So I’ve had a idea bouncing around in my head for about a week now and I’m wondering if you guys have any thoughts on it. What if you took a flash drive, removed its outer casing and just dip the circuit board in a protective silicone coating? Would that ruin the drive or would it leave you with a hopefully cool looking minimalist flash drive? Have any of you done something similar, or is the best way to find out to go spend $20 and try it myself?
Hmmm, I’ll ask one of our EE guys but I think you should definetly just try it out. Maybe PlatiDip?
More minimal than the Kensington Data Traveler?
One of my friends is doing the same but experimenting with concrete and various levels of epoxy added, directly onto the circuit … it worked for him but he didn’t make an epoxy-only version (the mixtures he used were probably thicker, if that makes much of a difference).
As long as the drive wasn’t active (plugged into anything) when you dipped it, my guess is that it would be fine. A lot of analogue electronics are epoxy dipped to either reduce solder joints coming loose due to vibration, or to limit repair-ability. My long term concern would be the reduced capacity for heat dissipation, especially with an epoxy or similar.
Not necessarily visually minimal, but conceptually minimal. It’s just the circuitry with a dipped coating over it, but I get what you are saying.
Good to know it isn’t a totally unexplored topic. The next time I’m at the store I’ll have to get some epoxy and a cheap flash drive to try it out. I know flash drives sometimes can get warm, but from my experience not as warm as most electronics. I guess one drawback could be that it would totally ruin any recycle ability, but how recyclable are circuit boards to begin with?
Anything from thin paint, even heat sink type black radiating paint, to thick epoxy would likely be possible without changing or interfering with the function.
PCBoards are only marginally recyclable. The process mostly involves grinding up the boards or whole devices, then mechanically or electro-mechanically sorting different types of bits out of the ground aggregate. Some of it is sellable as scrap to be refined, and others are just trash. I would imagine that a coating wouldn’t really impede this process too much.
I’m not sure how well silicon would work, I would give epoxy a shot. Here’s one of my favorite hack How to make a Sawed-off USB Key | Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories
Also, it seems dipping a drive in epoxy has already been done:
One person is reporting overheating. I would try looking into electronic potting epoxies, they might have better heat transfer properties. Also, try to keep the amount of epoxy as thin as possible.
An old friend from frog was doing these a couple years ago… USB Sticks encased in concrete
There’s a similar technology called ‘potting’ electronics - which is surrounding a board with caulk or nonconductive grease so when an it goes under water (and under pressure), the enclosure won’t let water in.
I’d imagine that USB sticks would have a pretty heavy layer of mask on the circuit board to protect it, since it might go in washing machines, etc. Mask is the spray-on clearcoat layer that goes on top of the pcb once it’s created.
That’d protect it from the whatever you coat it in, but the mechanical connections might not hold up when you stick it in again and again…
Yes of course dip molding silicone over a bare PCB can work, similar is frequently done on some assemblies. PCB’s are often conformal coated, usually a spray, sometimes a dip, for extreme insulating purpose, emergency certification approval, etc.
However, a general rule is that PCB’s are never structural nor should be directly handled. Solder joints are structurally weak. Flash drive insertion / extraction hand grip force will quickly damage the PCB components or flex the thin glass epoxy board and crack tracks or solder joints. Also, you run the risk of directly introducing electrostatic shock to a sensitive component if the silicone is thin or wears off. It would be safer to do a clear acrylic cast, however without looking someone probably already has…