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Shocking Technologies raises $15.2M for anti-shock circuit boards

Shocking Technologies has raised $15.2 million in a third round of funding for its business of making electric-shock-proof electronic circuit boards.

The San Jose, Calif.-based company uses nanotechnology to protect electronic products from the accidental sparks that can ruin gadgets like iPhones or laptops. Shocking Technologies is well on its way to protecting the world’s circuit boards, and just about everything electronic, from the kinds of electrostatic discharge (ESD) that allegedly brought down the Hindenburg blimp in 1937.

The backers include Littelfuse, Arch Ventures, ATA Ventures, Balch Hill Capital, Skylake Incuvest, Vista Ventures and a number of private investors. Shocking Technologies will use the money to build additional manufacturing capacity to meet demand.

The company embeds a plastic coating it calls XStatic in an electronic circuit board or chip package to protect against discharges, which are the sparks that occur when a strong electric field creates an ionized conductive channel in the air. That gives a person a little shock but can cause severe damage to electronic equipment.

Traditional ESD protection includes providing surge suppressors in electrical outlets and inside products themselves. Those typically provide protection about 3 percent of the time. For smaller devices, protection is a lot more challenging because of the limited space and the device’s physics. That forces product designers to choose between reliability, signal integrity, and functionality. Shocking Technologies says it can give 100 percent protection while reducing the number of components in an electronic device.

The XStatic material functions as an insulator (dielectric) during normal circuit operation and becomes conductive when the voltage increases beyond a predefined threshold. The material reverts back to being an insulator after the voltage drops. The net result is that all chips mounted on a board are shielded from ESD voltage spikes that would otherwise cause damage. The material is coated around thin copper foil, which protects the boards and chips.

XStatic also fits into a product design much more easily than surge suppressors. Typically, designers go through a trial-and-error process to find the right spot within a design for a surge suppressor. That takes a lot of time. Shocking Technologies has certified several big circuit board makers with its Xstatic 100 Voltage Switchable Dielectric solution.

The company was started in 2006 by chip and nanotech experts Lex Kosowsky and Robert Fleming. and it has more than 100 patents and pending applications for patents. Previously, Shocking Technologies had raised $32.2 million.

Investors include Littlefuse, Arch Venture Partners, ATA Ventures, Skylake Incuvest, Vista Ventures, Balch Hill Capital, and some angels. Rivals include On Semiconductor, California Micro Devices, NXP, Cooper Bussman and Tyco Electronics.