Made by Monkeys

This Isn't Your Mother's Iron

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Re: Built to a price ... lead solder
Silver   9/7/2012 7:21:43 PM
I felt compelled to reply to this issue on lead solder as reliability is very important to me and my customers and the removal of lead from solder was a political issue and IMHO not a well-thought-out scientific (or even green) decision. Decide for yourself- here are a number of excerpts and links and a few of my own comments for your research on this issue.

I know that when I am flying in a commercial jet, I sure want the comfort of know the avionics was soldered with lead based solder to make it reliable! Same is true when I buy and expensive piece of electronic gear for the factory or for my home- I want it to last more than 6 months or a few years! I want to know that if I drop my cell phone the solder joints won't become intermittant. I don't want to replace the computer under the hood of my car (have you priced those?) just because of whisker growth from removal of lead. And the list goes on.. elevator controls, cameras, pacemakers, Nuclear devices, smoke detectors, ferigerator controls, ovens, fire supression controls, Police, Fire and medical communication gear, ... on and on and on. Think about what unreliabilities and early failures you are willing to live with. When a *good* solution is found, then fine... otherwise leave the electronics solder alone.

Please don't flame me, just study the research and consider the numbers for yourself. I have provided some info below to get you started.

Total impact of electronics-based lead in the world:



Note that electronics and solder don't even warrant a *category*.

Page 40 of:


From the above UE report, lumps it in with "Other".

Reliability issues with non-leaded solder:


RoHS regulations and response-generated industries have not successfully solved the problem (yet), but they are working on other solder additives that will stop whisker growth. For now, however, long term reliability of soldered circuit boards requires conformal coating if you use lead-less solder. Conformal coating, however, (in most formulations that I have seen) does release a lot of  VOCs, so choose your 'greenest' option as you see fit. (and the proposed solder formulations may use some very rare additive elements that may be overall more harmful than lead to the planet if you look at the complete birth to grave energy/pollution scenarios instead of just the disposal aspect).


Reliability problems created by getting rid of lead in solder and electronics coatings:

This one is a great write up-




"With the approaching deadline for RoHS conversion, component manufacturers have begun phasing in tin plating without fully addressing the tin whisker risk. Since tin whiskers do not grow immediately but over a number of years, each segment of the electronics industry views the risk differently. The consumer electronics industry, with its shorter product life cycles, does not view tin whiskers as a major reliability risk. But component users in the defense and aerospace electronics community, whose electronics are mission critical, view tin whiskers as a serious risk."



Tuesday, August 02, 2011 | Harvey Miller, FabFile Online (edited slightly for this paste):

"Many should not be expected to know that lead-free solder has significantly increased manufacturing cost, and also reduced reliability of electronic products. Like most on the equipment end of the food chain, people are not familiar with the manufacturing engineers' failed struggle against EU-mandated lead-free solder. Specious arguments that ignored scientific risk-reward analyses by the University of Stuttgart and the University of Tennessee, were used to justify elimination of the miniscule lead content--less than 0.5% of total lead usage--from electronic solder, beginning in 2002. By 2011, lead- free solder had over 60% global penetration."


From: "Paul Reid" Paul.Reid@PWBCORP.COM
To: TechNet@IPC.ORG

"I disagree with the stated and implied affect of RoHS, on PWBs expressed in this article. Lead-free assembly reduces reliability by 50%. There can be no doubt about that. There are too many studies that confirm lead-free assembly significantly degrades reliability. There are so many studies that demonstrate a reduction in reliability that Rod's contention is almost laughable. We are now faced with increased failures of copper interconnections and dielectric material due to high assembly temperatures. There is an increase in crazing that can support CAF, significant copper dissolution and cratering in assembly. Switching to lead free in most HDI applications is a significant challenge. Lead-free assembly has a profound affect by degrading a PWBs organic component (epoxy) due the temperature required and copper interconnection and also the exaggeration of the z-axis expansion of the dielectric.

I have heard of anecdotal stories like, "We switched to lead-free with no problem!" But never have I seen data that suggests lead-free does not degrade the robustness of a PWB. It may be some applications have so much extra "reliability," such a large "guard band" built into the product, that there is no affect noted in assembly and the end-use environment. But make a small change like, say, grid size, hole size or layer count and they might be very surprised to find out what worked for years won't work now.

There was this guy standing on the corner of the street snapping his fingers.

A businessman walks up to him and says, "Why are you snapping your fingers?"

The man replied "To keep away elephants."

The businessman said, "There are no elephants within 1,000 miles of here!"

The man replied, "See! It works."

Anecdotal evidence is compelling, makes good and interesting stories and sets one up for major error and embarrassment when offered as grist for the mill of reality. RoHS's affect on the electronic industry, juxtaposed against the benefit to the environment, does not stand up to the scrutiny of critical thinking. It does not appear the decision is based on "good" science or objective evidence. RoHS appears to be feel-good legislation that has, over all, minimal benefit and significant negative impact on society."

JEDEC has a whisker testing standard and a document which talks about ways to reduce the risk of tin whiskers in a RoHS situation:


The documents are:
JEDEC standard JESD201, "Environmental Acceptance Requirements for Tin Whisker Susceptibility of Tin and Tin Alloy Surface Finishes"


JEDEC/IPC joint publication, JP002, "Current Tin Whiskers Theory and Mitigation Practices Guideline"

I have not read the documents yet, but plan to Real Soon Now. :)

Other metals are also known to grow whiskers, including gold, but I have never experienced those myself.

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Steam Iron
dougspair   9/7/2012 8:05:50 PM
I'm 65, and still using the same GE steam iron my mom used when i was 5-6. I may have to replace the cord some day, as it's got several areas with friction tape on it. Same goes for the Kirby Vacuum my parents bought around my 5-6 th year of life. Still has the same cord, but rubber cover is cracking. I bought an old house in 1999 and there were 2 GE steam irons in the 'ironing board' closet, both work OK, and also have tape on the cords in the same areas. Seems to be where the cord rubs on the edge of the ironing borad during use. 

Mack Z
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This Isn't Your Mother's Iron
Mack Z   9/10/2012 9:35:28 AM
If a company made a high quality iron today would people buy it?  Would people choose it over the $18 and $20 irons I see in stores?  At least cars are better these days.  Mine has 200,000+ miles with little maintenance. My Dad's cars never lasted that long.

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Re: This Isn't Your Mother's Iron
schmadel   9/10/2012 2:48:12 PM
My Wife and I did in fact purchase an expensive iron, a Black and Decker at near a hundred dollars. In about a year, plastic parts inside melted and it was beyond repair. After that we bought a cheap one from a drug store. Over a year later it's still working fine. Eric is right: speding more money does't help.

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Re: This Isn't Your Mother's Iron
Tool_maker   9/10/2012 3:23:09 PM
@Mack Z: The answer is yes. Rowenta has demonstrated that people will spend exhorbitant amounts of money for what they hope is a quality iron. I must confess that I have never ironed so much as a handkerchief, but my wife irons everything. Her biggest complaints are that the new irons do not get hot enough and are so light they require muscle power to be applied to PRESS the cloth rather than just guiding the iron across the fabric. We have spent over $100 for irons that did not iron to suit the user, my wife. I do not know how long they would last because we never kept one long enough to tell.

Our solution is the same as I have given for other posts on similar appliance issues: Estate Sales and/or Garage Sales. Maybe we buy 2 or 3 at $1-$2 before we find one with which she is happy, but then that will usually last 5-6 years and be discarded. I have also changed cords when required and typically have a few iron cords on hand. The cords are usually heavy duty and flexible. I have replaced cords on a jigsaw and a couple old fans with cords from discarded irons and extended their life as well.

This whole thread could be rerun a dozen times by just substituting the appliance at the core of the issue and I think the bottom line is what the consumer is willing to tolerate.

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Its better in EU....
ian_m   9/12/2012 7:50:01 AM
One of the advantages of the EU is the consumer legislation states that goods should last a reasonable length of time, up to 6 years for "bigger"items. Thus I should expect a washing machine to last this long. This is in conjunction that most goods have a one year warranty anyway, compared to 90 days in US.

My expensive £500 dishwasher failed after just under 3 years and was unrepairable, after a bit of haggling from manufacturer got £270 back. Managed to repair in the end, had obviously had a leak since new and was permentantly triggering the leak sensor, fix leak problem solved.

My wifes £200 steam generator iron packed up after 4 years heavy use, manufacturer couldn't repair it so they replaced it  (OK cost about £40 in P&P to send old back and get new delivered).

Had issues with wires breaking in the seat of my VW car (to do with airbag sensor) and as only 4 years old, sorted for free, after a little pestering and reminder of 6 year legislation.

My mates LCD TV died after 15 months, got his money back on that one as it is deemed a TV should last longer than that.

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Made to fail
Cadman-LT   9/12/2012 12:42:43 PM
I used to work in a machine shop. Those old machines will literally last forever with very little maintenance. I agree, and almost everything made today is junk. Dare I say "made to fail".

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This Isn't Yur Mother's Iron
dalalhm   9/27/2012 4:38:56 PM
Take your pick. Pretty and light versus heavy and ugly. Today the word quality and long lasting does not figure in people's thinking.

Steve Greenfield
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Re: Built to a price
Steve Greenfield   9/27/2012 8:22:22 PM
"Astro-Eric, don't blame the workmanship for that. Soldering materials are not what they used to be thanks to our European friends and their misguided RoHS legislation. You try soldering with lead-free solder for a while and you will be convinced."

While I can't disagree, I will say that I've seen a lot of soldering issues long before lead-free solder. Lots of Thomson TV warranty repairs that required literally hundreds of resoldered joints on boards that mixed PTH and SMD parts.

And it is amazing to me just how many consumer electronics items put temperature sensitive components like aluminum electrolytic capacitors right next to heat sinks. Guess which ones fail first? I don't know how they are now, but for decades Sony TVs were terribly designed when it came to getting rid of heat. Parts packed in close, and the vents designed so that if -anything- interfered with convenction in the slightest, they got very hot inside. Bad capacitors, bad solder joints, etc.

They were beautiful until they failed. But just too much dust in the slots, a doily partly blocking the slots, or even just putting the TV into an entertainment center was enough to cause them to overheat to the point of entire PCBs having bad solder joints and bad electrolytics, and discolored boards.

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Iron Designed by Monkeys
wirebender   11/5/2012 4:18:01 PM
It isn't just "made by monkeys" that is the problem with consumer goods, it's also "designed by monkeys" it seems.  I just completed filling out a customer service form on the Sunbeam website concerning my wife's brand new iron.  Following is the message I left:

"There appears to be no closure on the water fill port on this iron.  Consequently,
random spurts of hot water are ejected from the fill port while ironing leaving
wet spots on the clothing.  In addition when the iron is placed on its heel plate
a large drop of hot water flies out of the fill port potentially causing burns if
it lands on the hand.  Every other steam iron that I've ever used (including
Sunbeam irons) had a cover or plug for the water fill port.  THIS DESIGN IS DANGEROUS

Must have been designed by mokeys or at least by someone who has never actually used an iron.

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