In the field of electronic assembly there have always been regulations of one sort or another that have affected both the materials and processes that we use for manufacturing. From the classics, such as IEC, UNE, EN, DIN, ISO, IPC, which govern aspects ranging from functionality, robustness and criteria for the acceptability of assemblies to various issues to be considered during manufacture, such as protection against static electricity, an ever-increasing number of acronyms have appeared in recent decades.
Today we will focus on what are known as environmental standards. These are standards that primarily protect the environment and our health. Perhaps the best known of these is the RoHS standard. It is also the standard that has had the greatest impact on electronic assembly processes. This standard, which already has a second version (RoHS2) that now applies in Europe, regulates the maximum allowable percentages of hazardous substances such as lead, mercury, hexavalent chromium and cadmium.
During the last century, lead was widely used in electronics and, together with tin, formed part of the alloy with which the components were soldered. The elimination of lead involved the introduction of alloys that melt at a temperature that is around 30 degrees higher. Although the RoHS standard came into force in Europe in 2003, IKOR changed its processes and adapted the manufacture of components some years earlier for some of our customers.
The RoHS standard applies not only in Europe but also other in countries such as China, which have their own RoHS standard.
Another standard that protects our health is the REACH standard. This standard contains a long list of substances, most of them carcinogenic, whose use is restricted. In this case our manufacturing processes are not affected, but there is an impact on the specification of the components.
Another specification that some customers must comply with and that also becomes our responsibility, as an electronics assembler, is halogen-free manufacturing. In this case it is the amount of chlorine and bromine in PPM that is restricted. Because of the risks of cross-contamination this specification requires a very strict control of manufacturing processes.
The law on conflict minerals has a different purpose. In this case the aim is to protect the people of countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and bordering countries who are enslaved by the mafias that control some of the mines of minerals like tantalum and gold. Compliance with all of these regulations affects the end product that is commercialised and depends on the market that is being targeted.
For this reason, since IKOR is an assembler that manufactures according to customer specifications, these standards are prescribed by the customers. IKOR as a buyer of components, transfers the requirements to the suppliers within the supply chain.