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Technology // Solders

Tipping point for lead-free over next decade

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Major US electronics industry association IPC has concluded that the economic inefficiencies in producing electronics for high reliability applications such as military and aerospace will force conversion to lead-free technologies in the near future.

In its report, it notes that the main driver is the increasing scarcity of leaded components, for which an increasing price differential will create 'tipping points' over the next 10 years. The study was based on data from 83 electronic manufacturers and suppliers into these high reliability markets who are already dependant on a dual, leaded and lead-free supply chain. A number are experiencing rising costs as lead-free components are converted back to leaded using reballing technologies, where chips are dismantled and the solder on individual devices is replaced. These rising costs are an increasing burden on the industry and will drive change in the coming years.

ITRI estimates that full conversion to lead-free solder in this sector will generate around 10,000 tpa of new tin consumption, for which it is also predicting a 95% conversion to lead-free by 2023. Lead-free conversion across all sectors in China has been slow despite implementation of the China RoHS directive, which regulates the use of lead in electronics. However, the government is planning to offer incentives to larger companies in 2015 to encourage adoption of the legislation. They are also launching a new consultation on expanding the scope of the legislation, similar to recent moves in Europe. ITRI estimates a further 10,000 tpa of new tin consumption in China if this is realised.

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