The IPC standard for exchanging data on lead-free material composition is being revised by the iNEMI’s Materials Composition Data Exchange committee. The standard was released for industry review on June 10. The amount of feedback on the standard surprised executives at IPC (Association Connecting Electronics Industries) and iNEMI (International Electronics Manufacturing Initiative). “The response and interest has been overwhelming,” says Richard Kubin, chair of the iNEMI committee that produced the standard. “IPC hasn’t experienced so much interest in its history. There were more than 1,800 downloads of the standard.” The downloads of the standard came from dozens of different countries, even including Estonia and Turkey.
Since the standard is up for industry review, users were asked for feedback on the standard. IPC received 400 to 500 comments. The committee is required to respond each and every comment. “IPC is required to provide a disposition on every comment,” says Kubin. “So the committee met for three days in Chicago, and we got through every single comment.”
Kubin notes the comments tended to fall into groupings. “Some of the comments were editorial in nature, such as pointing out typos,” says Kubin. “But there were also meaningful comments on the standard itself. Many focused on whether the standard would allow suppliers to use a single declaration around a family of parts.” As an example, chip resisters have the same material composition regardless of the individual resistant value, so why create an individual form for each component?. “We’re working to support that idea in the next release of the standard,” says Kubin.
The next release of the standard is pegged for September. “We’re revising the form based on the feedback and we’re targeting September 15 to have the release out,” says Kubin. “Then the standard requires a 30-day balloting. During that time users can raise further technical issues. Our hope is to have most of the significant technical issues covered in the next release.”
The standard proposes a set format for component suppliers to communicate the materials that make up the content of their RoHS-compliant parts. The standard also provides for a signature from the supplier certifying the component complies with RoHS restrictions. Prior to the standard, certification was separate from materials content declarations. The declarations themselves came in every conceivable flavor. The IPC standard attempts to create a uniform materials content declaration standard that is married to a digitally signed certification.
The standard also proposes a machine-readable format that can be used by both large manufacturers engaging is RosettaNet data exchange as well as small suppliers working on a stand-alone PC connected to the Internet. Kubin worked with Adobe to create a form that allows small suppliers to enter data on their material content while also creating a digital signature for the certification. “Adobe supports the standard at no charge,” explains Kubin. “And the cool thing is that sitting behind the form is a fully formed XML schema. When the user hits the submit button, a RosettaNet PIP [partner interface process] is extracted and sent to the requester.”
Kubin hopes the standard can stand as the legal document to verify ROHS compliance to governmental bodies in European Union countries. The EU has not weighed in on what certification documentation it needs. IPC and iNEMI hope their standard will set the bar for certification since it’s the first attempt at creating a form that works to both certify RoHS compliance and communicate the material content of components.
“We really covered all the bases in this standard,” says Kubin. “We’ve had legal forms and legal council involved.” He notes the committee worked to make sure the standard would satisfy the needs of the governing bodies among EU members. So far, the UK has the most developed set of notions on how compliance should be communicated, so Kubin’s committee targeted those requirements. “The UK did suggest that [compliance documentation] be in machine-readable form, so we developed what we believe is the right solution,” says Kubin.