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RoHS | August 30, 2007

Lead-Free legislation creates opportunity<br>for SMT equipment segments

The Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive impacts the entire electronics value chain, such as the suppliers of printed circuit boards (PCBs), electronic devices, solder paste and flux vendors as well as the assemblers of electronic equipment.
The removal of lead from electronic products has had a significant impact on the surface mount technology (SMT) equipment markets because of the process changes. This has resulted in a significant increase in the demand for certain types of SMT equipment, particularly screen printers, soldering equipment, and cleaning equipment along with renewed interest in inspection.

The (RoHS) directive has forced companies to change their methods of designing and manufacturing products. The lead-free legislation resulted in the development of new production strategies, and modifying the existing machinery so that their products perform to the expected level with the support of the revised production materials and processes.

Although the aerospace & defense industry is exempted from RoHS, this sector now faces the challenge of electronic device obsolescence. Some assemblers are accustomed to procuring devices that contain lead that meet military specifications. However some of the new commercial off the shelf products will not meet this requirement, thus forcing participants in the military market to go back to the drawing board.

“Even though the suppliers of these components insist on manufacturing leaded parts for military purposes, they will have to get fine-tuned to the rapidly changing technology and to the rise in prices of these parts as they cater to a significantly small market," notes Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Ashwin T. Ananthakrishnan.

The trend of lead-free conversion, which had a tremendous impact on the sales of new SMT equipment in the recent past, is expected to become steady in the long term. With the rising demand from various end-user industries, the increasing preference of Mexico as a manufacturing hub, adoption of lead-free substances and adherence to environmental regulations, the electronic manufacturing scenario looks promising in the North American region, which has historically been the center of innovation and technology advancement.
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