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IP Testing and the Future of Waterproof Electronics

Electronics have become a part of everything we do, whether it’s work, play or education, the devices we use have become pervasive with our very existence. Yet with as integrated as technology has become we’re often bound by the limitations of where devices can go, especially when it comes to places that are known to be hazardous to the survival and longevity of those products.

As more device makers and manufacturers seek to adopt solutions that address the issue of water damage, the call for testing standards that define what level of protection a device has is becoming increasingly important to not only the makers of components, sensors, PCBs and finished assemblies, but also to the end-users of those products.

Electronic Waterproof Ratings

With an increasing demand for accurate claims and less spin from companies about what kind of safeguarding electronics actually provide, manufacturers are putting emphasis on water protection as a feature by citing IP Code ratings. These are a series of ingress protection testing standards that have been around for years, but with the rise of ‘water resistant’ consumer devices emerging the certifications that are getting the most attention these days are IPX7 and IP67.

So what do those IP codes and ratings mean, and do they really provide assurance that a device is going to survive a drop in the sink, a cycle through the washing machine or any other accidental or intentional exposure to a damp, soggy or otherwise wet and threatening environment?

What is IP Certification and Testing?

It’s important to know the meaning of the codes IP represents. IP (commonly known as Ingress Protection) serves as a metric to classify and rate the protection against intrusions into electronics. By definition, this level of protection is provided by stopping the introduction of dust, debris and liquids into a device by utilizing mechanical casings and enclosures like seals and gaskets.

The idea, of course, is that if these damaging substances and materials never make it to the components that allow electronics to function, that the risk of damage and failure decreases significantly. No arguing that. But to get a better understanding of what that means, let’s take a closer look at what IPX7 and IP67 mean as defined by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC):

IP = Ingress Protection

1st Digit = dust protection (Scale 0-6)

2nd Digit = water protection (Scale 0-9)

What Does IPX7 Waterproof Mean?

IPX7: Protection from immersion in one meter of water for 30 minutes. The X, in this case, means the metric does not address the ingress of dust.

What Does IP67 Waterproof Mean?

IP67: Protection from dust ingress and complete immersion in one meter of water for 30 minutes.

IP Rating Tests Explained

As indicated, the bigger the number, the more intense the test, but does that really equate to better security? According to the test definition it does, but to actually claim an IP certification means that a device must only survive one event to pass and claim the certification.

In the lab that seems like a fine methodology, but once products are in the hands of users how does that test translate into real world protection?

  • Will a device survive one isolated incident, but not two?
  • Will all devices perform to the definition of the IP ratings?

Those are questions that lead to a conversation about warranty language, and that’s a discussion for another day. The short answer is that device makers promoting IP certifications tread lightly when it comes to making ‘waterproof’ claims, and considering what it takes to get the certification that comes with good reason.

HZO Protected Devices and IP Testing

As they are designed, IP standards leave little room for solutions like those provided by HZO that waterproof products with technology that is more advanced and that comes with greater benefits than traditional seals and gaskets. If IP standards are measured by a devices ability to keep water out, what does that mean for a nanotechnology that is applied directly to components during manufacturing that could essentially eliminate the need for seals, gaskets or cases? All of a sudden, the world is confronted with a series of testing standards that don’t address the future of product innovation, water safeguarding and ultimately device freedom.

Again, by definition it could be said that HZO doesn’t achieve IPX7 and IP67 because our solution permits full water and dust ingress. It doesn’t matter if debris or liquids penetrate the outer casing because the products themselves are protected from any direction with a thin film barrier.

If you were to rely on actual results, however, HZO undoubtedly passes and goes well beyond the defined parameters of these standard tests. A testament to the longevity of our technology is highlighted with our HZO Protected Raspberry Pi demo, which runs continually at events and trade shows for up 10 hours a day, week after week, logging hundreds of hours of submersion and sustained functionality.

Testing to Define the Future

While we believe that product spin should never disguise the truth about what level of performance a water protected device is truly capable of delivering, it seems as though current testing definitions have yet to keep pace with the nanotechnology solutions that will drive the next wave of livable, Swimmable™ and more integrated products. An accurate definition of testing that aligns with existing protective technologies will mean an overhaul of the current standards. That will mean rethinking how testing is conducted, how its observed, and how it is successfully measured beyond the scope of a singular test, both in the lab and in the real world. It’s an initiative that’s imperative to keep things honest, paint a more accurate picture of the truth behind the testing and the applicable technology, and one that HZO is actively helping push forward.

Contact us today to learn more about how HZO solutions are protecting electronics beyond IPX7 and IP67, and giving manufacturers across a wide range of industries the means to deliver greater freedom to the end-users of their products.

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