Jim, thanks for this unintended consequences story about one of the many unintended effects of ROHS. I was covering chip packaging and substrate materials at the time, so I got to write a lot about the lead solder replacement issue, various alternative materials and their upsides and downsides. I'm glad those days are over and the transition has been made.
To me, RoHS solder joints always look cold. The solder has a dull, grainy looking surface when compared to the old leaded variety. I still use leaded solder at home, not just because of the way it looks, but because it flows much easier and appears to have greater cohesion.
Hi, Ann Enjoy reading your comments often. In the Aerospace/Defense industry, many of us wish RoHS would go away. Its multiple effects on the longevity of critical systems will plague us for years to come. Not everything is a "throw-away" product like we are used to in the consumer arena...... We certainly wouldn't still be receiving signals from Voyagers 1 & 2 if they would have had to be RoHS compliant......
Yes, the ROHS mandate has kept a bit of lead out of some landfills, but the reduced quality of the solder joints has put much more material into those landfils. So while the fearful europeans got their wish, it would be quite valuable to see if the claimed result has arrived at all. Is there any less lead or berrilium in the environment? In fact, has the concentration of any of those materials been reduced a detectable amount, much less a worthwhile amount? My belief is that a systemic recycling program could have achieved much better results much more quicly and cost a lot less. Just consider how many fewer phones would be dumped in the waste stream if there were a $20, or perhaps $50, deposit on each one, just like pop cans. And if such a deposit were a national mandate, not a local rule, then nobody could claim that it gave others an unfair advantage.
I am aware that it is a radical concept, but it has worked for pop cans here in Michigan, with only a 10 cent deposit., so it may work elsewhere as well.
Yes, it's the same old story. The environmentalists find a bogeyman and demand it's immediate removal and/or replacement. Government regulations, written by lawyers instead of engineers, are the result. Then the manufacturers scramble to find acceptable replacements. The replacements are always claimed to be "just as good" as the original component. Unforunately, more often than not, "just as good" is "never, never, NEVER just as good!" as the original (just like the lady in the commercial says!). Examples include replacing oil-based paints and stains with water-based equivalents to remove Volitile Organic Compounds (VOC's), or replacing lead paints with paints containing mercury compounds, or replacing high-fat foods with low-fat and non-fat equivalents.
This also raises an interesting problem, namely, what if many years from now, the replacements also have hidden problems that must be dealt with? Remember when Urea Formaldihyde Foam insulation was touted as a replacement for fiberglass building insulation, or Aluminum electrical wire was suggested as a replacement for copper wire, or PVC pipe was suggested as a replacement for copper water supply lines? In all three cases, class-action lawsuits resulted in ten's of millions of dollars in judgements against the manufacturers when the products failed, making homeowners sick and/or causing thousands of dollars in damage to their homes. These problems often don't show up until the products have been on the market for years, if not decades, and can't be discovered by testing, no matter how hard you try (unless you want to test the product for 30 or 40 years before releasing it, which is impractical).
Given the fact that lead is the smaller proportion of the 60/40 solder and that the EPA estimates that 80% of the lead in the environment is from batteries, why then go after the smallest 0.47% (EPA) of lead in the most critical systems that our lives, yes our lives, revolve around?
So far, pacemakers, satellites, nuclear reactors, and countless other devices have failed due to lead free ROHS solders.
What was the cost of all this? Who paid for all this? You did!
How bad does it have to get? Does an H-bomb have to go off (once the military if forced to use lead free) and vaporize a city before we wake up?
The really hideous part of this is that the average consumer has no idea that the funny green label on his product means a much lower quality. " Oh, it is lead free, my children can safely chew on the circuit boards" some might say.
And, by the way, this is a representative government, ruled by laws and votes, NOT mandates and directives from a foreign power.
Tin and other lead free solders were originally banned in the 1940's due to the failure of critical wartime radar installations.
The way I see it is that it is just another way for someone to get their hands in your pockets.
1. The high volume short warranty manufacturer benefits, it lowers the playing field of the high quality manufacturer to the level of low quality.
2. You will be forced to buy more devices more often benefiting #1 above.
3. Soldering is now a high tech behind the counter process requiring an Xray machine, special fluxes, special overplating, special conformal coat........ The little guy has less chance of competing.
The real answer was recycling. Yokohama Metals and others have found that recycled small electronics is 150 times richer in gold than the best of ores. Plus all the other stragetic materials involved.
Just put a bin on the corner of the shopping center parking lot and enforce strictly illegal dumping. Put a bounty on it, like glass bottles are in some states, that way out of work people could help themselves and the environment.
It is amazing what can happen if people thing things through instead of jumping to conclusions based on flawed information.
To your point, when I spent time working with General Dynamics after the height of this RoHS cross-over period, I was very surprised to learn that many Aerospace, Defense and Military projects did NOT follow the RoHS initiative. Considering it was Government and Political posturing that allowed the initiative in the first place, (caving in to "Green" lobbyists) it seemed very hypocritical to me that it was "mandated" upon private industry, but not adopted by many Government branches. Again, to your point; we understand why that happened – Leaded makes a better solder – but unfair to push onto others what you're not willing to adopt yourself.
This opens the argument I've been making for a while now; that the 'Green Initiatives' --- while nice in theory --- many times do not pan-out, when scrutinized by a rational long-range logistical thinking . The posturing of the environmental lobbyists (in this case, the EU as the leaders) convinced the whole world to change for their cause.
You bring up valid points that the same lobbyists will probably choose NOT to review in any detail; and while you humbly concede your new idea may sound radical, I wonder what the total price tag was for the RoHS initiative globally? It must have run into the 'Billions' --- Talk about Radical.
Great points, ratkinsonjr. All good examples (except PVC plumbing, which I love). Environmental Lobbyists are a strong-willed and powerful group wielding far-reaching power over public opinion; -- opinion which is easily misled by "partial" data points. And the biggest problem, is the 'public-opinion' of those folks seated in legislative seats, who don't fully understand the far-reaching ramifications of their decisions. It's frustrating.
I agree with all your observations, and it is far-easier to use; I continue to use it exclusively.
The one good thing that came from the cross-over was that I was often sought-out to determine root-cause failures, and came to quickly recognize those dull-grainy joints you described as leading causes.
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