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3 Potential Product Design Disasters and How to Avoid Them

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January 19, 2021

Did you know that over 30,000 new consumer products are introduced each year, and 95% of them fail in one way or another? These failures can stem from not just the launch or a lapse in market research demand but an actual hardware failure of the product itself. No one wants to be a part of this majority, especially when customers depend on your connected product for critical tasks and functionality. As a member of an electronic product design team, the solution lies in defining the problem before the launch.

Electronic components comprise sensitive circuitry that can fail to face commonplace threats, such as humidity, saltwater, splashes and spills, pollutants, and gases. Therefore, a leading cause of new product failure for connected devices is inadequate environmental protection. Traditional protection methods, including gaskets and seals, have had their place in an engineer’s toolbox, given their legacy adoption within manufacturing practices. However, as products are becoming smaller, gaskets, seals – and thick conventional conformal coatings – are quickly hitting limitations and failing to prevent overall product failure. It’s time to break with tradition.

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How to Overcome Product Failure

This post will discuss some product failure examples and how to avoid them. These scenarios will demonstrate why traditional electronic protection methods do not always work and include:

  • Dislodged gaskets and seals
  • Outside elements becoming trapped inside protected devices
  • Traditional conformal coating defects

Design Disaster #1 – Gaskets and Seals Becoming Dislodged

While it is possible to use gaskets and seals to make devices water-resistant or even waterproof, these methods have limitations. They tend to lose effectiveness over time under normal usage conditions, making them unreliable.

  • Physical shocks and falls can potentially damage and/or dislodge a gasket, leading to the need for repair or replacement if caught in time.
  • Temperature variations can damage one or both of the gaskets and seals since they may have different coefficients of thermal expansion (CTE), which lead to overwhelming stress.
  • Physical buttons, switches, and other elements external to the enclosure shouldn’t operate underwater or while not dry since movement may create openings leading to ingress.
  • Adhesives and Form-in-Place gaskets eventually soften in the heat, lose adhesion, and are not practical after disassembly and repair.
  • Gaskets and mechanical seals age, crack, and loosen over time.
multiple mechanical seals

Design Disaster #2 – Outside Elements Becoming Trapped

As design disaster number one indicated, gaskets and seals become less effective over time. Furthermore, once a gasket is breached or not correctly sealed in the first place, moisture and contaminants may readily enter into a product. Dehermitization of the housing, either by corrosion, rough handling, or the other variables discussed above, may lead to moisture penetration into the device. These outside elements can then become trapped inside, leading to the breakdown of critical components. This breakdown may be in the form of a short circuit (an immediate product flop), or slow, unpredictable corrosion, leading to an unforeseen product failure.

Design Disaster #3 – Traditional Conformal Coating Defects

Much like gaskets and seals, traditional conformal coatings are considered as a method of product protection but can be the source of failure as well. Their application is robust and simple, but these methods can be messy and obtuse and are as much an art as a science. What this means is that the consistency of the coatings is operator dependent. Furthermore, application methods themselves, such as brushing or spraying, may leave inconsistencies, which function as openings for liquid and gas contaminants. Finally, conformality can be inconsistent due to materials or wetting (air bubbles).

Other Downfalls of Traditional Conformal Coatings

  • While these coatings are generally cheap, the more features you want, the more they’ll cost.
  • They are bulky and often thick (Parylene is 1/10th the mass and thickness of spray or dip coatings).
  • Solvents and reaction products are often toxic.

As products are becoming smaller, gaskets, seals – and thick conventional conformal coatings – are quickly hitting limitations and failing to prevent overall product failure.

Overcoming Product Failure Can Be Possible With Help from HZO

HZO provides next-generation electronic protection methods to today’s devices instead of relying on less reliable traditional techniques. From our unique take on Parylene conformal coating (that drives down costs and makes the coating process scalable) to our nanocoating solutions that provide dependable protection at a competitive price-point, our solutions deliver the reliability you need to avoid unanticipated product failure due to corrosion or other threats. In fact, since our inception, there has not been one product return attributed to coating issues. We’ve got you covered. Don’t let your next product design fail due to variables outside of your control. Contact us today.

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