Achieve Superior Performance Mile After Mile
By Chris Morrissey, Sr. Manager, Automotive Electronics BD, Dymax Corporation
The desire to put self-driving cars on the road and the movement toward vehicle electrification is fueling unprecedented growth in the automotive industry. In the fast-changing landscape of design and assembly, engineers are striving to create better performing, more reliable electronic components found in EVs, HEVs, PHEVs, BEVs, and REEVs. Concurrently, manufacturers are searching for assembly solutions that increase productivity and throughput, decrease rework and costs, and boost their bottom line.
A number of factors are accelerating this growth, including:
- The volume of electronics being designed into vehicles
- Global environmental regulations for stricter emissions and fuel economy standards
- Increased safety concerns legislated by the need for more sophisticated systems for crash avoidance, vehicle controls, and occupant restraints
- Consumer preference and increased demand for safety, comfort, and convenience accessories
- The integration of networked functionality and information processing
- Market demand due to global economic growth and emerging economies
From battery packs to camera modules and lidar, there is a need for materials that solve common issues associated with the sensors, modules, and circuits found in advanced driver assistance systems, infotainment systems, and vehicle electronics. Additionally, replacing technologies that contain hazardous ingredients, produce waste, and require higher amounts of energy to process is becoming more important. There is also a desire to increase functionality, reduce circuit size, and extend warranties. Manufactures and engineers alike are searching for products that:
- Improve structural bonds
- Protect circuits from environmental damage
- Minimize movement and shrinkage
- Address thermal management, thermal shock, and vibration
- Enhance PWB/PCA functionality and performance
- Eliminate shadow area concerns
- Solve cure confirmation issues
For many or all of these reasons, companies are switching to light-cure technology as an alternative to traditional bonding, coating, sealing, and assembly methods.
Light-Cure Technology & the Benefits of Using Light-Curable Materials
UV curing is a process in which high-intensity ultraviolet and visible light are used to initiate a photochemical reaction that generates a crosslinked network of polymers. Using light instead of heat, liquid monomers and oligomers are mixed with a small percent of photoinitiators, that when exposed to light energy, instantly cure or harden UV light-curable materials (LCMs) such as inks, coatings, and adhesives. Offering many advantages over traditional drying methods, light-curing technology increases production speed and product throughput, decreases work-in-progress and scrap, enables 100% in-line inspection, and because it is a solvent-free process, reduces environmental pollutants. The additional benefits that these materials provide include:
Shorter Cycle Times: Cures in seconds upon exposure to UV/Visible light means less work-in-progress and shorter lead times.
No Hazardous Waste: Material purged from a system that remains uncured is usually classified as hazardous waste. LCMs are one-component systems, so there is no off-ratio mixing or purging. Manufacturers can cure 100% of products, eliminating waste.
Lower Capital Costs: Dispensing systems for one-component materials cost significantly less than systems for two-component materials.
No Pot Life Problems: Two-component systems generally have pot lives measured in minutes or hours after they are dispensed. LCMs remain uncured until exposed to light energy, so they are considered to have an indefinite pot life.
Increased Productivity: Bonding steps that may have been bottlenecks with slower systems are no longer bottlenecks.
Less Floor Space: Elimination of ovens, humidity chambers, conveyors, and racks.
Easier and Better Automation: Indexing time on a line is reduced and inspection can be completed on-line. Reducing the complexity of fixturing during the curing process is also possible.
Automotive Electronics Segments Where LCMs Can Be Utilized
Radar, camera, and ultrasonic systems make up the majority of ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) and provide drivers with a range of capabilities, from lane change support and collision warning to adaptive cruise control and parking aids. These systems contain electronic sensors that require positioning, active alignment, and protection from environmental stresses. Light-curable adhesives, conformal coatings, and encapsulants offer very fast cure, UV and/or heat cure, very low movement with temperature variations, and excellent bonds to metals and plastics, making them ideal products for these complex components.
Smartphone-centric in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems allow the car to access the contents of portable devices and display the data and applications on the in-dash head unit. As a result, there’s an increased desire for safety and the need for larger displays that help prevent distractions with mobile devices while driving. Key services of these systems include radios, navigation, and car multimedia. Encapsulants, conformal coatings, and temporary maskants have properties that make them good candidates for PCB assembly, such as excellent thermal shock and corrosion resistance, UL, MIL Spec, and IPC certifications, 85/85 protection, and in the case of masking resins, protection from wave solder and reflow processes.
Other critical areas of development include battery Management Systems (BMS), battery modules, and key electronic subsystems for electric vehicles. There are components that monitor battery voltage, current, temperature, and cell health, DC/DC converters to step up/down battery voltage for auxiliary electronics, on-board chargers to regulate current, as well as electrodes for unit cells. All of these are vital to maximizing battery pack capacity, lifetime, and safety. LCMs for these applications range from potting materials to conformal coatings to encapsulants that exhibit excellent bond strength, thermal shock, corrosion and chemical resistance, 85/85 protection, ambient storage, and secondary moisture cure.
For automotive manufactures seeking alternative, environmentally friendly solutions for their applications, light-cure technology and all the benefits that light-curable materials offer, might be the driving force toward the future of electronics.
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