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What Is Conformal Coating?

A conformal coating is a protective chemical coating or polymer film, 25-75 μm thick (50 μm typical), designed to protect electronic circuits from harsh environments that may contain moisture and chemical contaminants.

Why Is a Conformal Coating Used?

PCB Conformal coating is a standard method of preventing corrosion and other damage caused by external contaminants that come into contact with electronic components.
PCB Conformal coating can also withstand higher electric fields in higher component density designs. As an advantage, the insulating effect of the coating allows for smaller cell designs with higher voltages.

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    How to Apply Conformal Coating?

    When applying conformal coating, PCB assembly manufacturers offer a wide range of services that can help ensure the best results. The most common type of PCB coating is a liquid-based coating applied using various methods such as spraying, dipping, brushing and electrostatic spraying. It is essential to select the correct type of conformal coating to ensure the highest level of protection for your circuit board.

    The Operation Process for Conformal Coating

    The usual sequence of operations is to test the filled functionality of the circuit board first and then tape or mask the areas that do not need coating. If the application allows, this can be done using temporary stencils or essential tape. The coating is then applied at a uniform thickness and waited until dry. Once the PCBA has been coated and dried, the battery pack can be mounted, and the final assembly completed. The completed battery pack can now be sent to the packaging level for testing steps, validation, packing and shipping to the customer.

    How to Remove the Conformal Coating from PCB?

    The method and material used to remove the conformal coating are determined by the type of PCB coating, its hardness, and the size of the area which needs removal. The most common removal methods are chemical stripping, mechanical stripping and heated stripping. When preparing a PCB for rework and repair, be very careful in stripping the coating. Careful thought, experience and handling skills are required to select the most appropriate removal method.

    Chemical stripping

    Some conformal coatings can be softened or partially dissolved with chemical solvents.

    Mechanical stripping

    Some conformal coatings can be removed from PCB and component surfaces by peeling or scraping them off. Toothpicks, wooden sticks or sharp knives can remove these soft coatings. This mechanical removal method can be combined with heat or solvent removal techniques. In this removal process, we must ensure that components and laminates are not damaged.

    Heated stripping

    Another conformal coating removal technique uses a heat source to soften the conformal coating to be removed or to break down the coating. Usually, a heat gun or soldering iron is used as the heat source. After softening the coating to be removed, it can be peeled off by gentle pressure with a dental tool or wooden stick. This removal method is suitable for most PCB coatings.

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    The most common conformal coating defects include cracking, flaking, voids and bubbles, material defects, lack of adhesion, and discolouration.

    We need a conformal coating for PCB because it protects the circuit board from mechanical and chemical damage and allows electronics to maintain their long-term functionality.

    A conformal coating is a speciality polymeric film-forming material used to protect circuit boards, components and other electronic components from adverse environmental conditions caused by corrosive air, humidity, heat, fungus and contaminants (such as dust and dirt).

    The most common materials used to make conformal coatings are epoxy resins, acrylic resins, polyurethanes, silicone resins and poly-p-xylene.

    The following are several ways to waterproof the PCB.
    Use waterproof material such as FR-4 material to make PCB
    The structure of a PCB is waterproof, effectively isolating the external package from the internal electrical part.
    Potting adhesive waterproofing.
    Cover the PCB with nano-waterproof coating.

    There are five common types of conformal coatings.
    acrylic adhesives
    epoxy resins

    Select the material for the conformal coating.
    Different materials have different properties, and their costs vary.
    Determine which components require conformal coating.
    Not all components in electrical equipment will benefit from the conformal coating.
    Review the different component options to show the range of components that need conformal coating and the reasons behind them.

    The conformal coating can be applied by way of spraying or dipping.

    It can last for many years, depending on the usages environment.

    Before applying the conformal coating, the water and oil on the surface of the PCB and components must be removed first.
    After the surface of the first coating film dries, we can apply it the second time.
    The used brush, spray gun, etc. should be washed in time for the next time. Pay attention to ventilation when applying the conformal coating to facilitate solvent evaporation in the coating and ensure safety.
    The conformal coating, once not used up, should be covered in time for next time.