Coating method makes smartphones watertight - without sealing

February 18, 2019 //By Nick Flaherty
Coating method makes smartphones watertight - without sealing
P2i in Oxford, UK, has launched a system-level waterproofing system that removes the need for seals in next generation bendable and 5G clamshell smartphones.

The ‘Dunkable’ technology developed by P2i applies a thin polymer protective film to motherboards and connectors using a pulsed plasma deposition process. The patented multi-chemistry approach is inert, and does not degrade through impact, heat, or environmental stress or when in contact with solvents. This supports the IPx8 standard to allow systems to operate while submerged in up to 2m of water and also allows system designers to avoid the limitation of seals and protects a phone from water damage even if the case or screen is cracked.

“Clearly seals have a place, and the key competitor out there is the mechanical solution,” said Ady Moores, CEO of P2i. “The critical thing is that the data that we have from customer reliability teams and reverse logistics shows seals fail at the six month point of 30 to 50% - it’s actually 15% within 2 weeks. This is because there is pressure inside the phone, the first time the phone is dropped and the screen moves slightly or the adhesive cracks slightly.”

“The key difference with the other conformal coatings is the thickness – we lay down the conformal coating on a very thin basis, between 0.5μm to 2μm, and that makes it mass manufacturable,” he said. “With foldable and clamshell phones we see more design freedom to use a coating rather than mechanical sealing. Foldable phones are much more difficult to mechanically seal and we are working with a number of companies in this area to help them."

“The heart of our system is a vacuum based pulsating plasma process but we also use a number of systems around masking/demasking with a polymer coating,” he added. “We have some 170 patented technologies but in a number of areas we are using knowhow. As always there’s a lot of discussion on whether to patent. In certain markets the patent allows people to copy so our preference is to keep the technology a secret

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