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Drivers of Change

Two major drivers restrict the use of certain materials in products: European Union (EU) regulations and the "green product" mandates of large electronics and auto manufacturers. The major European regulations are 1) the End of Life Vehicle Directive (ELV), 2) the WEEE and RoHS (the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment and the Restrictions on Hazardous Substances) Directives, and 3) the "Dangerous Substances" (Restrictions on the Marketing and Use of Certain Dangerous Substances and Preparations) Directive.

European Union WEEE and RoHS Directives

The WEEE directive addresses end-of-life management of electrical and electronic equipment (e.g., take-back and recycling of used computers and equipment). The RoHS directive deals with the types of materials that are used in manufacturing electrical and electronic equipment. RoHS restricts the use of lead, cadmium, mercury and certain brominated flame retardants in electronic equipment as of July 2006. Together, these Directives are major drivers for the electronics industry now, creating numerous technical and logistical concerns. TURI is focused primarily on RoHS, by helping companies to identify and test various alternatives for the banned substances.

Getting the Lead Out

As a result of global pressures the electronics industry is moving towards the use of alternative solder alloys to replace tin-lead solder, which has been the industry standard for 60 years. The new solders have higher melting temperatures that can damage certain components and warp circuit boards. Moreover, there is a narrower "processing window" which means much tighter manufacturing controls and standards, and a greater risk of mistakes that can be amplified throughout the supply chain. The result is that companies throughout the supply chain must agree about what types of alternative materials are selected, how the boards are designed and how they are manufactured.

Solutions

TURI has been working with the electronics supply chain in Massachusetts. Visit the New England Electronics Consortium page to learn more.