Jaybird has just upgraded its wireless earbud line to include waterproofing, the company announced in January. Second-generation Run XT headphones now include full IPX7 waterproofing, meaning they are protected against immersion in water up to one meter deep. Run XT isn’t the only manufacturer to offer water-resistant earbuds, with Jabra, for instance, offering models that are resistant to being sprayed with water. But brands such as Jaybird and BackBeat stand out for carrying products that can withstand full immersion in water, illustrating how waterproofing is becoming a competitive feature in the earbud industry.

Earbuds aren’t the only market where waterproofing innovations are making an impact. The waterproofing chemical market was worth nearly $7.7 billion in 2016, and with a compound annual growth rate of 5 percent, that number is on track to increase to over $12.3 billion by 2024, Market Research Engine projects. Here’s a look at why waterproofing has become such an important technology, how innovations are improving water resistance and what entrepreneurs who are designing waterproof products need to know.

Why Waterproofing Has Become More Important

The demand for waterproofing technology is driven first and foremost by the construction industry. Waterproofing is vital for preserving the life of construction materials, as well as preventing electrical and metal hazards. The most common application of waterproofing chemicals is roofing, followed by building maintenance. Tunnels, walls, landfills, paints and coatings are other construction applications fueling demand for waterproofing.

Government investments in construction projects and commercial building are accelerating the growth of the waterproofing industry, driving demand for materials such as bitumen, reports Zion Market Research. The need to protect electronics devices such as smartphones, cameras and speakers is also increasing demand for waterproofing technology.

How Manufacturers Are Improving Waterproofing

To meet the growing demand for waterproof products, manufacturers are developing innovations to increase the efficiency of waterproofing technology. One area of technological innovation that is helping improve waterproofing is nanotechnology. For example, environmental regulations have forced clothing manufacturers to begin phasing out the use of traditional waterproofing materials, so MIT researchers have used nanotechnology to develop more efficient materials that can repel water from natural fabrics such as silk and cotton. Nanotech researchers have found that they can make materials more water resistant yet biodegradable if they use polymers with fewer than eight perfluorinated carbon groups, which do not present as much environmental risk as longer polymers, along with a special coating process called initiated chemical vapor deposition (iCVD). The iCVD process follows the microscopic contours of fibers closely, producing an ultrathin coat, and is followed up by a sort of sandblasting process which further increases water repellency.

Another way waterproofing is advancing is through innovations in o-ring technology. O-ring seals are critical for keeping liquids from spilling or seeping in applications such as automobile and aircraft engines and medical seals. To ensure the integrity of o-ring seals, manufacturers have developed specialized materials such as Viton fluorocarbon, which retains its shape and properties through a wide range of temperature extremes, making it suitable for applications such as engines. Top manufacturers carry thousands of o-ring sizes to ensure a water-resistant seal.

What Entrepreneurs Need to Know When Designing Waterproof Products

If you’re designing waterproof products, you should be familiar with the standard system used to measure degree of water resistance, known as the IP Code, International IEC 60529,(7) International Protection Marking or Ingress Protection Marking system. This system uses a series of digits, representing respectively protection against solid particles such as dust, protection against liquid ingress, resistance to mechanical impact and other protection. The scale for liquid resistance goes from 0 to 9, with certain numbers having more than one sub-designation. Different numbers represent different types of waterproofing. For instance, a rating of 1 or 2 indicates resistance to dripping water. Other numbers represent resistance to spraying or splashing water, water jets of different degrees of intensity or immersion. It’s important to know what type of rating your product needs and to have it tested for compliance with the applicable standard.

For o-ring seals, you’ll need to determine both the size and shape of the o-ring you need and the dimensions of the groove your o-ring will sit in. O-rings come in standardized sizes designed to meet rigorous applications such as those demanded by the aerospace industry. Common standard sizes are measured by the AS568 and ISO 3601 systems. You can also order custom sizes from top manufacturers. You’ll also need to consider whether your o-ring has a static or dynamic application, whether the application will need a button for use and what type of material is appropriate for your application. Your o-ring supplier can assist you with making the right selection.

Waterproofing has become vital for applications ranging from construction to electronics. To meet the growing need for waterproofing, manufacturers are increasing efficiency by applying innovations in areas such as nanotechnology and o-ring design. When designing waterproof products, be sure to test your product against international standards and to carefully select correct sizes and other specifications for o-ring seals.