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Home > Nanotechnology Columns > HZO > The Business Case for Protective Nanocoatings

Mallory McGuinness
Content Specialist
HZO

Abstract:
Plasma-polymerized protective nanocoatings can offer protection critical for success, drawing upon a wide variety of materials that allow for business-specific functionality. This functionality enables cost-containment, market and consumer loyalty and increased revenue.

January 4th, 2021

The Business Case for Protective Nanocoatings

Several trends are circulating in electronics and converging into problems for electronic OEMs, engineers, and designers. First, devices are becoming smaller while simultaneously becoming more capable, which raises concerns for product design. More components must fit into a shrinking electronic landscape, and accommodating these parts is a challenge. Second, the table stakes for success have risen. Meeting consumer and market expectations, such as waterproofing, corrosion-resistance, and durability, is costly and difficult with traditional protection techniques.

Application requirements cause the third dilemma, demanding the reliable operation of these smaller, more capable devices as they become more critical in our daily lives. As crucial as they are, electronic components remain vulnerable to threats from the environment, including contaminants, humidity, pollutants, and corrosion. IDC estimated that the annual cost of liquid damage related to smartphones alone costs upward of $97 billion a year. Without adequate protection against harsh environments, electronic manufacturers and their stakeholders face the reality of recalls, repairs, and warranty fulfilments, not to mention liability, downtime, and other risks.

Plasma-polymerized protective nanocoatings can offer protection critical for success, drawing upon a wide variety of materials that allow for business-specific functionality. This functionality enables cost-containment, market and consumer loyalty and increased revenue.

What are Protective Nanocoatings?

A protective nanocoating may be defined as a functionalized film that safeguards electronic components from damaging environmental threats. Nanocoatings are generally determined by coating thickness. The prefix "nano" signifies a billionth of a unit of measurement. For context, a sheet of paper is approximately 100,000 nanometers thick.

Plasma-Polymerized Nanocoatings

Plasma-polymerized nanocoatings derive their name from the process in which they are applied to a substrate, a variant of chemical vapor deposition (CVD) known as plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD). With this technique, polymeric materials form under the influence of plasma conditions. In other words, chemical families are applied with plasma as the catalyst. This method is used with a range of materials, including hydrocarbons, fluoropolymers, and silicones.

What Can Plasma-Polymerized Protective Nanocoatings do for Your Business?

Add Functionality

Plasma-polymerized protective nanocoatings can add value to your business in the form of functionality. The films can be functionalized on the surface for desirable properties, such as hydrophobicity (water-repellence) and oleophobicity (oil-repellence).

The films also have beneficial dielectric properties, such as a lower dielectric constant, protecting from intense electrical activity. Advantageous thermal properties is another feature, ensuring the coatings don't compromise thermal design. Also, coatings can be acid-resistant to many agents and can offer increased UV stability. Liquid protection and corrosion-resistance, perhaps the most discussed and sought after electronic protection properties, are another capability of these films that deliver at thicknesses less than a strand of human hair.

Cost Containment and Avoidance

The functionality provided by protective nanocoatings help ensure that electronic components work as designed. Businesses that employ these films can expect fewer repairs and service calls, which can cost $100s or $1000s, not including diagnostic fees that can range from $30-$350. Reliability also means fewer refunds in an economy where 40% of online purchases get returned, with an inability to meet expectations being one of the top reasons. Warranty claims can also be reduced as environmental factors contribute significantly to early device failure when protection is inadequate. This reduction may come as a relief to businesses, as warranties as a percentage of sales vary from 0.5% to 5% of sales, depending on the industry.

Plasma-polymerized nanocoatings also save money upfront. They are easier to rework and repair than traditional conformal coatings, which can both be costly endeavors. Additionally, there is minimal to no masking required during the PECVD process (masking is a technique that ensures components critical to connectivity such as connectors do not get covered during application), saving in both material cost and operator hours.

Increased Revenue

Feature value, for example, splashproof or waterproof protection, is typically one of the most requested features in consumer electronics. In other industries, such as the industrial arena, liquid and corrosion protection is solicited as it encourages resilience and durability. Across verticals, augmenting devices with appropriate protection drives value and offers competitive differentiation.

Ancillary sales derived from protective nanocoating functionality is another opportunity to increase revenue. Incremental sales in cross-selling and up-sell services and opportunities can even surpass the profitability of the initial sale. This holds across industries, regardless of the product being offered.

The Big Picture

When it comes to the value of plasma-polymerized protective nanocoatings, the business case is clear. By bolstering reliability driven by added functionality, OEMs and engineers can avoid costs (repairs, refunds, service calls), mitigate risk (product recalls, liability), increase uptime (factory, facility), and concurrently drive incremental revenue. As technology advances and electronics evolve, it would serve stakeholders to investigate next-generation electronic protection for today and well into the future.



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