Before the mid 2000s, electronics manufacturers had to be concerned with the challenges of innovation at a low cost. Failure to meet these requirements, resulted in unsuccessful products. Sustainable design is a relatively new requirement for electronic manufacturers - in addition to all previous challenges. The EU’s WEEE and RoHS laws support sustainable design by virtually requiring that electronic products be recycled. Even products exempt from RoHS, such as medical devices and measuring & control equipment, must meet WEEE’s recycling requirements.
Some have argued that the recycling requirement exacerbates the rampant counterfeit component crisis. I am sympathetic to this argument, but the counterfeit component calamity must be solved another way. With the volume of scrap electronics that exists, the world needs safe and effective recycling, as can be seen in the accompanying photograph (National Geographic January 2008).
I was reminded of this recycling requirement when I read of the soon-to-be-published book Solderless Assembly For Electronics (SAFE). The topic of the book is solderless technologies like the “Occam” process . When first announced in August 2007, a number of people, including me, questioned the need for these types of processes and delineated some of the expected difficulties in implementing them. Since then, the need that a product be recycled is another significant challenge to these processes. Soldering enables relatively easy disassembly of PCBs. Most proposed solderless processes copper-plate components to create the equivalent of circuit traces, while the PCB function is built up. Thus, it is more difficult to disassemble a PCB with these types of processes, as the copper bonds melt at 1085°C, much too hot for components and the PCB.
It will be interesting to see how this recycling challenge and other issues facing solderless assembly processes are addressed in this book.