Tin Whiskers: Companies Taking Cover Under iNEMI Guidelines
Will lead-free components be endlessly plagued with tin whisker problems? In some sectors yes, in other sectors no. "The concern over tin whiskers depends on what industry you're in," says Eric Karofsky, senior research analyst at AMR Research. "With cell phones, who cares? Any manufacturer with a product obsolescence strategy says this is not a big deal because you're not going to see tin whiskers in a year or two."
Karofsky notes there's a different view for those who make products that last for years. "It's a big issue with white goods manufacturers. You don't want a refrigerator or television going out in a year or two," says Karofsky. "So those companies are testing more and more to find ways to mitigate tin whiskers."
The International Electronics Manufacturing Initiative (iNEMI) recently issued testing guidelines that manufacturers can use to determine whether they have done sufficient testing to assure their customers tin whiskers will not be a problem. "Since iNEMI issued its guidelines, people are following them," says Karofsky. "From liability standpoint—and to protect their jobs—engineers want to make sure they're going with the popular trend, which is iNEMI."
RoHS: Think You're Exempt? Think Again
Distributors have been quietly advising their customers not to think of themselves as exempt when it comes to the RoHS directive. While heavyweights in the electronics industry push the European Union for further exemptions, distribution executives believe there is no escaping the move to green parts. Even for the current exempt areas—the defense sector and certain areas of the telecommunications industry—the parts world will change drastically. They've been buying commercially for years, and distributors know that the leaded versions of those components will soon be history. As one distribution executive recently noted, "Nobody's exempt. Everybody's parts are going to change."
Regulations Produce Data Flood
Complying with environmental regulations means keeping records, lots of records. Whether you're tracking the material composition of your electronic components or creating a transferable database showing where the bad chemicals live in the cars coming off your line, companies are beefing up on compliance data. Electronic historians and databases have become increasingly critical to plant automation systems as manufacturers track data from every supplier as parts go into their products.
This is good news for database companies such as Oracle Corp., but it also provides market opportunities for companies developing industry-specific data solutions. A new company out of Colorado Springs, CO, the Goodbye Chain Group specializes in software to help electronics manufacturers manage the flood of data that will be required to prove their products are RoHS compliant.
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