San Diego, CA | Posted on May 30th, 2017
A great example of the need for waterproofing electronics is the global smartphone market. The global business model market for smartphones is changing such that the device manufacturers are increasingly bearing the cost of this water damage as they are going direct to the consumer rather than through the carrier. As a result, many OEM’s are looking to reduce the cost of water damage by protecting their phones. Indeed, the International Data Corporation (IDC) found that water-resistant smartphones are one of the fastest growing segments of the market.
According to research from December 2016, IDC discovered more than 900,00 smartphones are damaged by liquids every day globally. IDC’s research revealed that liquid damage is the second-largest cause of damaged smartphones after broken screens, representing 35% of all devices repaired. This results in “significant” costs to the end users, device manufacturers, carriers and retailers, with the impact of liquid damage estimated to be worth nearly $100 billion each year. IDC claims that by 2020, more than 1.7 billion smartphones will be shipped at a market value of $398 billion, with the problem of liquid damage only becoming more widespread if it is not addressed.
However, early attempts to make smartphones waterproof have had limited success as many of the phones are in fact only water-resistant (i.e. IPX-2) and as such they will merely protect against incidental splashes of water. More recent attempts to use physical devices such as gaskets and silicone are not only costly and take up a lot of precious real estate but are also prone to fatigue and failure over time. Aculon’s approach is to dispense their new low-cost, formulation of NanoProof 8 onto the printed circuit boards (PCB) and deliver an IPX-7 rating, which means it can sustain submersion in water for 30 minutes at a depth of 1 meter. Also, unique to Aculon’s NanoProof series is its Push Through Connectivity™, which allows connection to the board after it has been treated, thereby providing assembly flexibility currently not found with other technologies.
Aculon NanoProof 8 is designed to treat all the typical materials found on a PCB including metals, semiconductors, and polymers. As with all its NanoProof® hydrophobic treatments, the NanoProof 8 coating is applied inline using standard equipment produced by manufacturers such as PVA and Nordson Asymtek. This eliminates costly capital investment, masking, and bottlenecking batch processes, all of which are cost prohibitive.
Aculon demonstrates the viability of NanoProof 8 by immersing a Samsung phone in a fish tank, and an iPhone in a pint of beer.
“Waterproofing devices is moving rapidly from a “desired feature” to a “standard feature” as the cost of failure is increasingly being borne by device manufacturers,” said Edward Hughes, Chairman & CEO of Aculon. “There are several methods to achieve waterproofing but what differentiates Aculon’s 8 technology is the ability to meet IPX-7+ standards in an easy to apply manner and to allow for push through connectivity post treatment.”
NanoProof 8 products are available with several different solvent options including Toluene and methylcyclohexane, and various active concentrations to allow processing options and flexibility at contract manufacturers.
Given the increase of liquid damages and high cost of smartphones there is a growing business to repair water damaged phones. Once a phone has been disassembled and the defective component replaced, the Aculon NanoProof DAB can be used to protect that component or, if needed, the whole circuit board and restore its waterproofing status.
In addition to water damage repair Aculon NanoProof DAB application is aimed for device assemblers to use to treat connectors and during rework. One method of waterproofing phones is a plasma deposition treatment. However, during this process the PCB must stay connected to various components including the display. These connectors are masked during the plasma deposition process and once the masks are removed, Aculon NanoProof DAB can be used to spot-treat the top and sides of the connector thereby waterproofing those connectors.
In the electronics assembly industry, the first pass yield for mobile devices is less than 100%, causing rework. During the inspection and test process, faulty components are identified and replaced. If the phone has already been treated with a waterproofing technology the assembler needs to be able to spot-treat the replaced items without having to send the phone back through the entire waterproofing process. Coating all areas twice with waterproofing deposition can cause issues for some components in the device. By using the Aculon NanoProof DAB the assembler can spot-treat the new components allowing the device to pass the testing process.
Continues Hughes, “There is a lot of room for failure when PCBs or electronic components are not sealed properly. What makes the Aculon NanoProof DAB unique is its ability to treat individual components rather than the whole board which hasn’t been available before. This easy to apply method will be a godsend for both assemblers and repair houses.”
Additional information about Aculon’s NanoProof 8, NanoProof DAB, and its other NanoProof products can be found on the Aculon site: www.aculon.com/nanoproofpcbrepellency.php .