Lead solder will still be useable for:
- repairing older equipments that used lead solder
- military equipment
- 'high reliability' equipments (that says it all!)
thus it will still be available. You may need 'contacts', though.
The regulations do not apply for non-commercial uses (e.g., use in
your own personal workshop) and for repair work to equipment that was
built pre-July 2006. So lead based solder will continue to be used
legally and should be avaiable for some while yet.
Thanks for the clarification. The real point of my post was to
alert folks to the fact that time is running out to wander into your local
hardware store and pick up a reel of resin-cored off the shelf. I'm
encouraged that the overall group response seems to be that there will be
no problem with future supply....we'll see.
Personally, I'm going to assume the worst and stock up while the
Chris Edwards (in deepest Dorset) "....there *must* be an easier way!"
You're not trying to sell it by any chance are you 8-), there's a large
scare mongering add by Carrs in Railway Modeller this month clearly praying
on people's ignorance.
The fact is that it is only a restriction not a ban, and only applies to
electrical and electronic equipment, hence the name Restriction of Hazardous
Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment (RoHs).
Even within this scope it has so many exemptions that it was recently
estimated that over 90% of UK electronic manufacturers are claiming an
initial exemption!, I happen to know about this as I work for one of them.
For lead there are exemptions for military, high reliability, medical,
automotive and here's the big one: industrial control equipment.
Here's a useful summary of the directive:
The directive covers other nasties, but as far as lead is concerned is
estimated to have negligible benefit since the vast majority of lead is used
in car batteries(exempt for the foreseeable) of which most are recycled
anyway, and another directive (WEEE) is going to take care of the recycling
of electronics anyway so the lead will be extracted and won't go into
The exemptions are expected to be phased out over time so any sensible
manufacturer is working towards compliance, and in practice will be driven
to because component makers are not prepared to make both leaded and
unleaded, a nightmare for those who really need the reliability.
So what affect will this have on the availability of solders etc ?
practically none as far as I'm aware!.
In another area the "restrictions" have been blamed for the early phasing
out a somewhat overpriced, but unique, camera, the Hasselblad "Xpan". It's
got the facility to make very wide view shots on 35mm film (>36mm wide) and
these can be intermixed with normal width, 36mm, shots. It's been the
darling of many landscape photographers, giving them wide views without
having to carry much heavier gear. I think Hasselblad are claiming low
sales making any "no lead" re-engineering to be not profitable, but if the
camera had been sold in Europe at a similar price to what its manufacturer,
Fuji, was charging elsewhere, the sales might have been very much higher.
As I've written elsewhere, these Regulations etc. are not new, and have been
a long time coming. The problem as I saw it before I retired (6 years ago)
was getting something as non-sexy as WEEE and non-lead solder even on to the
site manager's in-tray - let alone discussed as to how this might affect
long term investment.
Personally, I ensured that I would have enough Ersin 60:40 solder to last me
And that's the farce of the RoHS directive, it's wiping out things like that
because their industry hasn't found an excuse, yet doing little or nothing
to reduce the lead going into landfill since that is already taken care of
by the WEEE recycling directive. The biggest loser is the consumer since
grey and white goods are going to cost more and be even less reliable.
There's no reason to believe that lead solder will be any harder to obtain
since it's used for many non-electrical purposes, can be used for repair,
and on all the exempt categories.
Can you elaborate more on the industrial control equipment exemptions
Visit the new Model Engineering adverts page at:-
I believe that the exemption is for non-consumer applications, which covers
almost anything that is 'industrial' and not sold to the man in the street.
Like the WEEE regulations, it is not well thought out at all, and is aimed at
PC, white goods and consumer electronics makers.
We went to a seminar in Cambridge last year, run by the DTI and most of what we
do is exempt from nearly all these reg's as we are not volume/consumer
We still have got stocks of solder though as we have lots of stuff on the shelf
that is held as stock and manufactured a while back.
Components ditto, we have stockpiled a lot of the components that we use as we
cannot get a lot of leaded ('leeded') parts now as it is all going to surface
Peter A Forbes
Prepair Ltd, Luton, UK
John Stevenson wrote:
> Can you elaborate more on the industrial control equipment exemptions
John it's in there somewhere! I manufacture an alarm as a subcon job
which is used for glass tube flowmeters used in industry. My customer
claims they are excempt, and we are doing nothing about it for the time
being. They are a serious outfit, and I'm sure they have researched it
On the other hand they will still be responsible for EMC compliance and
disposing of the units at end of life.
Even EMC can be "got around" if the product is designed to be part of a
larger system. I used to manufacture a strain gauge displacement
transducer which we simply supplied without a plug, just tinned wires.
The data sheet had a declaration stating the product would not function
until it was incorporated into a larger system which we had no control over.
We got a firm of consultants in and after examining what we do,
manufacturing the control systems for the generating industry, they declared
that we were covered by an examption.
I think the link I posted earlier explains it:
"large-scale stationary industrial tools. (This is a machine or system,
consisting of a combination of equipment, systems or products, each of which
is manufactured and intended to be used only in fixed industrial
If the whole is exempt then any part there of must also be exempt, and the
interpretation of "large-scale" etc is so woolly that it's being used to
cover most industrial things. From what I can see only the consumer
electronics industry is going to change over in a big way, but of course
there's not a lot of that made in the UK any more 8-(. One of the UK's big
sub-contract assembly houses has recently stated in the trade press that 90%
of there customers were claiming an exemption so they're having to maintain
two lines, one leaded and one unleaded, at huge cost.
The overall benefit has to be seriously questioned when only 10% of UK
manufacturers are going to go lead free. Of course the fear now is that the
government and/or Europe is going to retaliate against this apparent
challenge to their power by withdrawing exemptions, so anyone with any sense
is changing over anyway just not by the deadline. That's certainly our plan
and being forced on us by the component manufacturers who are simply not
prepared to keep on making leaded components for the industrial market when
the bigger consumer market requires lead free.
Many are concerned that high reliability applications are just not going to
be able to get leaded parts so catastrophic failures are inevitable,
remember that Buncefield was caused by a single sensor failure...
It would be far far better if the small amounts of lead were allowed to
remain inside electronic products, where they are completely harmless and
greatly increase reliability, and it was then extracted from the products as
part of the recycling process. As the WEEE directive mandates such recycling
of all the leaded products in current use, there is literally no rational
reason for restricting it in RoHS, but who ever accused Europe of being
If you're looking for solid facts about the legislation for your own
situation then I'm afraid you're going to be disapointed, the whole legal
position is fuzzy and if anything it's getting worse.
While I think some of these rulings are part of a daft growing nanny state,
I am interested to know about the link between lack of 'leaded parts' and
'catastrophic failure being inevitable'. Surely they have a substitute
solder - is it not suitable in some way ?
Although lead/tin solder was invented before they could possibly understand
such things, it is in fact a superb piece of engineering and the best
alternatives we have today are very much inferior. The alternatives are
basically solid tin with very small amounts of other metals, most popular is
copper and silver, this results in a solder that is stiff and brittle so
fails due to fatigue in a high vibration environment, lead makes solder
flexible. Also pure tin grows 'tin whiskers', a general name for at least
two failure mechanisms involving the growth of very fine conductive threads
outwards from a solder joint, either across a surface or along the strands
of glass in a PCB. These mechanisms are still being investigated and are not
fully understood, but the consequence if a random failure of the circuit due
to shorts, lead is the only known metal to prevent this.
Another problem is that all lead free alloys have a higher melting point so
the circuitry has to be subject to a higher temperatures which reduce it's
reliability, especially problematic for surface mount components since the
entire component has to be heated not just the pins. These higher
temperatures also cause more oxidising and so require more aggressive fluxes
which can themselves lead to corrosion and failure if not completely
consumed or cleaned off, again particularly difficult with surface mount as
there are very small crevices between the PCB and component. PCB's used to
be effectively cleaned in an ultrasonic bath of Arclone but all such
solvents are now banned and the cleaning processes available are inferior.
Lead also helped slow down oxidation of component leads and PCB finishes
during storage, the lead free solders oxidise much faster even when dry
packed and many components and boards are now being quoted as having only a
3 month shelf life, barely manageable even in a medium volume manufacturer
like ours and almost unworkable for small companies. This again results in a
need for a more aggressive flux with all the problems that brings, and where
do the fumes go?, up a chimney straight into the environment!. Some experts
have calculated that the lead ban will actually increase overall pollution
not decrease it.
Lead free electronics is in it's infancy and much of the needed research is
only now being done, far too late, Europe has rushed this matter without any
real understanding or concern for the consequences, driven by certain
members who are totally paranoid.
In short we're going to see a significant reduction in the reliability of
electronics, bad enough in consumer products but imagine the consequences of
failure of a critical system in a chemical or a nuclear plant or in aircraft
I suspected higher temperatures would be likely, but I didn't realise about
the other aspects. The funny thing is that I though tin was far worse for
the environment, isn't tin banned from anti-fouling paints because it is so
Component failures in ciritical systems are always an issue, and systems
should be designed so that dire consequenes are infrequent (by fail-safe,
redundancy, voting, more intelligence in testing signal quality, etc) -
however if the overall failure rate goes up, then the frequency of incidents
goes up, including all those managed incidents which nonethless shut down
production, ground aircraft, cause your car to fail to start, blow a fuse,
or cause the train to be cancelled, etc.
Surely the key factor is the mean time before failure (MTBF) for components,
often declared by manufacturers. If manufacturers cannot meet existing
levels, then the new failure frequencies will have to be declared, and that
will make the issue visible. I would have thought that all safety critical
components should have an MTBF declared by the manufacturer - any sign these
will be reduced ?
On Mon, 29 May 2006 01:49:22 +0100, "Steve Richardson"
That's TriButyl Tin (TBT) in antifouling, not metallic tin. TBT does
seem to be pretty nasty stuff environmentally, I don't know about
metallic tin but it's been used for foodstuff containers for a very
Traditional & Modern canal craft repairs
Vintage diesel engine service
Dead right Tim,
Don't have a secret supply of the good stuff do you (TBT I mean) ? There was
a yacht where I used to go sailing with a hull made of cupro-nickel (called
Pretty Penny) - I don't think she needed anti-fouling. I bet pure tin would
I was being provocative. Its one thing after another, yesterday it was
mercury, now its lead, what next - maybe tin, maybe zinc, maybe cadmium (if
its iron then we are in trouble!) ? We have already been told old engine oil
gives you cancer (I should be long dead), also smoking, or peanuts, or
speeding, or sex, even sunshine, and now I am not even able to wire my own
house (which means I am not able to fix the dangerous wiring due to a former
occupant - like mains sockets next to the kitchen sink !).
Good of Greg to warn us to stock up, but this topic goes way beyond model
engineering. Apologies for going OT (again) !
Yes, that was a particularly offensive bit of interference. Spent the
last half of Dec 2004 finishing off some rewiring. Not sure how they can
enforce it, although I did notice that some cable I bought in late 04
had a date stamped on it (I seem to have over-bought...). Big brother
probably is watching you.
Well I hope the flux cored solder is still available in just lead/ti
I've used some of the lead free stuff for soldering wires an
components and I think it's crap,my old Weller copper tip iron now ha
a much shorter tip owing to the way the lead free solder eats holes i
a copper tip.I've cleaned the tip up and gone back to normal "proper
solder and the tip just needs a wipe now before use like it used to.
Getting a bit fed up of this PC correct nanny state interfering all th
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