Removing Acrylic Conformal Coating with Safer Solvents for Re-Manufacturing Electronics

Polymers (Basel). 2021 Mar 18;13(6):937. doi: 10.3390/polym13060937.


Conformal coating is typically composed of polymeric film and is used to protect delicate electronic components such as printed-circuit boards. Without removing conformal coating, it would be difficult to repair these complicated electronics. Methylene chloride, also called dichloromethane (DCM), has a widespread usage in conformal coating stripper products. The high toxicity of DCM increases human health risk when workers are exposed to DCM during the conformal coating removal processes. Therefore, the replacement of DCM would be beneficial to greatly improve the overall safety profile for workers in the electronics and coating industries. This research identified and evaluated alternative chemicals for replacing DCM used in acrylic conformal coating stripping operations. The solubility of an acrylic conformal coating was measured and characterized using Hansen solubility parameters (HSP) theory. Coating dwell time tests using various solvent blends verified the accuracy of the created HSP solubility sphere. A data processing method was also developed to identify and screen potential alternative solvent blends in terms of safety, toxicity, and cost-effectiveness. The identified safer solvent blends were demonstrated to provide equivalent stripping performance as compared to DCM based coating strippers within an acceptable cost range. The results of this research will be of value to other types of conformal coatings, such as silicone and polyurethane, where DCM is commonly used in similar coating stripping operations. By safely removing conformal coating, delicate electronics would be available for re-manufacturing, enabling a circular economy.

Keywords: circular economy; coating stripper; methylene chloride; re-manufacturing; safety; solvent.