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Electronics Production | June 12, 2005

evertiq at the Conference on Lead Free Electronics

The IPC/Soldertec Global 3rd International Conference on Lead Free Electronics in Barcelona, was finalized June 10 after 4 days with one of the strongest programs ever to be delivered. Lars Wallin, IPC European Representative, report.
Experts from Japan, the United States, Europe, Australia, Israel and Singapore shared critical information on lead free issues, namely how to prepare for RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) with more than 160 conference attendees. At the conference the following trends were explored:

Legislation: Despite the presence of experts within the EU TAC (Technical Advisory Committee), manufacturers are still unclear on exemptions. For example, a car radio is not included in RoHS regardless where it is used say written guidelines from EU but other experts say the exemption only applies when it is placed in a vehicle. Decisions, which have been taken by the TAC, have now been questioned by the EU parliament and are not considered valid. The conclusion is that many questions that previously appeared to have solid answers are now on a shaky foundation.

Solder paste: Of 18 (record number) table top exhibitors, there were three large solder paste suppliers who stated that SAC, SnCu (Ni) or SnAg is the best option for every board produced by all existing EMS and OEM factories. At the same time, experts from different parts of the world presented solder paste alloys including a different mix of Sn, Ag, Cu, Zn, Bi and In and every alternative has its advantages and few drawbacks. In addition, bare board suppliers are offering a larger range of surface treatments which sometimes gives an excellent solder joint but often gives an unacceptable result according to the new IPC-A-610D standard. It will not to be an easy task for product owners, production engineers and those who are responsible for the quality to pick up the “right” solder paste that meets their board needs.

Reliability: Large OEMs like IBM represented the production side of the electronic industry along side government/industry financed institutes like NPL Material Centre in the United Kingdom, Franhofer Institute in Germany and IVF in Sweden. All of them are now concerned about the reliability of assembled boards. Tests are being done but the numbers of parameters that are available are so high that it will take many years to have valid data. Unfortunately the date for RoHS compliance will not wait for the data to be ready and the reliability consequences on future electronic products can not be predicted. Many of the industry experts sharing their knowledge at the lead free conference did have answers to participants’ questions, but some admitted that the implementation of the RoHS directive will be more technically complicated than they first thought. The financial side will soon be an issue at many managing directors’ table causing them to deal with unexpected headaches. But readers should be patient and continue their RoHS compliance work.

For those who still have questions, more answers can be found at the IPC/JEDEC lead free conference in Brussels, October 17-19.

Lars Wallin
IPC European Representative

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