Are you new to the area of RoHS compliant printed circuit boards (PCBs)? Perhaps you are an experienced user? Regardless, this article should help bring you up to speed on what RoHS compliant PCBs are and how they can affect your company’s bottom line.
What is RoHS?
RoHS is short for the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive, and the European Union issued it. The RoHS directive states that any product placed on the market in the European Union cannot contain more than a specific concentration of various substances, including lead. The reasoning behind the directive is to help reduce the number of hazardous materials which can cause physical harm to humans entering landfills.
For printed circuit boards manufacturers, this means, in a nutshell, that any product produced must not contain more than a certain amount of lead. You may have heard about RoHS being described as “lead-free,” but this is not entirely correct. Instead, RoHS means that a product must not contain more than a certain lead level. For example, the RoHS directive states that any product must not have more than 0.1% by weight of lead when measured in homogeneous materials.
What do RoHS compliant printed circuit boards look like?
RoHS compliant PCBs, when compared to traditional PCBs, will have a slightly different appearance. To recap, a RoHS compliant PCB is a non-leaded PCB with the same basic construction as a conventional board. However, some changes have been made to meet the requirements of RoHS.
One noticeable change on a RoHS compliant board is that instead of using lots of solders and having a wave soldering process, RoHS compliant boards use mostly HASL with only one or two holes on the gold plated board.
The main change that makes RoHS compliant boards different from traditional ones is how the through-hole components are soldered. The through-hole components are soldered with leaded solder on a conventional board, whereas on a RoHS compliant board, the through-hole components are soldered with lead-free solder.
Why do we need to know about RoHS-compliant printed circuit boards?
You need to know about RoHS-compliant PCBs because, as a designer or manufacturer, you need to ensure that your design and production processes meet the RoHS requirements. If you are a manufacturer, you need to ensure that your company produces products that will pass RoHS inspections. If you are a designer, then your design needs to meet the RoHS requirements for products that will be sold in the European Union. If you are a designer and your design is for a product that will not be sold to the European Union, there is no need to worry about RoHS compliance.
What are the implications of not being compliant?
If your company does not meet RoHS compliance requirements, you could be fined, or your entire order of printed circuit boards could be rejected at the port, depending on which country you are importing/exporting from. Also, your company’s reputation could be damaged through either a product recall due to non-compliance or fines from government bodies not complying with the RoHS directive.
How do we stay compliant?
The best way to ensure that your company produces products that meet the requirements for RoHS compliance is to make sure that your design process and manufacturing procedures are entirely RoHS compliant.
If you are designing for RoHS compliance, you should ensure that any components used in the design are RoHS compliant. You can check the manufacturers’ datasheet to see if the components are non-leaded. If you are not sure, check with your purchasing department to ensure that any parts you use in your design are RoHS compliant. When placing any orders for components, you should ensure that the purchasing department knows that you will need non-leaded components.
If you are a PCB manufacturer, there are many things to keep in mind when manufacturing a RoHS-compliant board.