Conformal coating selection
The selection of conformal coating material is a crucial factor that needs to be considered carefully and in relation to the application method. The wrong selection can not only affect the long term reliability of the circuit board but can cause massive difficulties with both processing and costs.
The most common standards for conformal coating are IPC A-610 and IPC-CC-830. These standards list indications of good and bad coverage and describe various failure mechanisms such as dewetting and orange peel.
Conformal coating inspection is a critical factor in determining successful coating application and long term reliability of PCBs. Using the IPC standards allows the coating operator to monitor the coating application performance. This can be done manually by the operator in an inspection booth by examining the PCB under white and UVA light or it can be done automatically by a conformal coating inspection system.
Another type of coating called parylene is applied with a vacuum deposition process versus a spray or needle application. The parylene is applied at the molecular level by a vacuum deposition process at ambient temperature. Film coatings from 0.100 to 76 μm can be easily applied in a single operation. The advantage of parylene coatings is that they cover hidden surfaces and other areas where spray and needle application are not possible. Coating thickness is very uniform, even on irregular surfaces. The three main disadvantages are that (i) any desired contact points such as battery contacts or connectors must be carefully covered with an air-tight mask to prevent the parylene from coating the contacts, (ii) it is a batch process and does not lend itself to high volume processing, and (iii) the cost per PCB can be highly prohibitive due to the capital investment costs and the cost per batch.