Technology

Conformal Coating. A board lifespan extended as much as three times

RealTime Technologies s.r.o. company headquartered in Eastern Bohemia village Sezemice has been long recognized as one of the most profound and known top training centers in the country in thie field of IBC certifications. It is by far not only a training center, but also a producer and a distributor and a service center in the area of printed circuit boards repairs. Since 2017 it has also been a competeng center for conformal coating - that is a selective varnishing of printed circuit boards which can prevent dirt, dampness and chemical sediments from disrupting the functionality of the entire electronic system. And as a result extend its lifespan as much as three times. “it is a process that is relatively new and is still in development. A process of conform coating is actually applying paint with required tropicalization or anti-humidity features that help with protection against air humidity, corrosion or against harmful environmental effect on an already assembled electronic set. It is good to protect the set. Not only for the reason of degradation of bearing material, soldered joint or individual components. The result is then a significant increase in dielectric stability and strength, decrease in the possibility of transmission of a charge between outlets. It is a complete protection of the board” as Mr. Jiri Dostal, a Technical Director of RealTime Technologies says and adds one practical example to prove this. “A fastened board is coated which is way more safer. If I took your mobile phone and coated it, then I'm going to be able to sink it into water and the electronics in the phone would still be working without any further issues,” as added by a person who trains several hundreds of people in the area of IPC standards each year.

How to prepare the data so that it does not get stuck during the production process

While nowadays the production of printed circuit boards is a completely automated process that is just being watched and monitored by operators, however production inputs entering is still heavily dependant upon people. And this is just the reason why mistakes and errors occur a lot more during production. Some of them come from lack of attention, other are a result of transferring data between systems, others come from the lack of knowledge about the scope of possibilities of the addressed producer itself. Mr. Radim Vitek is very well aware of all types of mistakes and who is the Head of Production and who has for more than 10 years now I'll be working in the TPV department. Tactical preparations of production in the Boskovice - based company Gatema PCB that is ranked among leaders in terms of the speed of production of prototype boards on the entire European market. And as every mistake made means at least a loss of time, it might perhaps be a good idea to remind ourselves of even the most trivial mistakes that the Gatema company has been facing. „Our responsibility is to have, in its shortest possible time, an accurately and correctly set up production processes, according to which then the circuit board is producable. Hence it is key for us to obtain the correct data. And even in spite of this we on a daily basis encounter with mistakes that may sound trivial, however these are being repeated constantly,” as Mr. Vitek adds.

How to choose from the widest portfolio of surface finishing?

How to correctly choose the surface finishing of printed circuit boards? Whilst previously it was just enough to protect the board against corrosion and the base for all adjustments was plain copper, customers nowadays are able to select from a wide selection of various options. There are ever increasing demands on a higher frequency, extended lifespan and generally better resistance of materials. New technologies also enable boards designers a higher thickness of joints and smaller distances between individual components. In Gatema, at this time only, six different options of surface finishing are being offered. Unleaded and leaded HAL, immersion silver, immersion gold, chemical tin or galvanic nickel and gold.

Filling in gaps? With non-conductive paste and galvanic copper

The production of printed circuit boards is a fairly stable business. After all, major part of the production process is directly dependent on chemical and physical processes which are largely quite hard to bypass. That is the reason why flaws are being sought after in all the processes around it – in the implementation system, in optimization of capacity usage, in replacing older machines with new ones, in improving particular technologies. This was the topic of our discussion with Mr. Michal Horni, R&D Manager for Gatema PCB company. A company that is even in European standards considered to be the leader in the sphere of speed production of prototype printed circuit boards.

IPC Class 3 has already been with us for quite some time, but officially now only since September

There are situations when the printed circuit boards need to perform its best in extremely difficult conditions. Usually in those when there is zero room for the smallest flaw or failure - typically in industries such as aviation, astronautics, medicine or automobile industry. That is why customers from such industries already today require practically exclusively PCBs qualifying for the IPC class 3 certification – a standard of a board undergoing in its entire production process several inspections and testing procedures. His industry expertise is shared with us by Mr. Zdenek Capal, a chairman of Gatema PCB a.s. company that is one of the top European leaders in the area of printed circuit boards production and thanks to its January acquisition of a German company Kubatronik it also frequently delivers highly advanced circuit boards for top global players in the industry.