Electronic – Component reliability


I'm trying to design my project, Super OSD, to be as reliable as possible. I want it to work good as new when 5 years old. I hate unreliable products, environmentally it's a waste, and economically it's expensive.

To that end, I'm avoiding electrolytic capacitors, and I've spec'd everything at least 1.5x, most 2x where size/cost permits. However, I am still having to use tantalum bead caps for the on-board regulators of the microcontrollers.

Are there any other things I should be aware of?

Best Answer

If you use appropriate derating guidelines for electrolytic capacitors (keeping the ripple current in check, ensuring they stay well below their maximum temperature rating) they can last a very long time and still provide adequate performance. I've seen capacitors come out of 15 year-old equipment and still 'work' to some degree.

Fans have a limited lifespan depending on how fast you operate them. They tend to gradually fail over time.

If you have a primarily surface-mount design, consider conformal coating to help limit exposure to the elements and mitigate oxidation, etc. Products in the field for years which have some air exposure can very easily get several millimeters of dust, which makes a very effective thermal blanket.

Make sure that, if you're using RoHS parts, that you're not using parts prone to tin whiskering. (This is another area where conformal coating can be helpful).