I am sympathetic and concerned about the effect of RoHS complinace on military and other high reliability products. Perhaps an organization like DARPA should take a lead in addressing this issue. I will investigate this concern further in the future. Reader Michael sums up the situation below:
I appreciate your writing regarding repealing RoHS. Let me just share how the impact of RoHS has dramatically affected our business. Our company is one that supports repealing RoHS, not because of lack of concern for the environment, but because of the applications that our electronic assemblies are used. We are an electronics manufacturer for the military and our products are used in missile detection systems and other military defense systems. The government has strict standards for electronic assemblies and we have received directive from nearly all our customers to not switch to RoHS compliant parts. As you are probably aware, most if not all component manufacturers are discontinuing leaded products and only offering RoHS compliant products. Costs are increasing because in order to comply with customer directives, we are now forced to buy many times more product than we may ever use just to ensure we can provide highly reliable assemblies to our customer. When leaded products run out, there is no choice for us. It is not as simple as converting to RoHS compliant parts and processes when our customers direct us not to switch because of the reliability.
In our business, if our products fail, lives are at stake. I have not found any concrete studies showing that lead free parts and assembly processes are just as reliable as their leaded counterparts when used in strenuous applications. Several weeks ago our company CEO was at a high level meeting with government officials discussing a program we support and there is much concern about switching to RoHS and several folks have shared their experience with RoHS compliance and it wasn't pleasant. Product reliability is in question.
When making televisions, radios, and other household electronics, I can understand how great RoHS might be. But when dealing with products that our service men and women must use to protect themselves and our country, I don't think we should be forced to switch to something less reliable.