The demand for products with built-in water protection is at an all time high as consumers continue to look to do more with their devices. As manufacturers look to meet this growing demand for waterproof electronics, vague jargon and clever  advertising has cropped up everywhere. With this general lack of clarity, how does one go about comparing products and determining the actual level of protection each one provides?

Waterproof, water-resistant, and IPX7 waterproof are different ways of expressing how an object reacts to water given the treatments it has received. Here’s some information about ways of describing how a device can handle water interactions.

An Overview of Terms

The terms related to descriptions of water protection are important to understand. Here’s some information to help get you started:

  • Water-resistant- The term “water-resistant’ isn’t as much of an exacting term but it describes a device’s ability to resist the immediate penetration of water to some degree but not for very long and not completely.  It tends to refer to items, such as phones, watches, or other bits of technology, that resists water to some degree. This term has the least protection from water of the three. It refers to an device that isn’t immediately destroyed if water spills on it. This is at the level of washing your hands or taking a shower. 
  • Water-Repellent- “Water repellent” means the object or device has the ability to, not just resist water, but to actively repel it to some degree.  This may be achieved with a hydrophobic coating or a surface that repels water. This is usually simple nanotechnology that makes water bounce off.  A good example of this tech is boots that have the water-repellent nano-coating on the outside so that water just falls off of it without soaking it in. This still doesn’t mean that you can just dunk the whole thing underwater without consequences since these coatings wear off over time leaving an item increasingly unprotected.
  • Waterproof- An item that’s labeled waterproof refers more to the ability to for a device to keep working even when submerged underwater. There are still many different levels of being waterproof, however, and some of these labels may simply mean that an item can survive a brief dunking for a few seconds. This is where the Ingress Protection (IP) Codes help define how much water an item can be subjected without damage.

The Ingress Protection Code Explained

While an IP ranking does not guarantee  a product’s overall quality, it adds transparency by objectively assessing what level of protection a product offers. A variety of consumer products, ranging from cell phones to smart watches, now display an IP ranking to advertise durability. This gives consumers familiar with the IP code a powerful tool with which to make informed purchases of ruggedized electronics.

The IP code system actually describes two different kinds of protection – resistance against solid particles, like dust, and the harmful ingress of water. The IP Code will have ‘IP’ and then two numbers represented as IPXX. The first number describes the object’s protection against solid particles like dust.

For the purposes of focusing on water protection, the first number in this system is ignored, since it doesn’t apply. That’s why it’s written as IPX followed by the water protection number. The higher the number, the higher the level of protection.

The system has a rating from 0 to 8 which looks like this: 

 

IP Code Protection From Tested By Test Parameters
IPX0 No protection N/A N/A
IPX1 Drips Protection from dripping liquids, like sweat or light rain Equivalent to 1 mm of rain per minute for 10 minutes
IPX2 Light rain or drizzle Device protected when tilted 15 degrees from normal operating position Equivalent to 3 mm rainfall per minute for 10 minutes
IPX3 Rain Protects against sprayed water, accident hose spraying (not direct) Test via spray nozzle (10 liters per minute at 7.3-21.8 psi) for at least 5 minutes, or oscillating tube (0.07 liters per minute) for 10 minutes
IPX4 Splashes Splashed water, like next to a sink and it gets splashed Splashed or sprayed water at any angle for 10 minutes
IPX5 Running water Water coming from a nozzle, like a tap Sprayed water (12.5 liters per minute at 4.4 psi, three meters away) for three minutes
IPX6 Jets of water Protection against a strong jet of water Higher volumes of water (100 liters per minute at 15 psi, three meters away) for at least three minutes
IPX7 Immersion Can be submerged Up to one meter, up to 30 minutes
IPX8 Underwater Stronger the IPX7, can go farther under or stay under longer Determined by the manufacturer, varies

 

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What Products Should Have a Rating of at least IPX 7?

Consumers increasingly expect some level of water protection in their electronics. The more portable, frequently carried, or expensive an electronic device is, the more likely it is to benefit from having at least an IPX7 rating. Smart phones, smart watches, fitness trackers, and headphones are all great examples. That’s because the way these devices are used and the environments they tend to be used in make them more likely to fall out of your hands or get accidentally wet.

In other words, an IPX7 rating provides the level of protection most consumers actually need in real-world scenarios. As the first truly waterproof level, IPX7 rated devices can survive the accidental drops into shallow water that make up the majority of water-related damage and warranty claims. 

Achieving IPX7+ with Ultra-thin Parylene Coatings 

There are trade offs when engineering a waterproof version of any product. In general, the more waterproof a product is engineered to be the bulkier and more expensive it may become. 

There are three major methods used to protect a product from water: 

  1. Enclose the sensitive electronics in of a device in a water-tight case  
  2. Coat the interior electronics with a parylene or another waterproof membrane, or 
  3. A combination of both. 

Parylene coatings provide waterproof protection that safeguards electronic devices from the inside out. It accomplishes this by completely encapsulating printed circuit boards with one continuous hydrophobic conformal film layer that keeps water out. Whereas mechanical seals and enclosures seek to keep water from causing damage to the board, parylene makes the board highly impervious to water. 

Part of the secret lies in parylene’s unique Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) coating method that produces mechanically dense barrier layers that severely limit the intrusion of water, sweat and other corrosive liquids from getting through. Possessing the lowest Water Vapor Transmission Rate (WVTR) among all traditional conformal coatings, parylene is virtually waterproof under a wide range of operational conditions. 

VSi Parylene Provides Greatest Access to Parylene 

Parylene coatings perform where many other conformal coatings simply fail. The greatest limitation to parylene has not been with the technology itself but rather with how to access it. VSi simplifies parylene by removing these barriers and offering new and flexible options for integrating parylene into any production process. Discover how VSI Parylene’s Total Solution helps manufacturers access the myriad benefits of parylene coating benefits.

Summing Up

Whether you are building a device designed for rugged adventures or simply want to protect your product from accidents, the level of water protection that your device is engineered to withstand matters. 

As consumers continue to demand greater reliability from their products, manufacturers need to find ways to meet these needs. Thankfully, this technology is already here. Microns-thin, Parylene coatings protect waterproof devices at the board level without adding any weight or affecting performance. The solution is simple. Parylene coating is your best choice when it comes to making a waterproof printed circuit board.

Ready to learn more about parylene and its advantages?

Contact us today to discuss how parylene may be able to help your specific waterproof application. 

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