SMTA International Conference Proceedings

Can RoHS Conversion Actually Reduce Product Cost?

Authors: Philip DiVita, David Steele, John Kanavel, and Chrys Shea
Company: DA-TECH Corporation and Shea Engineering Services
Date Published: 10/14/2012   Conference: SMTA International

Abstract: The Reduction of Hazardous Substances directive of 2006 mandated the removal of six dangerous materials from electrical and electronic devices. Perhaps the most difficult to remove was lead, as it was contained in nearly all electronic solders, and no drop-in replacements were readily available. The most viable solder replacements, alloys from the Tin-Silver-Copper (SAC) family, are far more expensive than tin-lead and require higher processing temperatures. The higher soldering temperatures require more costly energy to process and more heat-tolerant Printed Circuit Board (PCB) laminates, which, in turn, are also more expensive than their tin-lead counterparts, and more difficult to fabricate.

Given the higher purchase prices and the processing costs of both the solder and the PCB, it is only natural to assume that converting an assembly to comply with the RoHS directive will make it more expensive. However, this is not necessarily true. Cost is influenced by a number of factors, including PCB area, component package type, component availability and circuit density. In many cases, legacy products can be cost-reduced when converted to meet RoHS requirements.

This paper reviews four case studies of non-RoHS compliant product conversions, ranging in complexity from simple updates to complete redesign. Each case presents different challenges and opportunities. Cost reductions range from near-breakeven to over 50%. Different conversion strategies are presented, and the methods of cost reduction are discussed in detail.

Key Words: 

lead-free conversion, RoHS conversion, component obsolescence, legacy products, cost reduction

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