The science behind fluoropolymer coatings for protecting electronic circuit boards


SCH UK1

Nano-coatings are being used regularly to protect printed circuit board assemblies.

This is because the material they are made of fluorinated polymers and these materials have very specialized properties that produce very different results to traditional conformal coatings.

So, what are the unique properties of a Nano-coating?

To understand the properties of a Nano-coating you have to understand what a fluoropolymer coating is made of.

Typically, the coating itself is comprised of fluorocarbons and characterised by carbon-fluorine bonds.

Since the coating is made of fluorocarbons then the film surface is not susceptible to Van der Waals forces (interfacial electrostatic bonds).

Therefore, the surface energy of the fluoropolymer coating is extremely low and hydrophobic (water repellent). It acts like Teflon on a frying pan.

This non-wetting of water on the circuit board is one of the many key properties making them so popular.

What other properties do Nano-coatings have that may help protect circuit boards?

For electronic circuit board assemblies there are several key properties that are being used.

These include being:

  • Hydrophobic: Being highly water repellent
  • Ultra-thin: Protection whilst being extremely thin
  • High moisture barrier: Low water vapor transmission rate provides excellent corrosion resistance
  • Chemically resistant: Having a high chemical resistance helps protect the circuits from chemical attack.
  • Good dielectrics: fluoropolymer coatings have high dielectric properties

However, to really understand the benefits you have to look at the key difference compared to a conventional conformal coating.

That is that no masking is required when applying the Nano-coating.

SCH UK2

The key reason for using a Nano-coating in protecting electronics is that no masking is required whilst applying the coating to the printed circuit board.

In the image above the connector is coated completely in the Nano-coating. It was just dipped in the coating. The image shows the water is being repelled from the connector. However, electrically the connector works perfectly fine.

So, why is there no need to mask when using a Nano-coating?

First, consider a normal conformal coating is applied at typical thicknesses of 25um or more.

Also, the conformal coating is a high insulation material.

Therefore, at this thickness the conformal coating would electrically insulate components like connectors and it must not be applied to any part that needs electrical conductivity.

However, this is not a problem for a Nano-coating.

Since the Nano-coating can be applied at ultra-thin thicknesses (1-2um in thickness or less) without any protection performance reduction, then the extremely soft coating is easily removed or scratched away when the connectors are joined and the electrical circuit is easily made.

This key parameter of not requiring masking during Nano-coating application combined with the hydrophobic nature of the coating material makes the Nano-coatings highly effective in protecting electronic circuit boards at a very low cost per unit.


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Five key facts about using fluoropolymer Nano-coatings for protecting printed circuit boards


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  1. A Nano-coating is hydrophobic. It repels water from the surface of the circuit board and water will not wet the circuit.
  2. The Nano-coatings are extremely thin (<2um). They are very different to traditional conformal coatings.
  3. Nano-coatings do not require masking. The circuit board can be completely submerged in the liquid with no masking applied without damaging components.
  4. They have excellent chemical resistance due its fluorine bonds. The Nano-coatings are perfect to protect against chemical attack.
  5. Using a Nano-coating is a fast simple process. The coating can be dipped quickly, without masking, and the coating dries extremely fast.

Want to find out more about Nano-coatings?

Contact us to discuss your needs and let us explain how we can help you. Or, read more on Nano-coating technology for protecting circuit boards now.

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What is a fluoropolymer nano coating and how can it protect my circuit board?


SCHUK1

A fluoropolymer Nano-coating is an ultra-thin film comprised of fluorocarbons and characterised by carbon-fluorine bonds.

Chemically inert, fluorocarbons are not susceptible to Van der Waals force. This means that films formed using these materials are non-stick (hydrophobic and water repellent) and friction reducing.

Also, due to the fluorine bonds, these Nano-coatings demonstrate a high level of chemical resistance to acids, bases and most solvents.

This makes them interesting materials for protecting electronic circuits. 


What properties of the Nano-coatings areused to protect circuit boards?

Fluoropolymer coatings have very specialised properties.

However, for electronics the main properties that are useful include:

  • Being highly hydrophobic (water repellent)
  • Having a high moisture barrier
  • Having a high chemical resistance
  • Having high dielectric properties
  • Providing high corrosion resistance
  • Providing good abrasion / wear resistance

These properties are excellent for protecting circuit board assemblies in harsh environments.


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The ABCs of ultra-thin fluoropolymer coatings for electronic circuit boards


 

Nano coatings are no mask conformal coatings with great water repellent properties

What is a fluoropolymer coating?

A fluoropolymer coating is typically comprised of fluorocarbons and characterised by carbon-fluorine bonds.

They have many interesting properties and especially for printed circuit boards.

However the three key properties for electronics are that the coatings are:

  • Hydrophobic
  • Chemically resistant
  • No masking required

These properties can be key to protecting the electronics and providing a highly cost effective production process.

Hydrophobic coating

Fluorocarbons are not susceptible to Van der Waals force.

This gives the coatings their signature characteristics. That is they are non-stick, hydrophobic and friction reducing.

Therefore, water does not like to wet the surface of the circuit board and this gives the circuit excellent protection.

Chemically Resistant

These fluorinated coatings are chemically inert.

Owing to the fluorine bonds, fluoropolymer coatings demonstrate a high level of durability as well as resistance to acids, bases and most solvents.

This gives the circuit board a high degree of protection from chemical attack.

No masking required

Finally, what is really interesting is that these properties are exhibited at ultra-thin film thicknesses.

Typically a dry film can be 1-2um or even less.

This means that masking generally is not required for circuit boards before application.  Therefore, you can dip the whole product into the liquid and there is no issue with electrical contact.

This can lead to significant cost savings in production.


What other properties do the fluoropolymer coatings have that may be relevant in electronics?

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As already mentioned these hydrophobic coatings have very specialised properties.

They can include:

  • Being highly hydrophobic (water repellent)
  • Having a high moisture barrier
  • Requiring no masking before application
  • Being highly oleophobic (oil repellent)
  • Having a high chemical resistance
  • Having a high lubricity
  • Having high dielectric properties
  • Providing high corrosion resistance
  • Providing good abrasion / wear resistance

Note, not all fluoropolymer coatings have all of the above properties. But, some coatings can in fact have almost all of the properties.

The fluoropolymer coatings are extremely flexible coatings and becoming more prolifically used throughout engineering.


What sectors of industry are fluoropolymer coatings being used in protecting electronics?

SCHUK3

Fluorinated coatings are used to protect electronics in almost all industrial sectors.

They include:

  • Aviation
  • Aerospace
  • Defence
  • Automotive
  • Industrial
  • Oil & Gas
  • LEDs
  • Medical
  • Optics
  • Telecommunications
  • White goods / Commercial

This list is limited and there are a lot more areas that they are used.


What are the major differences between a fluoropolymer coating and a conformal coating for protecting an electronic printed circuit board or assembly?

There are several key differences between a conformal coating and a fluoropolymer coating.

They include:

  • Hydrophobic Properties – A fluoropolymer coating is generally hydrophobic in nature. It repels water when the water is on the surface of the coating.
  • Extremely thin coating – The fluoropolymer coating is normally applied a lot thinner than a typical liquid conformal coating. This is due to its superior performance when repels liquids
  • No masking – Due to the extremely thin fluoropolymer coating applied (<1-2um), the components that normally require protecting (connectors, switches etc) from the insulating liquid conformal coating may not need to be masked for the fluoropolymer. The circuit board can be completely submerged in the liquid with no masking applied without fear of damaging the connections.
  • Simple process – No masking means an extremely fast application process
  • Fast drying – due to the thin nature of the fluoropolymer coating and the solvents normally used the coating dries extremely quickly.

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