Compliance Requirements for 2013.

Over the past few years the printed circuit board industry has had numerous regulatory and compliance initiatives forced upon it. Some of these may have been well intentioned but the unintended results have yet to be realized. For example, many of us are familiar with RoHS, Restriction of Hazardous Substances directive. The directive restricts the use of several substances by manufacturers. The only substance restriction that really affected the printed circuit board industry was Lead. Tin-Lead solder was used in the industry for decades. RoHS sought to remove Lead from the electronics industry. Many people recall how harmful Lead in gasoline and paint proved to be to both the environment and the human condition. Removing Lead from electronics would sound like a good idea. Right?

WRONG!

The decision to remove lead from electronics was made by politicians and administrators. It was not based on science or any quantifiable evidence. There have been no documented cases where solder used in electronics composed of Tin-Lead have proven harmful to the environment or to the human condition. The frustrating point of this line of thinking is that the Lead-Free solder alternatives are harmful and are able to leach into the environment. Click here to access a paper published by the IPC located on their web site. The effect of questionable alternatives to Tin-Lead solders on the environment is one negative. The effect on product reliability and longevity is another negative. Phenolic cured grades of FR-4 that are able to survive the higher temperatures of Lead-Free soldering are mechanically weaker than the traditional grades of dicey-cured FR-4 we have used for decades. Lead-Free solder joints are more brittle. The reliability and longevity of Lead-Free solder joints has yet to be determined. The Lead-Free soldering process is also more damaging to the printed circuit boards and assembled components due to the higher soldering temperatures and time at temperature required to form the solder joints. (Can someone explain to me why we did all this in the first place?)

The burden of the compliance effort for RoHS on the printed circuit board industry resulted in millions of dollars of non-value added spending by manufactures to comply with a directive where the cure is obviously more harmful than the diagnosis. That leads me into the point of this blog post. What new directives and regulations do we have to look forward to in regards to non-value added costs placed upon the industry in 2013…

  • RoHS2
  • REACH/SVHC
  • Conflict Minerals
  • Ozone Depleting Chemicals

These are just a few that come to mind. I’ve added REACH/SVHC to the list.  It has been in place for years but the EU keeps expanding upon it.

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