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.


Is Halogen-Free Part of the Future?

by Andy on July 1, 2008

Lead Free RoHS Compliant Symbol It’s been almost two years since the birth of RoHS and now some people are pushing to add more hazardous substances to the list of restricted materials, and halogen is one of those substances but it doesn’t come without any great debate.

Some say that just like the hazardous materials listed under RoHS, halogen-free electronics should also be part of the environmental trend to go green. But others disagree and say that halogen in electronics doesn’t affect our environment either way.

According to Tim Jensen in his Halogen-Free blog, the industry seems to have defined halogen-free as being less than 900ppm of bromine (Br) and 900ppm of Chlorine (Cl).

Right now there aren’t any laws that require electronics companies to manufacture halogen-free products, but many companies including large corporations such as Intel are slowly going in the direction of halogen-free.

The other source of confusion for this topic is the difference between halogen-free and halide-free. I’m obviously not qualified to describe the detailed difference between the two but if you love chemistry and are interested in knowing the details, read Jensen’s blog article about the differences between Halogen-Free and Halide-Free. But here’s the cliff notes version of the differences. A halogen means fluorine, chloride, bromide, iodine or astatine is present. On the other hand, a halide is a compound that contains a halogen.

You’re probably wondering where halogen is used in the electronics industry. Well, as it turns out, halogen can be found in many flame retardants such as brominated flame retardants and polyvinyl chloride which is more commonly known as PVC. Halogen-free advocates believe these flame retardants (that contain halogens) are bad for both our health and the environment once the electronics have been thrown away, recycled, etc…

I’m sure this is just the beginning of the halogen-free debate as well as the question of other substances that could be considered hazardous. Here’s some more information if you’re interested.

· IPC has an informative site on halogen-free and brominated flame retardants

· Here’s an general article on Eco-Friendliness from GreenerComputing

· Apple’s environmental policies

· Intel’s lead-free and halogen-free policies

· Dell’s stance on brominated flame retardants


Weller Soldering Tip #2

by Andy on June 5, 2008

Use temperatures between 315-371°C (600-700°F) for Sn63Pb37 and 371-427° C (700-800° F) for Lead-Free alloys. Temperatures higher than 725° F can and will shorten tip life in most cases. Temperatures below 371° C (700° F) can increase tip life by as much as 50 % when compared with temperatures higher than 399° C (750° F).

Missed soldering tip #1?


Weller Soldering Tip #1

by Andy on May 29, 2008

Customers are always interested in tips and tricks for solder and soldering. Weller knows this and has been generous enough to give us a list of tips on how flux, solders and maintenance can shorten or extend the life expectancy of soldering tips.

Every Thursday for at least the next two months, we’ll post a handy tip from Weller.


#1 Use temperatures as low as possible to perform a soldering application, even in Lead-Free environments. Process dwell times have increased for all Lead-Free applications including Wave and Batch Oven processes. Why would Hand Soldering applications be any different? Normal hand soldering dwell times for lead bearing solders: 3 to 5 seconds, for Lead-Free solders: 8 to 10 seconds.