Electronics manufacturers and consumers are increasingly focused on extending product lifespan. In March 2020, the European Commission announced plans to extend the eco-design directive, billed as the ‘right to repair’, to phones and tablets in a bid to increase the repairability of electrical devices. This is likely to be one of a wave of legislative activities designed to extend consumer product lifetimes.
The drive towards ‘right to repair’ is also driven by environmentally-aware consumer trends. Consumers are looking to purchase products with a longer lifespan and repair them when needed, rather than discarding the device. All this has the potential to lead to further legislation, but also to change manufacturers’ mindsets around repairability. For existing products, manufacturers may look to modify designs to make them compliant. For new products we could see designs chosen for manufacture based on how easy they are to repair by a consumer.
Manufacturers are also more conscious of safety. Consumers are not skilled electricians and may not have the tools to conduct repairs. There are concerns about what happens when repairs go wrong and potential for new legislation. Some manufacturers are considering introducing longer warranty periods to control repairs for longer and provide longer-lasting products.
Recent design trends have often made electronics difficult to open without compromising the device’s liquid protection mechanisms or structural integrity. This is due to rigid gaskets and seals, thick conformal coatings or glues. Once compromised, these sealed parts and/or products are irreparable. If a product is dropped or broken, the seals often become obsolete. Even where repairs are possible, they are unlikely to be cost-effective.
All this is likely to lead to changes in the ways electronics products are designed. We may see welds or glued joints replaced with latches or gaskets. We may see additional safety mechanisms added to products to protect consumers when carrying out repairs. Manufacturers will also be increasingly focused on extending the ‘time-to-fail’ and ‘time-to-service’ a product. The more likely a component is to be repaired, the greater the chance of damage to surrounding components, leading to a perpetual risk of device failure.
Fortunately, there is an alternative. Nano coatings can continue delivering liquid protection and do not degrade. Typically, they are not compromised by other types of damage so that even if a product does need to be reworked or repaired, the coating will remain effective. The ability to repair components and whole devices saves costs, reduces the need for landfill and enables regulations around waste to be more easily met. Over the coming years, the drive to repairability is likely to continue as new legislation comes on stream but there will also be more focus on safety.
Manufacturers will want devices to last over 10 years to avoid the need for repair. They may also need to take design into account. They will certainly need to add safety mechanisms to ensure compliance but also to protect devices during repair. Those mechanisms will also need protecting from moisture or dust damage and that will also impact design.
Manufacturers will want the flexibility to choose the safety mechanism most suited to their device and have that safety mechanism last ten years; be repairable; and be protected from dust and liquid. Again, nano coating offers benefits in protecting the device and safety mechanisms from the damage that makes repairs more likely, but also in making those repairs viable. Nano coating eliminates the need for bulky mechanical seals, helping, manufacturers stay competitive in a market that calls for increasing sustainability.
To find out more about how our technologies support repairability, ensuring electronics keep working in any environment, please contact us.