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Unread 02-11-2018, 01:33 PM
Eamon Eamon is offline
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Roborio repair: conformal coating question

Anyone have any experience dealing with the conformal coating when repairing a roborio?

What kind of coating is it, and what is a recommended way of removing it?

I could ask NI but I thought I'd ask here first.

Best regards,

Eamon
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Unread 02-11-2018, 04:27 PM
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Re: Roborio repair: conformal coating question

Um...

You might want to contact NI before you try to repair the RoboRIO. Just in case doing the repair voids the warranty, you see.


And another thing to bear in mind when repairing that particular device is that performance and specs need to be the same after the repair as before--otherwise, it's not legal for competition.
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Unread 02-11-2018, 08:42 PM
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Re: Roborio repair: conformal coating question

Hi EricH.

I will check if the unit is still under warranty, but I think it is more than 3 years old. The dual type-A USB connector is damaged and needs to be replaced.

Do you know anything about the type of conformal coating used, or how it is best removed? Earlier, I managed to scrape enough of it off to replace the CAN connector on another RIO, but I'd like to do it righter or easier this time around.

Thanks for the reply,

Eamon
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Unread 02-12-2018, 12:14 AM
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Re: Roborio repair: conformal coating question

Do the pins of the connector go through the circuit board? If they do, it would be best to get access to a professional de-soldering tool and have someone familiar with using it to do the work. Otherwise, it is pretty easy to damage the circuit board irreparably.
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Unread 02-12-2018, 11:48 PM
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Re: Roborio repair: conformal coating question

Depending on how thick the coating is you should be able to just melt through it with. Do you have any pictures?
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Unread 02-13-2018, 09:14 AM
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Re: Roborio repair: conformal coating question

Quote:
Originally Posted by philso View Post
Do the pins of the connector go through the circuit board? If they do, it would be best to get access to a professional de-soldering tool and have someone familiar with using it to do the work. Otherwise, it is pretty easy to damage the circuit board irreparably.
I have a solder sucker at my disposal. I have repaired quite a few circuit boards over the decades, and rarely broken one. I am fairly confident the NI circuit board is high quality, and the traces around the USB connector are not microscopic so are unlikely to delaminate.

Replacing a broken through-hold USB connector with a few pins is less daunting than replacing an SMT part with considerably more. One thing to take full advantage of is that you really don't care if you destroy the broken part you're removing. So it may be advantageous to ruthlessly dismember it and divide and conquer - pulling out one pin at a time. That way, you really don't need to use a desoldering tool since each pin will pull out, one at a time, when its hole is heated up. Once the part is gone, use a solder sucker to clean the solder out of the holes before putting in the new one. (In a pinch, blowing molten solder out of the hole also accomplishes the task.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by teslalab2 View Post
Depending on how thick the coating is you should be able to just melt through it with. Do you have any pictures?
The coating is fairly thick (maybe up to 1mm; have a look inside a roborio) and it's not the gummy kind that you can just peel off, it's hard. As I said, I managed to melt/burn/scrape my way through it in order to replace the CAN bus connector on another unit, but I wondered if there were a better, or recommended, way.
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Unread 02-13-2018, 10:13 AM
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Re: Roborio repair: conformal coating question

Have you looked into conformal coat removers? A conformal coat removal pen is the best way to remove only a little bit of the coat.

Just note that the pen I linked to mentions removing silicone and acrylic based coats. I'm not sure what type of coat is on the roboRIO, but that pen might not work on the coat used. Try looking for something that can remove silicone, acrylic, and urethane based coatings, like this.
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Unread 02-13-2018, 11:29 AM
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Re: Roborio repair: conformal coating question

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pi Fighter View Post
Have you looked into conformal coat removers? A conformal coat removal pen is the best way to remove only a little bit of the coat.

Just note that the pen I linked to mentions removing silicone and acrylic based coats. I'm not sure what type of coat is on the roboRIO, but that pen might not work on the coat used. Try looking for something that can remove silicone, acrylic, and urethane based coatings, like this.
Thanks Pi.

This looks like what I want to order (along with the replacement part). Now I have something to use the DK PDV for! But I will do a bit more work to see if the coating is acrylic (I don't think it's silicone, since I think it's too hard for this).

Here's a good website that I will take a bit more time to peruse, and which contains a page on removal.
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Unread 02-13-2018, 11:46 AM
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Re: Roborio repair: conformal coating question

A tiny little sandblaster! how cool is that? (yes, I used a big one to clean up my old Chevy before I built it)

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Unread 02-13-2018, 12:08 PM
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Re: Roborio repair: conformal coating question

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eamon View Post
I have a solder sucker at my disposal. I have repaired quite a few circuit boards over the decades, and rarely broken one. I am fairly confident the NI circuit board is high quality, and the traces around the USB connector are not microscopic so are unlikely to delaminate.

Replacing a broken through-hold USB connector with a few pins is less daunting than replacing an SMT part with considerably more. One thing to take full advantage of is that you really don't care if you destroy the broken part you're removing. So it may be advantageous to ruthlessly dismember it and divide and conquer - pulling out one pin at a time. That way, you really don't need to use a desoldering tool since each pin will pull out, one at a time, when its hole is heated up. Once the part is gone, use a solder sucker to clean the solder out of the holes before putting in the new one. (In a pinch, blowing molten solder out of the hole also accomplishes the task.)


The coating is fairly thick (maybe up to 1mm; have a look inside a roborio) and it's not the gummy kind that you can just peel off, it's hard. As I said, I managed to melt/burn/scrape my way through it in order to replace the CAN bus connector on another unit, but I wondered if there were a better, or recommended, way.
If the pins are accessible before they go into the board, cutting them is the best way to go. They can then be pulled out one at a time as you have stated. Just be careful that your cutting doesn't force the connector to move and put extra forces on the PCB.

The risk with a board like the RoboRio is that at least one of the pins will likely connect to an internal or external plane that will act as a heatsink. This can make it difficult to melt the solder on those pins. Occasionally, we have had to have an extra person hold a second soldering iron on the pin. Hopefully, you won't need to do that. If the pin won't move, don't force it. If you do force it, you might pull the plated barrel out of the hole, breaking any connections to internal layers.

Whatever you do, do it quick. Otherwise, you might start delaminating the board material or cause cracks between the tracks and the plated barrel. Even good quality PCB material will delaminate if exposed to enough heat for long enough. Solder wick might work better for you than a than a solder sucker.

It would be best to scrape off as much of the conformal coating as possible. Sometimes, burning it will leave a mess that is harder to get rid of. Whatever conformal coating remains on the solder pads will be removed when you desolder it anyways.
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Unread 02-13-2018, 04:08 PM
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Re: Roborio repair: conformal coating question

I was able to take off the USB type B connector on a rio we are attempting to salvage as a practice/programming roborio.

My method was to just burn through it with a fairly hot soldering iron. I also used some low temp solder with a board heater to essentially "float" and pull off the connector. These are not things that most hobbyists would have on hand however, and then require a good bit of care to ensure that you remove all the low temp solder from the board and iron afterwards. You dont want to have any of the low-temp solder mixing in when you replace it with a new part.

I concur that strategically destroying the busted component and removing it pin by pin would be the best way to do it if possible. I am not totally convinced I took off the connector without damaging the board yet.
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Unread 02-13-2018, 07:48 PM
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Re: Roborio repair: conformal coating question

Id second the idea of calling NI customer support. I hope the number below the Call NI box of https://forums.ni.com/t5/FIRST-Robot...t/ta-p/3734560 is the right one, if you find a better number please post it. NI sent 2643 a replacement right away with the agreement wed return the broken one. I cant speak for NI but its worth a shot.
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Unread 02-14-2018, 09:08 PM
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Re: Roborio repair: conformal coating question

It has been thirty years, since I was around conformal coating. We used MEK, Methyl Ethyl Ketone, to clean up the spray guns. MEK is hazardous and shouldn't be used except with proper safety gear and plenty of ventilation. Students shouldn't be handling it.
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