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How Electronic Advancements Drove The Automotive Industry

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Calvin Jennings | March 11, 2021

As technology continues to evolve and become more a part of our lives, the average automobile is no exception. The last ten years have seen a tremendous increase in electronics in the automotive industry, as vehicles become safer, smarter, and more sophisticated. This trend is expected to continue at a CAGR of 6.1% through 2026.

For example, in the interior of the vehicle, there are more displays (such as instrument cluster display, center stack display, Head-up display), there are heated and cooled cupholders, heated and cooled seats, wireless charging pads, various electronic control units for interior functions, telematics modules for Bluetooth, remote start and so on.

There is also an increase of sophisticated ADAS (advanced driver-assisted systems) devices such as blind-spot detection, radar, lidar, cameras for backup and surround view, lane keep, adaptive cruise control, and park assist. Electronics are now everywhere throughout the vehicle. It is estimated that by 2030, electronics will account for 50% of a car’s total cost worldwide.

As the industry shifts to higher levels of autonomy and eventually driverless systems, which some estimate will comprise 25% of the global market by 2040, the reliability of these systems becomes a paramount concern.

View our webinar on how to improve automotive electronic performance in harsh service environments.

Electronics are driving this technology. There are all the electronic control units (ECU) that process the information from the various sensors such as radar, lidar, and cameras. In addition, as autonomous technology develops, there will be more and more Vehicle to X communication like Vehicle to Vehicle, Vehicle to Infrastructure, and Vehicle to Pedestrian. A massive amount of data will be transmitted between vehicles, infrastructure, pedestrians, and devices. These control units need to process this information to provide inputs to the driver modules for steering, braking, and powertrain. As we move closer and closer to Level 4 and Level 5, the reliability of these electronics becomes increasingly essential to last for the vehicle’s life under harsh operating conditions.

In addition to more and more electronics being added to the vehicle, the powertrain has seen a significant change with a shift towards electrification, including Hybrids, Battery electric vehicles, and Fuel Cell EVs. Also, new EV-only OEMs have entered the market like Tesla and Rivian, for example, competing against the traditional OEMs. Today, over 1 million plug-in electric vehicles are operating on American roads. It is estimated that there will be 10 to 35 million electric vehicles in the United States by 2030. It is also estimated that EVs could account for up to 65% of new light-vehicle sales by 2050.

HZO’s role is to work closely with the OEMs and Tier suppliers to design a more robust solution to protect these critical electronics from the harsh automotive environment.

Challenges Design Engineers are Facing

The complexity of electronic modules is always increasing, and the space available is always decreasing as more and more devices are added to the vehicle. A balance of putting more in a smaller space is a real challenge. Newer devices such as BGAs help reduce board size but add challenges in board layouts and manufacturing. Depending on the ECU location, sealing and/or conformal coating may be required. All this needs to be accomplished at the best cost and lowest weight, as the automotive industry is extremely competitive.

Engineers have several options for protecting PCBAs from the harsh automotive environment. There is a lot of science that goes into protecting devices, with many different forms of protection that can be used. For example, boards could be placed in a housing sealed with silicone or other adhesive. They could be coated with a traditional conformal coating such as silicones, epoxies, urethanes, and UV-cured acrylates. They could be potted with a resin or use a next-generation thin-film solution. All these protection methods have a place. However, seals can break-down over time. Covering the PCBA with a traditional conformal coating like silicones and epoxies adds weight, variability in thickness, potentially traps heat and stresses sensitive components like BGAs.

View a Video Series about Delivering Reliability in the Automotive Market

Thin-film Coatings

With thin-film coatings such as Parylene, weight addition is minimized as coatings are generally less than 50 microns. Parylene has excellent thermal and dielectric properties. Since Parylene is applied through Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD), it is truly 3D conformal; all edges of components, PCBAs are coated evenly. As Parylene is extremely thin, it will not stress-sensitive components.

Where seals, glue, and traditional conformal coatings were acceptable protection methods previously, alternatives like thin-film coatings should be included in the designer’s toolbox.

Thin-film coatings like Parylene can be used wherever traditional conformal coatings are used, such as body modules, network controllers, sunroof glass motors, trailer modules, transmission modules, door ECUs, liftgate ECUs, keyless entry modules, interior lighting modules, headlight ECUs and seat ECUs. In addition, Parylene can be used in safety-critical modules where traditional conformal coating does not provide adequate coverage. It can be applied in locations where submersion can occur, and the device cannot be sealed, such as a motor.

Download our automotive fact sheet

Some estimates forecast higher levels of autonomy and eventually driverless systems will comprise 25% of the global market by 2040, the reliability of these systems becomes a paramount concern.

Why HZO?

The reliability aspect of protecting these components is huge. HZO brings specific technologies that are part of our Spectrum of Protection™. Parylene outperforms traditional conformal coatings when it comes to insulating properties, protective properties, and dielectric properties. A key value driver for HZO is to drive the material science, processing, and coating process at a level that is unmatched today. This goal is a reason we have been able to drive adoption and interest with serval global OEMs and Tier1s to increase reliability.

HZO has an array of solutions in terms of technology and processes that address this from a reliability point of view. This point is where we really try to be engaged with our customers, their requirements at all levels, from the OEM to the various tiers.

To apply nanocoatings and Parylene takes expertise. HZO has a patent portfolio of over 370 assets that address the chemistry, processing, and equipment necessary to deploy these coatings to support automotive volumes and ensure the reliability required by the automotive industry.

HZO is close to the market. We have 15 locations worldwide; We have R&D centers with experienced people that understand the applications. Our business development strategy allows us to listen and understand the customer’s requirements and translate those into application solutions utilizing our Parylene coating technologies.

Whether you have a simple switch or sensor or a complex ECU, HZO is here to help with your automotive coating solutions. Please reach out, and we can address your coating needs.

Thin-film coatings like Parylene can be used wherever traditional conformal coatings are used.

Calvin Jennings

Senior Director, Automotive

Calvin Jennings joined HZO with over 20 years of experience in the automotive electronic business working for such companies as Ford, Visteon, Continental, and HBPO. Jennings worked in many areas of the automotive industry, from manufacturing and design engineering at Ford to business development and sales at Visteon, Continental, and HBPO. Jennings holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Widener University and an MBA from the University of Michigan, Ross School of Business.

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