Renewable Energy

Whether you are an environmentalist, an economist or simply a pragmatist at heart, there can be no arguing that it makes the utmost sense to utilize naturally occurring resources whenever possible – this has been the story of the evolution of man. Even the historical use of fossil fuels and nuclear reactions to derive the majority of our energy demands, could be said to be making use of natural resources.

Whether you believe in global warming and the “Greenhouse Gas” theory or not, the reality is that the use of fossil fuels has a finite lifetime and politicians in many countries have taken the responsible approach and committed to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by 60% in the next 40 years or so. Fossil fuels are projected to become scarce in similar time frames, and so the attention has focused to the pragmatic task of harnessing nature’s resources once again, in the form of wind, wave, tide, photovoltaic, geothermal, biomass and fuel cell technology to obtain the majority of our electrical supplies.

The obvious advantage of these sources of energy are that they have been largely unused and being the result of natural processes, clean and sustainable. The main drawback to these forms of renewable energy are the enormous costs of installing the required infrastructure, at a sufficient scale to be cost-effective due to the relatively low energy density of these sources, and of course the long payback times on these investments. Given the emergent nature of many of these technologies, achieving cost parity with other forms of power generation will be a key step forwards.

Given the extremely remote or even underwater locations of many of the best installation sites, bringing the generated energy into the existing grid networks is a challenge, the erratic levels of power generation create storage and transmissions issues, and the long lifetimes of facilities required for payback, coupled with remote locations make reliability a key issue.

These challenges are predicted to result in the development and wide use of highly efficient, reliable power converters or inverters, in generation, distribution and end-user systems. In addition, the advanced measurement, monitoring and control/communication systems, vital to the efficient and remote monitoring of individual generators and entire sites will all be driven by ever more advanced electronics.

However, these assemblies will continue to be placed in ever more remote and demanding applications and end-use environments, where the risk of degradation in performance, due to extraneous factors such as high humidity, salt-spray, corrosive gases, rain ingress and other drivers of corrosion will continue to increase rapidly.

These electronic assemblies and industrial computers continue to become an increasingly sophisticated and important aspect of both the functionality and reliability of modern renewable energy generation systems.

The costs of failure and the competitive need to provide longer warranties and greater levels of reliability, drive the need to increase the Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) to the maximum possible duration.

Selection of the correct conformal coating is becoming an important methodology, tested, specified and requested by Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and used by EMS suppliers to prevent corrosion and degradation of assemblies in use, thus maximizing reliability and minimizing warranty claims due to extraneous corrosion. With the requirement to use lead-free assemblies, renewable energy electronics as a fledgling segment, has much work to do to ensure sufficient levels of reliability can be designed or engineered into their systems.

With the increasing adoption of Silver, both as a solderability finish and as part of a typical SAC (Tin, Silver Copper) alloy (Required by WEEE Initiative), and it’s known susceptibility to creep corrosion and other electrochemically driven corrosion processes, this can result in expensive field failures, especially in the harsh marine, coastal and other remote rural installation sites.

Conformal Tech partners with leading suppliers of conformal coatings to the renewable energy controls industry for inverter, junction box, communication and measurement devices and with the widest range of highest performance conformal coatings, from every major type of protective chemistry, including Acrylic, Urethane and Silicone, you can be certain that Conformal Tech has a high-performance solution for your specific application.

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We offer the industry’s widest range of high performance coatings, drawn from the widest range of chemistries and able to be applied by any of the common application methodologies enabling you to select the product that best meets your project needs, production throughput , floor space and capital equipment requirements, whether you are upgrading an existing product, transferring a production process from another facility or are working on a new product introduction.

Total Process Solution

Our central philosophy is that a conformal coating is not simply a material, it is part of a process, and all of our materials are backed by an unparalleled level of process knowledge and applications experience, to ensure that whatever your process requirements, a perfectly tailored total process solution is available to ensure the results that you demand.

Total Process Consistency

The overall consistency of your process is largely governed by the consistency of the process inputs, of which your conformal coating material is one input. We go to very great lengths to ensure the consistency of batch-to-batch material characteristics. Take advantage of one of our pre-blended materials, to virtually eliminate any potential for on-site mixing or measuring mistakes and you can be assured of an industry beating level of consistent material inputs, to take you one step closer to your SPC or 6σ Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

Total Process Support

With even the best process solution, occasionally things change, usually through no fault of the production-engineering department. Should this happen to your line, you can rest assured, wherever your factory is located, our team of Global Application Experts are on call to ensure that you resolve the situation to your complete satisfaction in the shortest time-frame possible and get your process running at optimum efficiency once again.

Designing quality into your product begins with understanding your products lifecycle and end use operating environment. Conformal Tech will work with you from project inception, to understand these key parameters and deliver a material solution that will enable you to exceed the level of quality and reliability that you require, and work closely with you during all stages of your project, from Design, Prototype, Pre-Production Process Approval (PPAP) and through to mass production, ensuring you are getting the quality levels you expect.

All the materials we offer to the automotive industry exceed the requirements of all relevant specifications and or standards to ensure they exceed the required levels of protective performance for your application.

Incoming Quality

Conformal Tech materials are manufactured in world-class, state of the art facilities, using computer-controlled, automated processes wherever possible to minimize the potential for human error. When automation is not possible or practical, Poke Yoke systems are used to further reduce the risk for errors. Conformal Tech uses a combination of FMEA, SPC and other 6σ tools to ensure the quality of its products from this manufacturing process, and batch characterization of key parameters as a final check. We use lean principles wherever possible and Kaizen Continuous Improvement methodologies to spot and reduce waste, as well as ensure the highest quality outputs are produced for our customers.

The coating products that we use are produced in facilities that are certified to ISO9000-2008. With the additional tools in place, and the emphasis on quality management, our vendors have been successfully audited to TS16649 automotive quality management standards by a variety of OEMs and Tier 1-3 subcontractors to ensure the highest quality levels of incoming shipments.

In Process Quality

By ensuring you have the highest standards of incoming material quality and consistency, Conformal Tech takes you one step closer to your In Process Key Performance Indicators and first-pass yields etc. However, the conformal coating material is but one-input into your overall coating process. Other factors will affect your in process quality, including the level of cleanliness of your assembly, presence of residues from soldering operations, and maintenance/set-up of your application equipment amongst others. Our process experts are always on hand to assist with all aspects of in process quality assurance to ensure your process meets your organizational goals.

In Service Quality

By ensuring you have the highest quality inputs (performance, & consistency) and ensuring your process is running under control and exceeding the required level of workmanship, you have taken great strides towards ensuring and protecting the reliability of your electronic assemblies. However, from time to time, field failures may still occur and should this happen, then you can rest assured that the Conformal Tech’s Process Experts are equipped to help you diagnose the failure’s root cause and associated corrective actions using an 8D problem solving methodology.

Design Engineering plays a crucial role in the overall reliability of a product produced, both in terms of the inherent robustness of circuit board layout and often times the qualification and selection of materials used for fabrication. Design engineers should be mindful of the expected operating environment of the assembly from the inception of the design, since if it is likely that conformal coating will or even maybe required, designing the product with this in mind can save many production headaches, especially with LED assemblies.

In general there are 3 types of areas to consider in designing for the conformal coating process; Definite areas and components that MUST be coated, definite areas that definitely MUST NOT be coated (e.g. connectors, thermal transfer or heatsinks), and areas that MAY or MAY not prove to need coating.

The designer should aim to keep the maximum spacing between an area that is known to require coating and one that is a definite coating free area. In a perfect world, all of the coating free areas and tall components would be kept to one edge of an assembly to aid the conformal coating process. However, there are of course other challenges relating not least to where the component will be situated and how it will interconnect with other components that may preclude this. In addition, if it is intended to coat the lens of the LED for ease of production, the refractive index and optical transmission properties of the coating need to be known or measured to ensure that there is no negative effect on the LED output.

Conformal Tech can help prospective designers at the outset of a project, by helping to decide the likely coating material choices and discussing application behavior and methodology in light of any constraints. Designing for conformal coating can ease production, raise overall quality levels and improve the long-term reliability of a design, as well as minimizing production costs.

Purchasing plays an important role in the end reliability and overall quality of a product. In the best examples, the purchasing department work closely as a team with the production, design and quality representatives. In the worst examples, the purchasing department works in a silo on delivering the cheapest individual components with the rationale that the cheapest Bill of Materials will result in the most economical design.

It is important to understand that product offerings are not necessarily equal and may result in efficiency or yield issues in production or inferior protective properties, which may result in reduced reliability. The costs associated with these issues may vastly exceed the savings on the material sets, although these costs often end up being born by other departments and thus remain hidden.

Conformal Tech can help explain the value that high-performance, high quality materials and thorough process understanding can bring to the overall cost of ownership model, so essential in the overall bottom-line of the business.