is dipped in the brush and applied to the board.
The type of brush, operator competence, coating viscosity, the environment, and the coating material all affect the brushing method’s quality. It has many benefits, including ease of use, simplicity, and reduced process control needs. This method is ideal for rework and low-volume production. In this process, we use hands and are thicker and less pleasing artistically. This is the ideal option for individuals who don’t have the tools to use other options or who are working on a few boards at once.
This procedure produces a better surface polish and is more cost-effective, but it does not penetrate the board deeply. Spraying, which is also preferable for low-volume production, is time-consuming because all parts that do not require coating must be masked. Spraying with aerosols, batch spraying, and selective spraying are all part of this approach.
A spray gun is included with an aerosol. It’s a coating with a solvent basis. Aerosol spraying in a spray booth is a low-cost option. This procedure is superior to brushing because of the inexpensive setup costs, high process speed, simplicity, and final quality.
Batch spraying utilizes a compressed air spray cannon to provide a high-quality coating finish. For the setup, you’ll need a spray gun, a spray booth, and an air compressor. In this operation, it’s crucial to get the spray gun set up with the right atomization pressure and material supply. It’s also crucial to get the coating’s viscosity just correct. It has features such as inexpensive setup costs and flexibility.
Spraying selectively only coatings selected areas. The coating isn’t applied to regions that need to be masked, like connectors and other components. The coating is done with the use of a customized robot system that uses various spray patterns. Valve selection, board material, and board arrangement are all important considerations. The correct spray valve and coating viscosity must be selected.
All sorts of conformal coatings are supported by the spray approach, and designing for this procedure necessitates a high level of technical knowledge. As a result, spray application requires significant capital expenditure. In addition, the material’s performance over time and changes in the control environment must be monitored.
Dipping is the process of immersing a board in a coating solution and then removing it. This process is ideal for high-volume assembly since it is quick, precise, and penetrates the board, coating the entire assembly. However, to eliminate leakage, masking must be flawless, rendering many boards unsuitable owing to design. This approach can only be used on boards that take coating on both sides.
This is a conventional procedure that involves dipping the pcb assembly into a tank of coating chemicals. The speed of immersion, coating dwell time, and board withdrawal speed are the variables that determine the process. Acrylics and urethanes, which are solvent-based conformal coatings, are recommended for dipping. It’s a high-speed process that can be used in batch or in-line processes.
The conformal coating manufacturing process
In the conformal coating production process, there are eight main steps:
The cleaning eliminates a variety of residues that result from operator handling, soldering, machine use, and pollution from the environment.
Priming is the process of applying a preliminary coating to a board before applying the conformal coating. It improves adherence and produces a binding layer to keep the coating in place. The amount of priming required varies depending on the type of resin.
The function of masking is to prevent the conformal coating from being placed on the parts and selected board sections. Because of the insulating nature of the coating, certain regions of the circuit board must remain uncoated. Many materials are used in masking.
Cure and dry:
There is a difference between Cure and dry. That is:
This means that the coating achieves the desired qualities (electrical and mechanical) and that the board is protected while in use.
This assures that the PCB is laminated and suitable for the users to operate. It could take anywhere from a few minutes to several days.
In the procedure, it is the most crucial stage. Manual inspection, UV lamp visibility, and automated optical inspection are all included.
Benefits of conformal coating
When it comes to choosing parylene coating that meets standards, there are several clear advantages and benefits. Because there is no liquid phase in this technique, there will be no pooling of coating in low regions. Furthermore, it will not bridge in substrate features. Furthermore, this sort of coating is extremely pure and is one of the best dielectric qualities available. It’s one of the purest polymer types. It also possesses the best mechanical and gas barriers, allowing it to suit a wide range of coating requirements, even when applied in thin layers.
It protects against impurities such as dust, filth, fungi, moisture, chemicals, thermomechanical stress, mechanical shock, and vibration, as well as environmental, mechanical, electrical, and chemical issues.
Finally, remember the project and the electronics’ user needs in mind when selecting a coating for your printed circuit board or other electronics. It’s necessary to preserve the board, but it’s even more critical to cover it with the right material. When choosing a coating type, keep the environment in mind as well as any rework or repair requirements.
At PNC, get your conformal coatings done at affordable rates. Contact us at email@example.com