Wednesday, March 31, 2010

High-Reliability and Low Toxicity: Lead-free Marches into the Military Sector

SMT will be giving away copies of a new book on lead-free in high-reliability/mission-critical electronics at our APEX booth 1474.

Integrating environmentally friendly practices into high-reliability and high-security electronics assemblies is not only difficult and complex, but also technically unnecessary. While most electronics are subject to RoHS and similar restrictions on use of hazardous materials, medical, defense, military, and other critical sectors are exempt. For now. Companies face pressure from an increasingly lead-free supply chain on one side, and lessening exemption support on another. The good news is that the high-reliability electronics sector is taking an active, involved approach to environmental friendliness.

As part of the 20th anniversary of the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Act, Cobham Sensor Systems - Lowell has been selected by the Toxic Use Reduction Institute (TURI) at the University of Lowell as a "TURA 20th Anniversary Leader" for its environmental leadership. Cobham was recognized for its voluntary involvement in green practices, which are usually considered adversarial to military/high-rel electronics manufacturing. More on Cobham and TURI’s accomplishments — as well as SMT's tour of the reliability and analysis labs where Cobham studies lead-free, hexavalent-chromium- (CrVI-) free, and other approaches to electronics assembly — soon.

In the mean time, visit SMT’s booth 1474 at APEX to pick up a free copy of The Lead Free Electronics Manhattan Project – Phase I from the American Competitiveness Institute, Science and Technology Department of the US Navy, and the Benchmarking and Best Practices Center of Excellence. The Lead Free Electronics Manhattan Project team determined that lead-free electronics used in harsh environments pose technical risks that can lead to degraded reliability and reduced lifetimes, though quantification cannot yet be performed within valid statistical confidences. Further reliability data is needed to unite existing prediction methodologies and provide acceptable modeling accuracy. “Point solution” projects will not adequately address the gaps that exist in the current body of knowledge on lead-free electronics. The goal of the “Manhattan Project” is to ensure viable product design, manufacturing, test, delivery and sustainment at an affordable cost.

The book outlines best practices identified to mitigate the risks associated with lead-free electronics usage in high-reliability, high-performance aerospace and defense systems. The “Manhattan Project” approach is a best practice for addressing pervasive issues facing the manufacturing and customer community. The lead-free electronics best practices were compiled by nationally-recognized subject matter expert scientists and engineers.

Prepared concurrently by the Navy ManTech’s Benchmarking and Best Practices Center of Excellence (B2PCOE), the “Manhattan Project” framework addresses process aspects of dealing with complex, multi-disciplined technical issues. Skilled scientists and engineers collaborated within a real-time, concentrated working environment to synthesize their collective knowledge and experience into a practical set of findings and guidelines.

Phase II of the Pb-Free Electronics Manhattan Project will build on this current baseline and develop a three-year roadmap for the Phase III research and development required to deal with those issues.

Stop by Booth 1474 at IPC APEX EXPO, April 6-8 in Las Vegas, to get a free copy of this new publication, The Lead Free Electronics Manhattan Project – Phase I, as well as SMT issues and subscription update forms.

Meredith Courtemanche, executive editor

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