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Electronics Production | March 30, 2005

Current status of EU lead-free soldering

With only 16 months left until the July 2006 EU RoHS Directive deadline for full implementation of lead-free soldering in electronics and electrical equipment, ELFNET has reported results of an implementation status survey, available on the network portal.
Conclusions show that whilst the degree of uncertainty is now small, 30% of the concerned organisations are still not actively preparing for lead-free soldering.

ELFNET - the EU-funded European Lead-Free Soldering Network - has carried out this baseline survey as the first of three annual measurements of implementation dynamics cross the transitional period. Questionnaires were sent to industry representatives and results compared with the only previous survey in 2003 from Soldertec Global, UK.

"This study is an important benchmark for European industry and clearly shows the need for urgent action by those who are falling behind," comments Karl Heinz Zuber from the Technical University of Berlin, author of the report. "ELFNET can help by focussing attention and bringing the major European electronics industry players together towards this common goal."

After years of awareness raising by industry organisations and an abundance of basic information, most are now clear about the essential steps needed to implement the technology. However, there is an increased demand for more detailed information in key technical and business areas such as reliability, thermal compatibility and labelling.

Only 15% or respondents currently use 50% or more lead-free solder - a figure that is expected to rise dramatically during the next year. It is claimed that Japanese production will be close to 100% use by the end of 2005.

Almost half indicated an expectation that leaded technology will co-exist with lead-free production based on exemptions, export and repair needs.

The report also contains information about preferred materials and processes being selected by industry. Whilst a majority continue to prefer the SnAgCu alloy for reflow and hand soldering, the relatively new SnCuNi alloy appears to be competing strongly for wave soldering. There is a greater diversity in choice of lead-free surface finish materials with the 2003 trend towards NiAu or pure tin remaining. 62% were still undecided on preferred materials for BGA solder balls.

ELFNET will continue to work during 2005 to encourage collaborative progress by the key players from both industry and research. It is currently deploying a set of working groups to put in place realistic solutions based on a list of priority implementation issues identified by Europe's experts during 2004.

A copy of the report can be downloaded here (http://www.europeanleadfree.net)

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