Taymur Ahmad, CEO, actnanoTaymur Ahmad, CEO
Cars, once an agglomeration of simple mechanics, are now evolving into a hub of sophisticated electronics. And their future is fully autonomous!

Leading automobile manufacturers are altering their business models and investing billions in R&D to bring autonomous vehicles (AVs) to the forefront. However, despite the buzz around self-driving cars, many automakers are struggling to climb the adoption curve due to a multitude of factors that loom over AVs’ reliability. Among them, the ambiguity concerning the functional excellence of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) tops the list.

ADAS, one of the most decisive technologies for self-driving cars, encompasses a number of different functions including emergency braking, backup cameras, adaptive cruise control, and self-parking, to name a few. Within these systems, there are numerous printed circuit boards that contain critical electronic components such as connectors, antennas, and LEDs, that are specifically designed to ensure a better, safer driving experience. However, considering the harsh environments that a vehicle operates in, these electronic parts are susceptible to failures due to humidity, water, heat and other agents—which can put lives at risk. This has hammered home the immediate need to ensure complete environmental protection for ADAS to safeguard the electronics against corrosion, failure, and high-speed data signal disturbances.

Enter actnano
Established in 2012, actnano is a revolutionary nanotechnology company that specializes in providing unrivaled coating solutions, primarily to the automotive and consumer electronics industries. “We protect a wide array of electronics from water damage and harsh environmental conditions, including condensation, high temperatures, salt mist exposure, and submersion in salt water,” says Jim Sheridan, COO, actnano. “And, unlike traditional coatings, we can provide 100%, 3D protection of circuit boards because we can cover the entire board.”

With its robust suite of commercialized water and environmentally resistant nanocoating technology, Advanced nanoGUARD (ANG), actnano positions itself as a key technology enabler in the autonomous driving space, protecting the critical electronic components of AVs.

The Dawn of a Life-Saving Technology
What spurred the inception of actnano is its founder’s—Taymur Ahmad—passion for mitigating the challenges associated with traditional industrial coating technologies. Having worked with several Fortune 500 companies such as Alcoa and Philips Electronics, Ahmad realized that the most widely used conformal coatings are subpar for the electronics protection needs of AVs. Since these conventional solutions are “glue-like” by nature, they cannot be applied on connectors or fend off signal transmission if applied on antennas. Not just that, processors guarded with conformal coating materials tend to heat up quickly which can lead to failures and compromise the operational excellence of ADAS and thereby the overall safety of AVs.

Identifying that inefficient electronics protection could play a significant role in hindering the mainstream adoption of AVs, Ahmad began to think of a value-added alternative to protect critical components for environmental exposure.

Through constant R&D, he soon developed a superior nano coating solution—Advanced nano GUARD, a gel-based hydrophobic coating—that can help OEMs and Tier-1 manufacturers improve their products’ reliability standards. Ahmad’s extensive experience in the electronics manufacturing space helped him ingrain his signature in the highly competitive coating industry and solve complex problems, giving actnano the momentum it needed to be competitive.

“Our Advanced nanoGUARD coatings protect electronics—be it ADAS, control units, chargers, tire pressure monitors, USB ports, and more—from damage due to harsh environmental conditions,” says Sheridan. The solution features a thin-film coating that can be directly applied to the entire PCBA, including connectors, antennas, processors, and any high heat-generating components to provide up to IPx8 protection levels. As a gel-state coating, clients can easily and rapidly apply the solution over the substrate before the final assembly step, enabling them to save on their overall manufacturing cost. Besides, nanoGUARD coatings can be applied by using existing automated dispensing equipment at the manufacturing facilities, helping minimize the need for new capital investment and employee training.

“actnano improves the overall safety and can help save lives,” says Ahmad. “For us, ensuring the safety of our customers when applying the coating is as important as improving the safety of vehicles around the world.” As such, the solution eliminates the use of toxic materials that usually go into most conformal coatings, making the entire process safe for the workers in the facility and the environment.

A “Nano Guard” to Electronics
The Advanced nanoGUARD solution features exceptional viscoelastic and electrical insulation properties to provide superior flexibility alongside complete PCBA protection. It protects all complex topographies and allows electrical connections to be made without trapping heat in high power components or attenuating digital signals during information transfer. Having such a scalable, turnkey solution that seamlessly integrates into existing manufacturing lines has helped actnano become a trusted partner to many global automotive and consumer electronics OEMs and Tier-1 suppliers.

Recently, actnano collaborated with a leading, US-based, electric vehicle OEM that needed unrivaled reliability in some critical components that go into their significantly sized board assemblies designed to manage media control units and autonomous driving functions. As these complex systems generate a lot of heat and need to transmit multiple signals seamlessly, the client could not rely on inefficient, glue-like traditional methods of protective coating.
Recently, actnano collaborated with a leading, US-based, electric vehicle OEM that needed unrivaled reliability in some critical components that go into their significantly sized board assemblies designed to manage media control units and autonomous driving functions. As these complex systems generate a lot of heat and need to transmit multiple signals seamlessly, the client could not rely on inefficient, glue-like traditional methods of protective coating.

To help them protect their systems without compromising operational efficiency, the team at actnano worked with their designers to develop a fit-for-purpose product in-house. The company then rolled out the solution to the client’s global contract manufacturers at various locations, including China, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Mexico. The OEM was able to integrate actnano’s Advanced nanoGUARD into their existing manufacturing lines with the help of its expert, regional engineering teams. actnano was able to protect the client’s electronic components while ensuring full functionality and meeting reliability standards in a cost-effective fashion.

Recognition of In-House Capabilities
Many such success stories stem from actnano’s dedication to ensuring clients’ success by adopting a comprehensive customer-first and innovative approach. The team is well recognized for its prowess in gaining a holistic view of clients’ varying needs and constantly improving its solutions to meet them. Combining this approach with its substantial presence in key global markets, actnano is uniquely positioned to provide everything that the future of hydrophobic coating requires. “We pride ourselves on having an international team of experts to provide exceptional technical and commercial support, ranging from initial design to mass production and cost and performance optimization, to our global customers,” adds Sheridan.

As a rapidly growing company, actnano is constantly pushing the boundaries of innovation to develop new solutions that help serve its existing clients better while attracting new customers. The next big thing for actnano is the rollout of its most advanced nanocoating solution, Advanced nanoGUARD Titan, to global OEMs and Tier-1 suppliers. It is a revolutionary coating solution unlike any other electronics protection solution available in the industry today. The solution can simplify the customers’ manufacturing process, improve product performance, and reduce overall costs while providing maximum protection for automotive electronics. What makes Advanced nanoGUARD Titan unique is its ability to maintain stability over a wide range of operating temperatures and fully protect the electronics, while allowing tunnel-through electrical conductivity at connection points after application.

From a technological perspective, team actnano is putting its best foot forward to augment the temperature ranges and other core capabilities of Advanced nanoGUARD. The company is also planning to expand its services to provide the industry-best protective coating to other substrates—particularly anti-fog for automotive glass. From an operational standpoint, actnano plans to significantly increase its global presence by establishing strategic partnerships with potential clients. Plans to expand our team in Germany, specifically with the addition of an Automotive Center of Excellence there, are already in the pipeline. “We have the technology, knowledge, skills, and desire; no matter how the automobile industry shifts, we’re there for our clients to ensure that their AVs are protected,” concludes Sheridan.