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 as long as possible.”
The protective films also reduces the cost of refurbishing second-hand phones, he says. “We actually fit nicely into the repair market,” said Moore. “We reduce the number of phones coming into the repair network and our masking and de-masking makes sure our system allows rework to take place. We have worked very closely with our major strategic partner on this and we have a dedicated secure room as an offline batch process on the production line for rework.”
“The key is the way we use different additives with ‘hacktive’ masking. By using different chemistries we have different types of masks for different requirements – some are permanent during production, others removed later on in the production line,” he said. “We need to have a barrier technology across the vast majority of the board but not in some areas, as clearly there’s all sorts of areas that are tested through the production line so you still need to be able to break through the barrier coating and allow them to self-heal after that.”
“We work with a lot of the teardown companies and a lot of their advice has gone into the technology to make sure that we do get the best possible score in this area.”