Continuing to Make Lead-Free a Reality

by Andy on July 1, 2010

As you probably know, lead has been prohibited by law in such industries as paint, automobile fuel, food cans, automobile body solders, light bulbs, and plumbing solder and fixtures due to damaging health and environmental effects. However, lead is still allowed in soldering electronics within the United States. But, because lead is on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s list of hazardous materials, lead-free solutions are becoming increasingly popular to reduce the risks.

Kester Lead Free Solder

In July 2006, the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS) went into effect in the European Union. The regulation is often thought of as the “lead-free directive,” but it also restricts the use of mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls, and polybrominated diphenyl ether.

RoHS, as well as other attempts to reduce hazardous materials in electronics, are driven to solve the issue of consumer electronics waste. Assuming they are recycling, American consumers often send their old electronics to landfills in countries such as China and West Africa, harming the workers at these job sites with heavy metal poisons.

We’re getting closer to making lead-free soldering a normal practice today. When the idea was first introduced, almost 100 lead-free alloy configurations were being analyzed. After much testing, only a dozen are being used today. The tin/copper alternative has the best scores for use in bar solders, and the bismuth/tin/silver alloy is best among paste solders.

Today, several companies have successfully incorporated lead-free soldering into their assembly and have also utilized an efficient implementation plan. Realistic guidelines for the inspection process (to recognize acceptable soldered joints and create a rework process) is an integral part of this development.

Still need more information about lead-free solder? Kester has devoted part of its website to the cause, in order to increase awareness and offer possible solutions to help solve the issue. In addition, Kester offers several lead-free products including solder wire (Kester KWLF27500 being the most popular), solder bars, and solder paste.

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