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Electronic component protection for IoT devices

23rd June 2020
Joe Bush

One of the latest electronic component protection methods being used in the consumer IoT industry is plasma nano-coating technology. This technology is already widely used in consumer electronics and works by using plasma to bond an invisibly thin, ultra-light, uniform layer of polymer to surfaces – providing protection from water damage and corrosion to treated PCBAs’ (printed circuit board assembly) electrical components. Simon Vogt, CCO at P2i, explains.

Internal component protection is essential to the effectiveness of consumer IoT devices. Consumer IoT is designed to work in isolation with no maintenance from the user (other than perhaps the occasional dust). Consumers expect them to keep working and to continue to provide that desired convenience and security. 

However, there are two key challenges with traditional water protection methods that affect the quality of internal electronic component protection and subsequently the reliability and durability of consumer IoT devices. Firstly, traditional water protection methods degrade over time, leaving devices more vulnerable to water and corrosion damage as time goes on. Secondly, they don’t have the ability to protect all components.

Conformal coatings, for example, crack overtime and leave components susceptible to damage. They are also too thick to protect every component and would render some components, such as mechanical switches, unable to function entirely. Nano-coating solutions, however, provide devices with life-time protection, don’t degrade over time, and are ultra-thin so that they can be used to treat an entire PCBA and protect all components from water damage.

The ‘risks’ consumers are willing to take with their IoT devices is a strong indicator that user expectations around water/corrosion protection, reliability, and durability are increasing. If positioned exteriorly, consumer IoT devices (such as smart locks) are vulnerable to adverse weather conditions including rain and even salt fog in coastal areas.

For those inside the home, we’re seeing an increasing number of people using their devices in areas that pose a higher risk to corrosion and water damage. For example, over half of smart speaker owners use them in the kitchen where they can be exposed to humidity and steam from cooking. Furthermore, nearly a third of owners use them in the bathroom where they are vulnerable to a plethora of water-related accidents.

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