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'potting compound to protect IP?'
2005\09\21@185216 by Jesse Lackey

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Hello all,

I've just finished a product that uses a specialized dc/dc controller
(designed for a wholly unrelated field) with some further tweaks to
solve a particular thorny problem.

It took three major redesigns to get here, 100s of hours, etc.

But... it could be easily copied.  And can't be patented.

So... at the very least I'm going to (carefully) sand off the markings
on the IC.

But it would be great to seal everything up as well.  Only the dc/dc
section need be protected, there is no need to encapsulate everything.
Ideally just a tablespoon of viscous goo poured over it.

Now I realize there are limits to what can be protected, the goal is to
make it hard enough that casual poking around won't yield any clues.
The product is a specialized enough thing that there aren't many
companies in the business field that would be interested in it, so it
doesn't need to withstand some concerted, well-equipped "attack".

Has anyone been in this situation before?

Any advice appreciated!
Thanks
Jesse

2005\09\21@190822 by Tim N9PUZ

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Jesse Lackey wrote:
>
> Has anyone been in this situation before?
>

Potting compound is a wonderful thing to keep the casual pirate away,
especially if the product costs enough that they are not willing to
buy one just to destroy it. Check on the compounds though, some are
more easily removed than others just by heating.

Side story: A contract design firm where I used to work once built a
product for a customer who had a lot of end users that mis-trusted
electronics. The circuit board was potted into a thin case with a
large barrier strip on top so it looked like nothing was there except
some fuse holders.

Tim

2005\09\21@191412 by Robert Rolf

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If it can be x-rayed, it's not that hard to figure out the wiring.
(I've done it with help from my very curious and helpful dentist <G>)
Are the component values important?  If so, consider adding dummy
components and circuitry that does nothing (using the no connection
 pins on the DC-DC convertor).

You want a compound that is hard but not rigid.
Rigid is easy to chip off or grind away. If it is flexible, it is
a bugger to grind, but can be pried, peeled or cut away.

Make sure to have largish holes through the board so that the
compound passes through and binds together top and bottom.
Makes it harder to chip or peel off.

The thermoset plastic that is used for ICs is ideal, but not
readily found. I would suggest 2 part fiberglass resin or
auto body putty, but your circuit will probably need a conformal
coat for protection against leakage and possible corrosive
effects. "Bondo" is cheap and very hard once set up,
and available anywhere. It is viscous initially, and then
sets up very solidly, but it does release a fair bit of heat
if you have a thick blob. Just use less catalyst then recommended
to slow the reaction down.

Have fun keeping the thieves out. If they want it badly enough,
they will get it.

Consider making the IP into a 'module' that you can entirely
encapsulate. Something like the AC-DC power bricks one can buy.
If it looks like a 'vanilla' brick, the chances of attack are slim.

Robert

Jesse Lackey wrote:

{Quote hidden}

2005\09\21@195802 by Mauricio Jancic

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I have recently tried "de-poting" a burned motorola RFID reader. It was a
succesfull job. Its very easy. Just a hot air gun and a screwdriver. Heat it
up and then remove piece by piece of the resin.

Then, I tried to do it in a working device and I have a non-poted working
RFID reader, just for the fun of it... :)


Mauricio Jancic
Janso Desarrollos - Microchip Consultants Program Member
spam_OUTinfoTakeThisOuTspamjanso.com.ar
http://www.janso.com.ar
(54) 11 - 4542 - 3519

2005\09\22@071313 by Vasile Surducan

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On 9/22/05, Jesse Lackey <.....jsl-mlKILLspamspam@spam@celestialaudio.com> wrote:
> Hello all,
>
> I've just finished a product that uses a specialized dc/dc controller
> (designed for a wholly unrelated field) with some further tweaks to
> solve a particular thorny problem.
>
> It took three major redesigns to get here, 100s of hours, etc.

100 hours of work for a project is not so much.

>
> But... it could be easily copied.  And can't be patented.

A patent will not help too much since a 30% difference from the
original scheme means a new product. On the other way in this huge
world (or huge USA) how you will knew if someone has copied entirely
your design ?

>
> So... at the very least I'm going to (carefully) sand off the markings
> on the IC.

For a good engineer this is piece of cake. How many IC used for drive
switching supplies are common used on the market? Not many. An
attentive look to the board, a reverse engineering schematic drawing
and a few hours of work.
>
> But it would be great to seal everything up as well.  Only the dc/dc
> section need be protected, there is no need to encapsulate everything.
> Ideally just a tablespoon of viscous goo poured over it.

Some companies are using red silicone. But it may be cleaned if
someone really want this.

>
> Now I realize there are limits to what can be protected, the goal is to
> make it hard enough that casual poking around won't yield any clues.
> The product is a specialized enough thing that there aren't many
> companies in the business field that would be interested in it, so it
> doesn't need to withstand some concerted, well-equipped "attack".
>
> Has anyone been in this situation before?

How many pieces do you think will be produced ? If less than 5.000,
probably it's useless to protect the whole thing.
Just for an ideea, a 120...240Vac to 5V/2A+12V/1A chinese power supply
can be bought here with  $4 in small quantities. I don't know what
your DC converter does.

cheers,
Vasile

2005\09\22@085408 by Electron

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At 18.52 2005.09.21 -0400, you wrote:
>Hello all,
>
>I've just finished a product that uses a specialized dc/dc controller (designed for a wholly unrelated field) with some further tweaks to solve a particular thorny problem.
>
>It took three major redesigns to get here, 100s of hours, etc.
>
>But... it could be easily copied.  And can't be patented.
>
>So... at the very least I'm going to (carefully) sand off the markings on the IC.
>
>But it would be great to seal everything up as well.  Only the dc/dc section need be protected, there is no need to encapsulate everything. Ideally just a tablespoon of viscous goo poured over it.
>
>Now I realize there are limits to what can be protected, the goal is to make it hard enough that casual poking around won't yield any clues. The product is a specialized enough thing that there aren't many companies in the business field that would be interested in it, so it doesn't need to withstand some concerted, well-equipped "attack".
>
>Has anyone been in this situation before?


Yes. I used RS-Components 199-1452 and was happy about the results.


>Any advice appreciated!
>Thanks
>Jesse
>-

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