TL;DR — Don’t use silicone to pot electronics.
That’s the conclusion [GreatScott!] comes to after trying out several methods for waterproofing electronics. His efforts stem from a recent video in which he discovered that water and electricity sometimes actually do mix, as long as the water is distilled and the electronics in the drink are relatively simple. He found that the main problem was, unsurprisingly, electrolytic corrosion, so he set out to experiment with various waterproofing coatings. In a series of careful experiments he goes through the pros and cons of both conformal coatings and potting compounds. The conformal tests used simple clear nail polish on an ESC board; that worked pretty well, but it was a little hard to reach all the nooks and crannies. He also tried potting with a thick black silicone compound, but that ended up never really curing in the middle. A final attempt with legitimate two-part epoxy potting compound sealed up the ESC tight, although we doubt the resulting brick would perform well on a quadcopter.
If you want to explore potting a bit further, check out this introduction to the basics.
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There’s no beating the beauty and durability of a high-quality powder-coated part. There’s just something about the look and feel of the finish that goes far beyond mere painting and makes it worth the effort and expense. The typical electrostatic spray powder-coating setup can be expensive, though, and not necessarily suitable for every workpiece.
Enter the fluidized-bed powder coating chamber, perfect for limited runs of small parts, and the brainchild of [Andrew Mayhall]. With a business providing furniture kits based on iron pipe, [Andrew] needed a way to finish flanges and fittings, and powder coating provided the best look. The fluidizer he built is a great alternative to spray coating; it blows air through a bed of fine thermoplastic granules, which causes them to act like a fluid. It’s similar to the fluidized-bed hot tub we recently featured, but on a much smaller scale and with different requirements based on the ultrafine particle size and aggregation properties of the powder. [Andrew] had to add mechanical agitation to achieve a homogeneous fluid bed, and after much experimentation he’s now able to dip preheated parts into the bed and achieve one-step powder coating. The video after the break shows some of the operational details.
Does electrostatic powder-coating sound like more of your thing? No problem – DIY solutions abound, and a homebrew oven to bake your parts may be as close as the nearest file cabinet.
Continue reading “Powder Coating With A Fluidized Bed”