Conformal Coating – Why is it important?

What is a conformal coating?

Okay, so a conformal coating is a polymeric film that is applied to printed circuit boards in order to help protect the board’s components from dust, moisture, chemicals, and other elements that can cause oxidation and corrosion. 

Conformal coatings can be made from different bases (such as silicon, acrylic, polyurethane, etc.) and can either be sprayed on, brushed on or the board can be submerged (dipped). 

Board without Conformal Coating

Why are we talking about it?

Throughout our write-ups for different equipment, you may notice where we mention that “X” product was (or was not) conformal coated. This is an important point that we are mentioning when talking about the internal components of a piece of equipment.

In regards to equipment that is mounted in harsh conditions (on the exterior of a patrol vehicle), conformal coating components is an extremely important process in order to prevent early damage from rain, car washes, road salt, etc.

In my opinion, every electronic component that is designed to mount on the exterior of a vehicle, trailer or otherwise, should be conformal coated in order to protect the product from the elements (less if the component is ‘potted’). In the instance of potting: if the backside of the board is potted, the front side should still be conformal coated (if the front contains electronic components).

Personally, my suggestion to manufacturers would be to conformal coat (or pot) any electronics based products that will be installed in a vehicle, regardless of if it is mounted on the interior or exterior. Even interior mounted components can become susceptible to moisture, humidity, etc., especially when said vehicles are in operation near the ocean.

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