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PVA Automotive Interview

Headquartered in Upstate New York, with regional sites stationed throughout North America, Europe, and Asia, Precision Valve & Automation (PVA) is a global supplier of conformal coating systems, innovative fluid dispensing solutions and precision valve technology. PVA is globally recognized as an industry leader in fluid dispensing and spray systems for adhesives, sealants and coatings. The company is a specialty manufacturer of automated and manual dispensing equipment, spray coating equipment, pumps and valves. Its selective conformal coating systems combine closed-loop process control, high levels of accuracy and repeatability for use in moderate to high-volume manufacturing environments. We recently spoke with Frank Hart, Managing Director of Sales/Marketing, to find out what’s new for PVA in the automotive market space and if the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in negative outcomes for the company.

How did PVA become involved in the automotive electronics industry? How long has the company been in this market?

PVA has been entrenched in the automotive electronics industry virtually since our inception in 1992. PVA began as a dispensing valve manufacturer. Our president, Tony Hynes, would build valves in his house every weekend and then head out to peddle his products during the week. Many of our customers were integrators and automation companies that are competitive to PVA today.

Silicone conformal coatings were becoming more popular in the automotive electronics industry during the early 1990s due to their superior moisture resistance and performance of wide temperature ranges. The issue was that these coatings tended to be higher in viscosity than traditional solvent-based chemistries on the market. The film coating processesavailable were not suitable for these chemistries.

PVA was eventually approached by coating formulators that had these great new products, but no good way for their customers to apply them. PVA designed our first lowpressure, lowvolume atomization valve, the FCS300, building the automation around this technology, and quickly began dominating the high viscosity conformal coating market.

Since then, we have rounded out our product line to accommodate virtually anything that touches adhesives and coatings.

What automotive applications does PVA focus on?

The dispensing applications in the automotive sector are virtually endless. Our selective conformal coating systems are used widely to bring repeatable protection to intricate circuit board assemblies. These applications can range from under-hood electronics to controls for heating and cooling systemsto comfort seating.

Dispensing of thermal interface materials (TIM) help dissipate heat between components. These materials tend to be highly viscous and extremely abrasive so they can wreak havoc on traditional dispensing systems. Our line of hydraulic pumps and high-pressure metering systems have been an ideal fit for this market and TIM applications are PVA’s highest growth sector.

As dashboard displays become more predominant and complex in design, PVA’s patented atmospheric optical bonding process is being implemented to apply liquid optically clear adhesive (LOCA) in the gap between the cover and display. These adhesives bring higher clarity, ruggedization, and reduce glare. This market is extremely strong and our pioneering application process is widely employed globally.

Finally, potting is an alternative to conformal coating that encapsulates electronics, typically in a housing, to provide more reliability against atmospheric elements and vibration.

Demand for applications in the automotive electronics market is so widespread and is only accelerating with the growth of electronic vehicles.

Did you need to purchase special equipment for automotive products? If so, which company(ies) technology and why did you choose them?

No, we really haven’t seen this crop up. PVA does manufacture the overwhelming majority of the application equipment we utilize. Continuing to incorporate more process controls and application processes that are both highly accurate yet faster is always in demand.

Do you see the automotive market growing over the near future, especially as vehicles become smarter?

We are seeing this growth now and there really isn’t any reason to expect that to slow down anytime soon. Smarter devices result in more electronics that inevitably drive a need for more reliability. It’s exciting to see the projects our customers are working on from traditional under hood applications to nextgeneration display modules and safety features. Demand for our products in the automotive market is only increasing.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your work in the automotive industry? Are the global shortages and shipping delays negatively affecting you?

Initially the impact was a delay in many of the projects we were working on during the first phase of the pandemic. Fairly quickly we saw our customers pivot their work out of China,and the Asia-Pacific and Mexico markets exploded. Any project delays were short lived and, still, today the automotive industry is tremendously busy.

In terms of shortages, we have experienced some minimal impact to deliveries. I think being a privately held company that is strongly vertically integrated is an incredible benefit. We really rely on ourselves for so much of what goes into our product that we have been well insulated. When we have seen shortages pop up, our supply chain team has done an excellent job managing this and allowing us to maintain shipment schedules far superior to what we are seeing in competitive equipment.