It’s a terrible twist of irony. The Chinese can’t seem to keep the lead out, while everyone else may be doing too good of a job keeping it out. So reports the LA Times, in the article Lead phase-out may destroy electronics. The problem? Tin whiskers, like the ones on terminations, shown here..
“They’ve ruined missiles, silenced communications satellites and forced nuclear power plants to shut down. Pacemakers, consumer gadgets and even a crucial part of a space shuttle have fallen victim. The culprits? Tiny splinters — whiskers, they’re called — that sprout without warning from tin solder and finishes deep inside electronics. By some estimates, the resulting short circuits have leveled as much as $10 billion in damage since they were first noticed in the 1940s. Now, some electronics makers worry that the destruction will be more widespread, and the dollar amounts more draining, as the European Union and governments around the world enact laws to eliminate the best-known defense — lead — from electronic devices. ‘The EU’s decision was irresponsible and not based on sound science,” said Joe Smetana, a principal engineer and tin whisker expert with French telecommunications equipment maker Alcatel-Lucent. ‘We’re solving a problem that isn’t and creating a bunch of new ones.'” The subject of tin whiskers has long been controversial among the design engineering community, with blogs and forums buzzing noisily on the topic, including this post from the site Pushback, an anti-lead-free site. “It was bound to happen. IPC and Jedec now have a conference to address reliability issues of lead free………….The train has indeed left the station, and as predicted it is running into some issues….. Here’s a clue guys – lobby Europe so that we can use environmentally friendly leaded solder and you will not need the conference. They have to review the whole thing by 2008 so seize the opportunity.. ” And we won’t even get started on all the paperwork….