Indium Blog

May 13 Swatch Posting Generates Much Debate


If there is anything that I hope my blog does is to generate useful debate about the happenings in the electronics industry to help us all prosper. I will also be the first to admit that I am still learning and appreciate all of your constructive feedback. So I encourage all to read the comments generated by this posting, but I would also like to respond to a few.


John B writes:

Dr Lasky,

Thank you for the kind reference to our site. I believe you missed the point. Our site does not promise the "truth about RoHS" as you state it promises the "Truth about RoHS and lead free soldering" and uses the EPA environmental report as evidence that the replacements for leaded solders are a far higher environmental burden than the currently used product.

As far as recycling is concerned, yes recycling of any product is an onerous task leaded or unleaded - I believe the industry needs to address this with investments aimed at virtually "pollution free" recycling plants instead of the current practices of dumping container loads of electronics waste onto third world populations.

I will let the EPA report speak for itself.

The European Commissioner has publicly stated on 11 November 05 that "The Commission is aware that the substitution of lead in electrical and electronic equipment may have led companies to invest in new technologies with greater energy use. However, if companies can prove that the elimination or substitution of the banned substances via design changes or the use of alternative materials and components causes negative environmental, health and or consumer safety impacts, and that these outweigh the environmental benefits of ceasing to use the banned substances, an exemption can be granted. So far, only one company has asked for an exemption on these grounds. All the other exemption requests are based on either the lack of suitable substitutes or for cost reasons, which cannot be considered under the RoHS Directive."

RoHSUSA has provided support documentation for 9 of the current exemption requests based on the fact that the replacements are environmentally more damaging. It has submitted evidence of the EPA August 2005 report to suport this.

I agree, it will be an interesting year,

Kind regards,

John B

PS Give my best regards to Dr Lee

John, I need to study the EPA report you describe. Thanks for the insight! Dr. Ron

John M writes:

Thanks for the laugh! I can just see the TAC advisors looking over the exemption request and actually having to seriously debate allowing Swatch watches complete exemption. Even if the request came with a complimentary Swatch watch it is doubtful that this will be debated longer than it takes the TAC to read the request.

Cutting edge electronics technology companies has proven the ability, in general, to comply with the requirements and yet the "technological leaders" of watch designs can't? Would be curious to nkow the average lifespan of a Swatch watch to begin with... would hardly have time for a tin whisker to appear.

Too funny.

John M

John M, I am with you, but John B asks us to look at the support he sent for the Swatch Exemption Application See below. Dr. Ron

John B writes:

Glad you are laughing Mr Mitchel,

I submitted further support for the SWATCH application to the EU yesterday. It is posted on their web site

You will note that JES00337.pdf in support of the SWATCH application is dealing specifically with tin whiskers. Hope you can stop giggling long enough to read it. Which I am sure the TAC will indeed do.

And thank you Doctor Ron for this excellent discussion forum.

John B

Kurt Z writes:

Dr. Lasky,
You stated that Motorolla has over 120 million lead-free cell phones. Have you really determined the truth of this? My investigation has found most cell-phone companies stating RoHS compliance BUT, when you press for details, you find that they are claiming compliance by EXEMPTION not by exclusion of the banned material.

Kurt, this is one where I have a lot of first hand knowledge. Motorola has been shipping at first lead-free (and sometimes even mixed) technology cellphones to the field since September 2001. They are now fully RoHS compliant. Something like 130 million cellphones are out there with equal or better quality and reliability than leaded product. The reason I am so familiar with this story is that Motorola has used Indium lead-free solder paste from the begining. Dr. Ron

Oliver writes:

Dr. Ron,

are we really living in a world where 5 year operation is "very long term reliability"?

I don't think so. Most EEE I'm using at home or in the lab is older than 5 jears. Even the PC I'm using to write this is nearly that old. And I expect my (old, SnPb soldered) Omega watch to last much more than 20 years.

I'm designing electronics for industrial control where our customers expect more than 10 years service life. Even if we continue using SnPb solder, tin whiskers growing out of Sn plated leadframes might make this harder with RoHS.

So shall RoHS force us to arrive at the "don't last longer than 5 year" level?


Oliver, I am in my office surrounded by electronics that are all < 3 years old. But in sympathy to your point, my belief is that with proper processing and correct design, that longterm reliability with leadfree assembly will be achieved. However, even for products where such care is not taken, I think there will be few cases of significant reliability issues. Dr. Ron