Waterproof Wearables 101

Mallory McGuinness | May 08, 2020
By 2022, over 1.1 billion wearable devices will be online, helping consumers become more organized, healthier, and entertained. Design the right product, and you will be able to leverage this prolific demand. But be forewarned – the more opportunity there is in a marketplace, the more competitive you will have to be.

In the world of wearables, the more convenient, comfortable – and reliable – your product is, the better. Building a more resilient device that can stand up to drops, shocks, liquids, and other environmental threats is a way you can stay one step ahead of the competition.

Competitive Wearables are Fortified for Functionality

Although wearables are small, they must be robust, as many of these intricate systems were made to be worn during running, participation in sports, and other forms of rugged activity. Realistically, they will encounter sweat, rain, steamy showers, and other elements that commonly cause device failure. Ultimately, wearable products that are appropriately protected from these threats will be the most popular. In general, wearables will be regularly exposed to:

  • Physical wear and tear
  • Varying types of liquids
  • Fluctuating temperatures

The Current State of Affairs

Popular wearables are good enough, but there’s definitely room for improvement. For example, the manufacturer of a popular wearable warns customers not to take the following actions on their website:

  • Dropping the wearable
  • Using the wearable in a steam room or sauna
  • Allowing the wearable to come into contact with soap or soapy water
  • Exposing the wearable to everyday elements such as perfume, detergent, solvents, lotions, oil, and sunscreen

Why exactly is this the case, and is there a way to improve the current situation?

one phone underwater that is still working because of HZO protection and another that is dead because of water damage

[Wearables] will encounter sweat, rain, steamy showers, and other elements that commonly cause device failure.

What’s Holding Manufacturers and Device Designers Back?

This manufacturer might be using mechanical seals to achieve some measure of water-resistance. As reported on their website, the water-resistance they provide will diminish over time – just like the effectiveness of mechanical seals.

Mechanical Seals – Time is Not on Your Side

While mechanical seals will afford some measure of water-resistance, the protection they provide will erode under ordinary circumstances. For example:

  • Temperature fluctuations can lead to overwhelming stress, damaging enclosures, and decimating gaskets.
  • Drops or physical shocks can dislodge gaskets, compromising the level of protection
  • When wearables are splashed or submerged, the integrity of the mechanical seals is put into jeopardy, as liquids may enter through physical buttons or switches.

Ironically, the variables that wearables will most likely encounter are the ones that will lead to irrevocable device damage if they are protected with mechanical seals only.

Other Drawbacks

Not only will you need to build a sturdier wearable product to get ahead of the pack, but you also need to pack powerful functions into minimal space, another reason why mechanical seals are problematic. The bulk of physical enclosures takes up precious electronic real estate, while the extra weight can make even the sleekest design feel clunky.

Splashproof, Waterproof Wearables Done Right

When it comes to waterproof wearable design, incorporating Parylene protective conformal coating is a quantum leap ahead of mechanical seals and a great way to corner the market.

Parylene offers superior protection when it comes to barrier properties and uniform coverage, outperforming other traditional coatings with a comparably thinner conformal film that adds negligible weight. Parylene’s exceptional performance can be achieved with a coating weighing in at a fraction of the mass of other conformal coatings.

If your goal is to achieve a degree of dependable weatherproofing, say, by designing a splash-proof USB port, then plasma-based nanocoatings are the solution for you. Representing the next generation of film thinness, nanocoatings bring reliability right down to the microscopic level.

The Big Picture

HZO helps designers build a product that can reliably operate in life on life’s terms. While other folks in the industry might offer Parylene, traditional conformal coatings, or nanocoatings only, we don’t believe in casting a wide net with a one-size-fits-all solution. Our priority is to craft a solution that fits for you.

Choosing the most appropriate protective coating can be a complicated decision. Factors that need to be considered run the gamut from manufacturing tolerances for coating thickness, to thermal and dielectric properties and sustainability factors.

Fortunately, there’s no need to be a coating expert when you work with us. Contact us to see how we’ve got you covered, innovating and engineering the chemistry of your solution right the first time, every time. 

Incorporating Parylene protective conformal coating is a quantum leap ahead of mechanical seals and a great way to corner the market.

Mallory McGuinness

Mallory is an electronics protection evangelist who writes content for HZO. In her free time she is reading non-fiction, and hanging out with her beta fish, King Awesome.

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