Thursday, 23 July 2009

Industry View: Green Has to Mean Better

From SMT

It is easy to point a finger at certain substances and say they are bad and should be eliminated. Sometimes, however, even more difficult than eliminating a substance is finding a replacement for it. Care must be taken to avoid replacing a “bad” substance with another that causes even more problems than its predecessor.

We must ensure that changes are science-based. When there is technical and/or ecological evidence of how the industry can better protect the environment, we should take the proactive approach of carefully evaluating alternative technologies to determine trade-offs between product functionality, environmental impact, reliability, safety, and cost. Stakeholders must be involved in this process.

It is difficult to affect industry-wide elimination of specific materials without deadlines of pending legislation. The infrastructure changes required are especially challenging, given that most companies are not vertically integrated. Widespread conversion requires consensus on solutions and requirements across the supply chain.

iNEMI has organized initiatives to help build such consensus. The first focuses on PVC alternatives, while the second addresses issues related to elimination of HFRs.

The PVC Alternatives Project is evaluating alternatives for PVC power cables to determine trade-offs between product functionality, environmental impact, reliability, safety, and cost. Participating members will conduct cradle-to-grave environmental lifecycle assessments (LCAs) comparing PVC and PVC-free compounds for U.S.-based detachable desktop power cord applications (cable, connectors, wire). They also will compare equivalent functional units that meet UL requirements and conduct performance testing to gain a better understanding of the electrical, mechanical, and safety aspects of PVC-free alternatives.

Many of iNEMI’s OEM members and their suppliers are assessing the feasibility of a broad conversion to HFR-free PCB materials. Significant technical questions remain. What electrical properties are needed to meet high-speed signaling requirements? With many HFR-free materials showing higher stiffness, what mechanical properties are needed to ensure system reliability isn’t degraded? Can design modifications reduce sensitivity to electrical and material properties?

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