Lead-free Forum

Lead-Free Products in Power Electronics.



Interestingly, the requirements today do not address the hazardous materials internal to an electronic component. In other words, molding compound, device leads and plating are of concern, but anything internal to the device is not of concern at this time. This will change over time, and many semiconductor and other component companies are already working to reduce the internal hazardous materials used internally to construct the devices. Some regulatory requirements at this time include ISO-14000 which only defines effluents and resulting contamination of factory processes, but not the devices themselves. For example, you could have an ISO-14000 compliant factory which made cyanide as long as the processes did not result in contamination or wastes which are in violation of ISO-14000 requirements. Additionally, if the entire problem holistically is reviewed, lead contamination is comprised 95% globally by lead acid car batteries. Only a fraction of this issues--perhaps 1% or less--is in the electronics industry. It is hoped that the rest of industry will receive the most needed attention to correct the lead and toxic waste issues. These are clearly outside the purview of the electronics industry, as we are but a small fraction of the problem!

Our industry has vacillated a bit by alternating between ignoring the requirements and-or converting everything to lead free, neither one being the right approach. The industry has much inertia and infrastructure which will need to be changed. For example, ON Semiconductor is committed to offer lead-free versions of all devices that are currently not lead-free by 2004. This process is well underway. For those customers that choose not to convert to a lead-free offering according to our conversion plan, ON will continue to offer the current lead-containing devices for the foreseeable future. The semiconductor industry overall is committed to meeting the needs of all of customers as our industry transitions to lead-free over the next few years. Thus, as is so common, reality is somewhere in between "Change everything instantly," and "Don't do anything." Many of the passive electromechanical products as well as the bare PC boards themselves may be harder to change. Product identification is an issue: As components transition, how will we tell the lead free from non-lead free parts? What will the industry standard - JEDEC marking nomenclature be? How will the industry handle potential tim-whisker issues? What will the impact be on quality and reliability long term? How will we identify lead free parts which are so small it is difficult to add much marking to the device? How will we handle mixed boards with lead free and those containing lead on the same assembly? Clearly, it will take time to work through the inertia and infrastructure of the long history of leaded solder and assembly techniques and transition over to the lead-free environment in the electronics industries future. This is a dynamic situation for the power electronics industry indeed. Again, it is encouraged that members will contribute information and updates to this work in progress -- recommendations for inputs should be emailed to lisa@psma.com or telephone the main PSMA office number.

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