National Physical Laboratory

Lead-free electronics

Helping industry meet the challenges of new legislation that requires the removal of lead from manufacturing processes.

The Challenge

Lead-free from failure

New EU legislation, enforced from June 2006, is banning the use of lead in electronics and forcing the industry to change the way it builds printed circuit assemblies. After more than 50 years reliance on lead-based materials, alternatives must be found for everything from electronic toys to computers, and ensure they work. There are concerns in the industry that the alternatives may be less reliable and affect the durability of electronic products.

The Solution

A collaborative project involving 15 industry partners was led by NPL's Dr Chris Hunt. It aimed to deliver a way to measure the reliability of solder joints made with lead alternatives. The project subjected a number of material combinations to a range of temperatures and mechanical forces, simulating long lifetime performance applications such as military and avionics.

The Impact

Data obtained showed that lead-free solders, even when contaminated with small amounts of lead from imperfect processes, were comparable in performance to existing systems and indeed more reliable than expected. The test methods and data mean that designers and manufacturers can face the future with greater confidence.

"It was an excellent team effort to bring it all together. One immediate benefit for PartnerTech was being able to talk to customers with authority. With the data, we were able to demonstrate that our lead-free process was fit for use."
Rex Waygood, Technical Manager of partner PartnerTech

Find out more about NPL's research in Electronics Interconnection

Last Updated: 7 Jan 2013
Created: 28 Oct 2010

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