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TECH SPOTLIGHT

How to Simplify Potting


A guide to getting the most out of epoxy potting/encapsulation compounds

Master Bond Inc. 154 Hobart Street, Hackensack, NJ 07601 USA Phone +1.201.343.8983 | Fax +1.201.343.2132 | WhitePaper@masterbond.com

How To Simplify Potting


Get the most out of epoxy potting/encapsulation compounds
Potting compounds are too often an afterthought in the design of electronic devices. They shouldnt be. These encapsulating systems play a crucial role in the assembly and long-term protection of delicate electronic components. When properly selected and applied, potting compounds form the first line of defense against a wide range of environmental, chemical, mechanical, thermal, and electrical conditions that would otherwise ruin electronic components. When not properly selected and applied, potting compounds may not offer the desired level of protection. Even worse, a poorly chosen epoxy may cause some damage of its own by curing in such a way that subjects the potted electronic component to unwanted stresses or heat. Though there are encapsulants based on polyurethane, silicone, and UV-cured acrylic, most potting applications still rely on epoxy compounds. Hands down, epoxies have the balance of mechanical, thermal, electrical, chemical and adhesion properties. The design tips that follow can help you avoid the more common pitfalls associated with the selection and application of epoxy potting compounds:

First Ask, Why Encapsulate?


Start by asking fundamental questions about the purpose of the encapsulation. Does the potting compound perform a thermal management role? Should it protect against aggressive chemicals or moisture? Does it protect against shock loads? Are optical properties important? Will the potting experience high temperatures during the assembly process? Are there speciality requirements such as low outgassing, cryogenic serviceability or medical biocompatibility? Establishing the functional requirements of the potting compound should be a given, but many engineers still pick potting compounds through trial and error. Asking the right questions early in the design process will keep the errors to a minimum.

Understand Temperature Complexities


Of all the mistakes related to encapsulation design, the most common involves a limited understanding of thermal conditions. Engineers will select a potting compound based solely on the expected maximum and minimum application temperatures. That approach, while seemingly correct, can lead to the wrong potting compound for the job at hand because it fails to account for dwell and ramp times. Failing to account for dwell time, or how long the potting compound remains at a given temperature, tends to result in overspecifying. The reason why is that most potting compounds, particularly epoxies, can withstand short temperature spikes above their recommended continuous use temperatures. To take an example, an epoxy potting compound rated for continuous use of 200C would have no difficulty withstanding a short burst of 250C during a soldering

Master Bond potting/encapsulation compounds offer easy application and high performance.

Master Bond Inc. | TEL: +1 (201) 343-8983 | www.masterbond.com | whitepaper@masterbond.com

operation. Engineers who focus only on the maximum temperature and ignore its short dwell time will tend to end up with a more expensive potting compound than they actually need. Failing to account for ramp times, or the speed of temperature changes, can likewise lead to the wrong potting compound. Fast ramp times and thermal shock go hand in hand. Engineers who ignore ramp times may end up with a potting compound that can meet the high and low temperature requirements but not hold up to thermal cycling without cracking.

There are also products available that meet speciality requirements such as low outgassing, thermal conductivity, cryogenic serviceability, and more. Still, there are currently some property trade-offs that are difficult to reconcile given todays technology. One example is thermal conductivity and optical clarity because the fillers that make the compound conductive also interfere with clarity.

Consider The Cure


Engineers with an eye on assembly costs normally want to use potting compounds with a fast cure schedule. While there are plenty of good products that will meet this requirement, including Master Bond EP41S, keep in mind that fast cure reactions tend to generate a larger exotherm than slower reactions, raising the potential for thermal damage. Fast cure systems also have a higher potential for entrapped bubbles, which can reduce the potting compounds expected electrical and mechanical properties. The distinction between one- and two-part formulations also matter a great deal in potting applications. Engineers wanting to keep things simple on the assembly floor may favor one-part products since they involve no mixing. There

Be Aware of Property Compromise


Most materials systems involve trade-offs, and potting compounds are no exception. However, with the right chemistry and additives and fillers, its now possible to formulate potting compounds whose mechanical, chemical, electrical and thermal properties have been tailored to specific applications. Master Bond EP33 is a good example. Its been formulated to avoid the usual trade-off between high temperature performance and modulus, which gives it the unusual ability to withstand both thermal cycling and high temperatures.

Potting Applications
Potting and encapsulation compounds are widely used whenever electronic components require protection from damaging thermal, environmental or mechanical conditions. These applications include: Printed circuit boards Medical electronics Power electronics LED lighting Transformers Transducers and other sensors Capacitors Surge protection devices Electronic assemblies Cable components Solenoids

Master Bond Inc. | TEL: +1 (201) 343-8983 | www.masterbond.com | whitepaper@masterbond.com

Shrinkage isnt all bad. A bit of controlled shrink can actually be helpful in thermal cycling applications. When the potting compounds coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) does not match that of the substrate, a bit of shrinkage can create just enough clearance to relieve stresses caused by differential expansion and contraction.

Go For The Flow


Potting compounds must flow well to encapsulate the electronic components fully and leave no voids in the housing. Achieving this flow is easier said than done. It requires careful attention to the viscosity of the potting compound, which tend to fall in a range between 400 cps to 50,000 cps depending on the application. The geometry of the housing or potting shell in relation to the electric component can also play a role in impeding or promoting flow. One problem to watch out for is pottings with large horizontal surfaces. When top filled, they can entrap air and moisture that can damage electrical components.

are many good one-part potting compounds, including Master Bond EP2RRLV. Just keep in mind that one-part products require a heat cure that may push extremely heat sensitive components past their thermal limits. One-component potting compounds also have a more limited range of properties available, so applications that need maximum performance properties should consider two-part systems.

Favor Smaller Pottings When Possible


As the size of a potting increases, so too does the risk of thermal damage during the potting process. Potting compounds cure exothermically, and these cure reactions can generate heat to damage electronic components. Its not uncommon, for example, for potting compounds to heat up by 200C or higher, as they cure. The heat from the exothermic cure is a major issue and will be a primary factor when choosing a potting material, particularly in coatings exceeding thicknesses of 1/4 to 1/2 inch. Potting size has cost implications too. Larger pottings consume more potting compound and take longer to cure, which can add cost to the assembly process.

Account For Shrinkage


Like other polymers, potting compounds shrink as they cureas much as 2.3% for an unfilled epoxy compound. If not accounted for, this shrinkage can impart stresses to the electronic components, open up leak paths, and create visual defects. The good news, however, is that shrinkage can be controlled by selecting the right potting compound. Filled potting compounds and slower curing epoxies tend to exhibit less shrinkage than their unfilled and fast-cure counterparts.

Make It Stick
Like any bonding product, potting compounds work best if they have good adhesion to their substrates. The problem is that many of the polymers used for electronics housings and potted components frequently have low surface energies and do not bond easily. Poor adhesion with the substrate materials can be fixed early in the design process through the use of surface treatments and primers. Engineers can combat poor adhesion with part features, such as undercuts that let the cured potting compound lock itself into the electronic housing. For further information on this article, for answers to any adhesives applications questions, or for information on any Master Bond products, please contact our technical experts at Tel: +1 (201) 343-8983.

Master Bond Inc. | TEL: +1 (201) 343-8983 | www.masterbond.com | whitepaper@masterbond.com

Popular Master Bond POTTING & ENCAPSULATING PRODUCTs


TWO-PART SYSTEMS Master Bond Grade Mix Ratio by Weight Set-Up Time Minutes, RT Cure Schedule Temp/Time, F Service Temp Range, F

Color Code

Applications

EP21FL

100:25

A amber B amber

120-180

24-48 hrs @ RT 2-3 hrs @ 200F

-60 to +250F

Flexibilized version of EP21. Superior thermal cyclability, shock and impact resistance. Excellent potting/ encapsulation compound. Lower exotherm, suitable for moderate size castings. Fully meets UL94V.0 for flame retardancy. Excellent physical and electrical insulation properties. Superb chemical resistance. Toughened system. Withstands rigorous thermal cycling. Superior thermal shock resistance. Allows for repairability. Cryogenically serviceable. Marvelous thermal & mechanical shock resistance. Excellent thermal cycling durability. Cryogenically serviceable. Lower viscosity than EP30DP. Less rigid. Low viscosity, low exotherm, long working life system. Excellent for potting capacitors. Superior dielectric properties. Rigid. Thermally conductive, electrically insulating version of EP37-3FLF. High flexibility and low viscosity. Meets NASA low outgassing specifications. Clear system for optical and fiber optic bonding & sealing. Superb chemical resistance. Transparent. Rigid. Meets NASA low outgassing requirements. Cryogenically serviceable. Unsurpassed combination of temperature resistance, flexibility and electrical insulation properties. Easily repairable. Versatile silicone system. Special version of EP29LP. Resists cryogenic temperatures & shocks. NASA low outgassing approved. Transparent.

EP21FRSPLV

100:100

A red B white

30-60

24-48 hrs @ RT 2-3 hrs @ 200F

-60 to +250F

EP30DP

100:10

A light amber B clear A amber B clear A black B brown A white B white

60-90

48 hrs @ RT 2-3 hrs @ 200F

4K to +250F

EP30FL

100:25

25-30

24 hrs @ RT 1-2 hrs @ 200F 48-72 hrs @ RT 3-4 hrs @ 200F 4-5 days @ RT 4-6 hrs @ 200F

4K to +250F -60 to +250F 4K to +250F

EP30M3LV

100:50

130-150

EP37-3FLFAO

100:100

3 hrs

EP30-2

100:10

A clear B clear

20-25

24 hrs @ RT 1-2 hrs @ 200F

-60 to +250F

MasterSil 151

100:10

A clear B clear

30-60

24-48 hrs @ RT 1-2 hrs @ 200F

-75 to +400F

EP29LPSP

100:65

A clear B translucent

>6 hrs

8-10 hours at 130-150F

4K to +250F

B-STAGE SYSTEMS Color Code Master Bond Grade

Cure Schedule Temp/Time, F

Service Temp Range, F

Applications

EP36

tan

2 hrs @ 300F uncured material reusable

-100 to 500F

Unique B-stage system. Combines superb temperature resistance with high flexibility & elongation. Capable of resisting rigorous thermal cycling. Thermally conductive, electrically insulating version of EP36. Semiflexible. Good mechanical and thermal shock resistance.

EP36AO

light tan

2 hrs @ 300F uncured material reusable

-100 to 500F

ONE-PART UV DUAL CURE SYSTEMS Master Bond Grade

Color Code

Cure Schedule Temp/Time, F

Service Temp Range, F

Applications

UV15-7DC

colorless, transparent

10-30 min at 250-260F

-60 to +300F

UV curable. Low viscosity. Rigid. Requires 125C for secondary cure in shadowed out areas.

UV15DC80

clear, transparent

20-30 minutes at 80C

-60F to 300F

High viscosity, dual cure UV. Requires 80C for secondary cure in shadowed out areas.

Master Bond Inc. | TEL: +1 (201) 343-8983 | www.masterbond.com | whitepaper@masterbond.com