The Printed Circuit Assembler's Guide to... ™
Conformal Coatings for Harsh Environments

by: Phil Kinner, Electrolube

Much time, energy, and resources go into designing, building, and manufacturing various electronic components. How can technologists protect critical components that operate in adverse environments? The answer is conformal coatings. Written by Phil Kinner of Electrolube’s Conformal Coatings Division, this micro eBook addresses a myriad of conformal coating materials and process considerations for achieving reliable performance in harsh environments. Kinner simplifies the many available material types and application methods, and explains the advantages and disadvantages of each. This handy eBook is a must-read for anyone in the electronics industry who wants a better understanding of conformal coatings.

ISBN: 978-0-9982885-5-0

Phil Kinner
Phil Kinner, Electrolube's global business and technical director (International Conformal Coatings Division), has more than 16 years' experience within the conformal coating industry covering both materials and equipment. Using his wealth of knowledge, Phil specialises in new product development and has master's degrees in both chemistry and business administration. Phil is also an active member of the IPC Conformal Coating Task Group, a regular speaker at IPC and SMTA events, and a member of the technical committee of the UK SMART group.

Electrolube is a global manufacturer of specialist chemical solutions for the electronics industry. With our expansive range of formulated chemical products, we supply leading manufacturers of electronic, industrial, and domestic devices for a variety of industries worldwide.

As a leading manufacturer, we strongly emphasize both research and collaboration, and are constantly developing new and environmentally friendly solutions for our customers. Our product groups include conformal coatings, thermal management solutions, encapsulation resins, contact lubricants, cleaning solutions, and maintenance and service aids thus offering the complete solution at all levels of production.

Electrolube products are integral to the manufacture and maintenance of electrical and electronic components and assemblies in many different sectors including LED, automotive, military, aerospace, marine, telecommunications, industrial electronics and more. All our product ranges are manufactured at our BS EN ISO 9001, 14001, BSI-AS9100, IATF 16949:2016 and OHASA 18001 accredited factories in the UK, China, and India.

This book has been technically reviewed by the following experts:

Debbie Obitz

Douglas Pauls

Helmut Schweigart

Chapter Summaries

  • Chapter 1

    Chapter 1: Types of Material—How Many Choices?

    Chapter 1 classifies and describes the main types of conformal coating chemistries. The chapter also outlines strengths and weaknesses of each type, and discusses one new class of material that has received much attention.
  • Chapter 2

    Chapter 2: Protection, Protection, Protection

    Chapter 2 highlights four common concerns and reasons one might decide to use conformal coating. This chapter includes two case studies that demonstrate conformal coating issues and solutions.
  • Chapter 3

    Chapter 3: The True Value of Reliability Testing

    Chapter 3 explores how to achieve excellent coverage at an adequate thickness, and the need for testing to ensure reliability in high-performance environments.
  • Chapter 4

    Chapter 4: Condensation Testing—Working with the NPL

    Chapter 4 explains condensation testing, a new test method developed by the National Physical Laboratory in the UK. This approach aims to determine which conformal coating material will work best for a given harsh environment.
  • Chapter 5

    Chapter 5: Industry Standards and Best Practices

    Chapter 5 focuses on standards, practices, and requirements that provide guidance for workmanship within the industry. Further, the chapter details a recent blind state-of-the-industry assessment of conformal coating thickness and coverage.
  • Chapter 6

    Chapter 6: Less is Most Definitely More

    Chapter 6 discusses how more conformal coating layers do not necessarily provide better protection, and cautions users about using conformal coating ranges that are too thick.
  • Chapter 7

    Chapter 7: I Have Selected the Coating—How Do I Apply It?

    Chapter 7 presents a variety of application methods used for conformal coatings. This chapter focuses on those used in the context of coating for harsh environments, and explores the benefits and drawbacks of each method.

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Debbie Obitz

Debora Ortiz has over 33 years' experience and knowledge in the industry regarding the testing of PCB, PCA, conformal coating, flux, and solder mask, and has helped to design and develop new test methods. She started in 1984 with Trace Laboratories, followed by employment with Microtek Laboratories, NTS Anaheim, and recently Barry Ritchie (formerly Dow Corning) as a consultant with the Electronic Protection Chemistries Group. 

Debby has been instrumental in defining the IPC training materials. She is also a registered CIT, and is well-versed in IEC and military specifications. Further, Debby has held many IPC positions throughout her career, including the following current positions:

Douglas Pauls Douglas Pauls holds a B.A. in chemistry and physics, and a B.S. in electrical engineering. He worked for the Naval Avionics Center as a materials engineer, then served as the technical director of Contamination Studies Laboratories. Doug moved to Rockwell Collins in 2000 and is currently a principal materials and process engineer. In 2004, he received Rockwell's Arthur A. Collins Engineer of the Year award.

Doug has been active in the IPC for over 30 years, chairing both the Cleaning and Coating Committees and the Technical Activities Executive Committee. Doug is most known for his expertise in surface insulation resistance testing, cleaning and cleanliness assessment, conformal coatings, and how to qualify manufacturing processes. He has been a U.S. representative to ISO and IEC working groups on SIR, electromigration, and cleanliness reliability standards.

Doug has also participated in numerous national and international consortia on electronics manufacturing materials and processes and a recent recipient of the IPC Hall of Fame Award.

Helmut Schweigart Dr. Helmut Schweigart studied mechanical engineering at TU Munich and completed his Ph.D. thesis on climatic reliability of protective coated electronics. From 1998 to 2012, Helmut managed the department of application technology at Zestron Europe in Ingolstadt, Germany. Since 2013, he has served as the head of the company’s technology development department. In addition, Helmut is committed to his role as head of the Corrosion Protection of Electronics working group, and a member of the board at GfKORR e.V. (Society for Corrosion Protection). He is also involved in several other working groups and committees concerning reliability, corrosion, and corrosion protection at ZVEI, DVS, EFC, and others.