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Lead (Pb) in ELV Solder: European Automotive Electronics Legislation - Feb 2010 Update

Those of you have been watching this blog for a while will know that I’ve been keeping tabs on the status of the European ELV (End-of-life vehicle) legislation on lead (Pb), mercury (Hg), cadmium (Cd) and hexavalent chromium (CrVI). It’s been both galling and heartening at the same time, to find that when I Google “elv legislation”, this (my) blog keeps coming up as one of the top 10 sources on the subject. OK: enough of the bloggy, solipsistic prevarication...


My friend, Geert Willems of IMEC late last week let me know that the EC (European Commission) had given its final decisions on Annex II ("the exceptions"), and pretty much adopted the recommendations of the Öko Institute from their 127 page report of September last year (2009). I have to say my hat is off to Dr. Otmar Deubzer of IZM and Stéphanie Zangl of Öko for the very thorough and logical background to this legislation.


The decisions that affect those of us in the semiconductor (flip-chip) and power semiconductor arena are primarily the ones on lead (Pb) in solders, that were formerly covered by section 8.a/ and 8.b/ of the old, outdated Annex II to Directive 2000/53/EC, and are now covered by this new legislation.


A quick visual summary of the legislation relevant to lead (Pb) in electrical interconnects is given below, and please consult the original document for confirmation, as I may have missed some subtlety of the legalese in my quest for brevity. Also, frankly, subsection 8 (b) led to some Transatlantic confusion over whether finishes on pin connectors and PWB's were covered(?), but I think the below is correct:

Refer to the table below for the timeline for of each subsection/exception:

Note that the last review of exemptions was carried out in 2009, with potential effect by 1/1/2011. This implies that the legislative hammer will potentially fall on each of those usages slated for future review on January 1st two years after the review year. Lead (Pb) for most electronics attach usages of interest to those of us in semiconductor and power semiconductor packaging may therefore be "legislated out" by 1/1/2016.

Basically, the use of Pb-containing solders in solder paste, die-attach paste, die-attach wire, solder preforms, and thermal interface materials (TIMs) in automotive electronics assembly is safe for now, and changes will not be forced on the automotive electronics assembly industry at a time when even current manufacturing practises may be leading to still-unresolved safety incidents.

Cheers!  Andy