What Manufacturers Need to Know About Conformal Coatings

Conformal coatings are designed to protect sensitive electronic circuits from moisture, chemical contaminants, and debris. They don’t just provide a barrier against airborne contaminants. Conformal coatings are also electrically insulating and maintain long-term surface insulation resistance (SIR), making them perfect for electrical applications. Read on to find out everything business owners and electronics manufacturers need to know about conformal coating services.

Types of Coating

There are five types of conformal coating: parylene, acrylic, epoxy, polyurethane, and silicone. All these products provide water and chemical resistance and SIR, but beyond that, each of them is different. The best way to choose a conformal coating material is to contact an expert to discuss project specifications.

Application Methods

Conformal coatings must provide full coverage for the entire assembly, including sharp edges and contours. Not all products can be applied using all coating methods, and not all companies offer all types of conformal coating. Here’s what to expect from each of them:

  • Dipping is best reserved for materials that don’t cure quickly by oxidation, light, or moisture.
  • Selective robotic coating requires specialized equipment, including different dispensing heads for each type of product. It can be used to apply all conformal coating types if technicians use the right dispensing heads.
  • Hand spraying can be used to apply any type of coating. It can be done either in a spraying booth or with aerosol cans.
  • Brushing requires a high level of skill and experience on the part of equipment operators. It’s only the best option in very limited circumstances.

Benefits off Conformal Coating

No matter what type of coating business owners or manufacturers choose and how they want it applied, they can expect to reap a few of the same benefits. First, conformal coating eliminates the need for complex enclosure systems. It’s also lightweight and offers complete protection against chemicals and corrosive agents.

Conformal coating systems also eliminate performance degradation that could result from environmental hazards like salt in the air. It minimizes environmental stress on PCB assemblies, allowing them to last longer and hold up better to a variety of adverse conditions. The insulative properties of conformal coating also allow circuit board manufacturers to reduce PCB conductor spacing by more than 80%.

When applied correctly, conformal coatings can offer protection against thermal and mechanical shock alongside more obvious environmental hazards like moisture and chemicals. They’re highly flexible, easy to remove, repair, and replace, and simple to apply with the right equipment. That being said, it’s important to work with an equipment operator with extensive knowledge in his or her field to ensure the best results.

Industries that Use Conformal Coating

It may be tempting to assume that electronics manufacturers are the only ones who use conformal coating extensively. In fact, it’s used in industries as diverse as aerospace defense and medicine. Conformal coatings are also used to protect modern car components, consumer electronics, LEDs, and much more.

The Bottom Line

Conformal coatings are extremely useful. They protect circuit boards against a wide array of environmental hazards and come in many forms to ensure that manufacturers can find the right solutions for their products.

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