Cornerstone Research Group (Dayton, OH) has developed an organic, polymer-based material that can be directly applied to any circuit board — as well as other metal- and plastic-based objects — to protect against vibrations.

The protective hard-coating technology, originally developed for the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), is now being funded by a Missile Defense Agency (MDA) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II contract to determine whether it can protect information system technologies used in current and proposed space-based ballistic missile defense platforms.

Cornerstone’s material minimizes vibrations that can damage circuit boards and other electronic devices.
Cornerstone originally engineered the hard-coating material to protect circuit board systems, components, and assemblies from damage caused by abrasion, shock, impact, chemicals, and sandstorms that can be common on the battlefield. Development of the technology has continued under the MDA contract, and the material has been improved so that it now can protect almost any kind of electronic device from vibration damage — from home computers and personal data assistants, to car radios and cellular telephones. Typically, manufacturers minimize vibration damage to electronics by integrating acoustic-dampening features, adding cushioning, and coating circuit board components with plastic compounds.

How it Works

The hard-coating material protects circuit boards and other electronic components in a way that other compounds cannot. Many of the options to mitigate vibration damage, such as coating with commercial off-the-shelf plastic compounds, do not have the same coefficient of thermal expansion as the components they protect. When such compounds undergo heating or cooling, they expand or contract at different rates than the components to which they are attached — a situation that can lead to cracking or breaking. Cornerstone’s durable, hard-coating technology, however, is engineered to allow the material to shrink and expand at a rate close to that of circuit board assemblies, so no damage is done to the board components.

Since the hard coating’s successful high-endurance tests with the AFRL, Cornerstone researchers have been actively trying to find its niche in the commercial market. Businesses needing their electronics protected against vibrations and harsh conditions — such as mining, transportation, and the chemical, oil, and gas industries — should welcome this new technology’s usefulness. The technology is also expected to be useful in mitigating vibrations in the electronics of the burgeoning off-road vehicle market.

And considering the protective hard coating would be used in a variety of electronics and environments in both heavy industry and the home electronics markets, the product has to be adaptable. Cornerstone starts off manufacturing the material in three distinct formats: a paste that allows a user to apply and coat a piece of equipment as thick as deemed necessary; thin sheets that use direct-applied adhesion, similar to contact paper; and machine-molded coatings fitted to a customer’s specifications. Since the hard-coating material can be used on virtually any electronic device to protect against vibration, it is more versatile and compatible than competitive coatings on the market, which tend to be specialized toward use on specific applications.

Where it Stands

While Cornerstone plans to continue manufacturing its protective coatings, the company hopes to partner with electronics companies to supply the material for coating components. The coatings can be integrated into standard manufacturing processes with little to no impact on production.

More Information

For more information on Cornerstone’s circuit-board coating technology, visit (Source: Joe Singleton/NTTC; MDA TechUpdate, Missile Defense Agency, National Technology Transfer Center Washington Operations)

Defense Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the June, 2010 issue of Defense Tech Briefs Magazine.

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