1 In 5 electronic products are disposed of annually and only 20% are formally recycled. Driven by the need to facilitate the development of a circular economy and with the view to save costs for consumers, the ’Right-to-Repair’ offers numerous benefits for electronic products. There is a strong desire today for manufacturers to move away from a traditional linear model of ‘take, make, use and dispose’ and adopt a process which minimises or eliminates the disposal element. This will be further enabled by jurisdictions implementing the ‘right-to-repair’, just as the European Commission has announced.
Additionally, this will drive manufacturers to ensure their water-proof products are repairable to increase product lifecycles; they will need to adopt new eco designs to ensure the high levels of quality and reliability are still achieved and delivered to the consumer. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates that circular economy activities could contribute as much as US$700 million in annual material cost savings to consumer goods production, along with a 48% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030.
Change in mindset.
Ever since electronics have been in existence, methods to prevent them being damaged by corrosion caused by liquid, humidity and condensation have always been at the forefront for product designers. With the connected world, 5G and IoT all gathering pace, more than ever there is a need to reduce the quantity of materials used, deliver lighter and smaller form-factor products whilst maintaining the high levels of protection to the elements.
Methods used historically to protect devices include mechanical seals and gasket o-rings; however, not only can the protection be compromised during shipment, drops, bends and general day-to-day usage, the design and build makes it all but impossible for the consumer to repair and maintain protection.
The lack of recyclability and sustainability, along with the need to improve the life cycles of water-proof electronic devices has led to the formation of the United Electronics Coating Association (UECA). The UECA will develop technical and market solutions to further the environmental and sustainability goals globally for all electronic products. By identifying the relevant regulations covering chemicals, and those covering the circular economy, reusability and recycling of electronic products, the association will guide the membership in the development of the appropriate product solutions.
Fortunately, solutions exist today, proven in mass manufacturing on over a billion devices, where printed circuit board arrays (PCBAs) can be fully protected at the molecular level. This ensures maximum reliability & recyclability whilst enabling reuse to increase the product’s lifecycle.
These coatings are created using plasma enhanced chemical vapour deposition (PECVD). The PCBAs to be treated are loaded into a vacuum chamber, evacuated to low pressure, a liquid is vaporised into the chamber which is then ionised and deposited onto the surface to give an ultra-thin barrier coating.
Furthermore, these ultra-thin plasma barrier coatings can lower the total cost of ownership of device level liquid protection by at least 40%. Click here to find out more.