AIM has the lead-free products and process knowledge required to help your company in the transition to lead-free soldering in the most logical and economical ways possible.
The issue of lead-free soldering has piqued a great deal of interest in the electronics assembly industry as of late. What was once an issue that seemed too far away to worry about has become a pressing reality. In order to avoid confusion, last minute panic, and a misunderstanding of how the issue of lead-free soldering will affect the industry and individual users of solders, it is necessary for all suppliers and assemblers to become educated in this matter.
Lead-Free Soldering - Why?
The most simple explanation for the tremendous interest in lead-free soldering is FEAR: Fear of Legislation, Fear of Trade Barriers, and Fear of Competition. Most companies do not necessarily want to change to lead-free, but rather are motivated by a combination of these three fears.
- The WEEE/RoHS directives in Europe and similar mandates in Japan have instilled fear that a legislative body will prohibit the use of lead in electronics soldering.
- If a particular country disallows lead in electronics, a trade barrier is created between that country and anyone not capable of providing lead-free electronics solutions. Of course, this also could take place between individual companies.
- Some companies already are producing electronics products with lead-free solder alloys and marketing them as such. This has led to fears of being caught behind commercially.
Resistance to Lead-free Soldering
Along with the great interest in lead-free soldering has come much resistance to this potential change. The reasons for this change may be divided into two categories: cost and reliability concerns.
As lead is one of the least expensive elements on earth, replacing it with virtually any other metal will raise the price. In addition, incidental costs should not be overlooked; the cost of educating and training company personnel on the use of lead-free alloys and qualifying lead-free parts are not inexpensive ventures.
Reliability issues are also a great concern in the lead-free issue. Although many of the lead-free alloys have demonstrated more-than-adequate reliability characteristics, engineers have developed a certain comfort factor with tin-lead over the last few decades that will not be easy to emulate. In addition, the reliability of assemblies exposed to the higher reflow temperatures of lead-free solders also is of great concern.
Lead-Free Solder Requirements
In response to the aforementioned concerns, a great amount of effort has gone into the development of lead-free solders intended to be "viable" replacements for tin-lead solders. Although each of these alloys has its advantages and disadvantages, some alloys clearly stand out as the likely replacements for tin-lead for the majority of soldering applications.
Now is the time to prepare
Lead-free soldering is more an issue of "when", rather than "if", anymore. In order to be prepared for the inevitable switch to lead-free soldering, companies should begin the search for suitable lead-free products and processes for their unique applications as soon as possible. Only when companies have hands-on experience with lead-free electronics assembly will there be complete confidence in the viability of lead-free soldering and an understanding of what to expect from this dramatic process change.
This site is intended to guide the future users of lead-free solders to the most appropriate lead-free alloys and processes for their applications. Please feel free to contact AIM at anytime so that we may be of assistance during this transition period. Whether you choose to implement lead-free assembly, sample a lead-free alloy, or simply have a technical question to be answered, AIM is your source for the latest in lead-free soldering technology.