Tin whiskers? – What, me worry?
As component suppliers send out their “we’re lead free now” announcements, there are a good number of skeptical engineers who believe the problem of going lead-free is not simply a matter of using tin without the lead. The skeptics claim that pure tin plating will grow whiskers given enough time and stress.
Over in aerospace and defense, engineers are particularly nervous, warning that lead-free airplanes could fall out of the sky and medical life-support equipment could fail. Those in consumer electronics shrug their shoulders – they don’t believe their products will be around long enough to suffer the consequences of tin whiskers breaking off and shorting out their products.
Some suppliers are testing nickel, gold, bismuth and silver to replace lead as whisker mitigation. But that’s pricey, so most suppliers are simply saying, “We dropped the lead, used a new manufacturing procedure, tested our components, and they’re fine.”
How much confidence do you have in the clean components you’re designing in?