RoHS: 10 Years After

Every so often, I get to work on a project that I find utterly rewarding.

The RoHS article in this month’s issue of PCD&F/Circuits Assembly was one such project.

Titled “Was RoHS Worth It?“, it attempts to recap the chaos and angst that preceded the ban of lead in Europe (and the de facto phase outs elsewhere). It a real eye-opener how even the most hardened anti-RoHS researchers came around to seeing value from the experience. There was broad agreement, even among those who felt the fears over lead were overblown, that much was learned from the process, not the least of which is that no matter how much we have invested in one technology, there are likely others that are better.

As Dr. Iver Anderson told me, “You could say RoHS banning electronics really is a glimpse of the future. Because it won’t be the last time.”

To me, that quote distills in two sentences what I hope to achieve from embarking on this retrospective: a record that the researchers and engineers of the future can use as a benchmark for future broad-based transitions.

I am grateful to Karl Seelig, Jim McElroy, Paul Vianco, Dr. Carol Handwerker, Tetsuro Nishimura, Kay Nimmo, Iver Anderson, Dave Hillman and Dr. Richard Coyle for their invaluable help.

Happy reading!

 

RoHS July 2014 Deadline: Medical Devices and Control Instruments

In 2011, the European Union issued a new directive that updates and supersedes RoHS; it has come to be known as the RoHS Recast or RoHS 2. Under the updated directive, as of July 22, 2014, RoHS restrictions will apply to Category 8, medical devices, and Category 9, monitoring and control instruments. Before we look at what those categories include specifically, here’s an overview of deadlines yet to come under the RoHS Directive.

So, what’s in Category 9, Monitoring and Control Instruments? The types of equipment that are in category 9 of the RoHS directive have a main function of monitoring or control, says Dr. Paul Goodman in Electronics Weekly, quoted here because it stands out as one of the better summaries of what to expect from Category 9. Monitoring, Goodman says, would include measurement – ergo thermometers, analytical spectrometers and digital voltmeters are all in category 9 because they monitor temperature, concentration, voltage, etc.

Monitoring and control functions are features of thermostats that monitor and control temperature and industrial process controllers that monitor and control a variety of process parameters. Other category 9 products include smoke detectors, fire alarms, traffic signals (control of traffic), X-ray imaging of luggage or electrical equipment (but not medical X-ray which is category 8), spectrum analyzers, etc. It is incorrect however, to assume that all laboratory equipment is in category 9 as these products must monitor or control as their main function. – Dr. Paul Goodman, EW

So, what’s in Category 8, Medical Devices? Medical devices were exempt in the original directive, which meant they could contain unlimited amounts of toxic metals and plastics and still be marketed as RoHS compliant. Not anymore. Medical devices are still a broad category, and note that RoHS is not targeting “in vitro diagnostic medical devices” yet in 2014.

So what is targeted? For example:  radiotherapy equipment, cardiology, dialysis, pulmonary ventilators, nuclear medicine, laboratory equipment; other appliances for detecting, preventing, monitoring, treating or alleviating illness, injury or disability; but specifically excludes all implanted and infected products.

How are companies handling RoHS compliance? Industry’s leading companies are managing their compliance at various stages. There are challenges.

Certainly one challenge with RoHS is the many different formats suppliers use to submit their information. We asked a group of manufacturing risk assessment professionals on LinkedIn, “What form of documentation do you typically get from suppliers?” Here are the myriad answers.

Note: a good software should eliminate that challenge, for instance, by loading all information into a uniform data repository, so the resulting standardized data parameters are searchable, rational and reportable.

 

Patty and the Professor: What Homogeneous Means

Folks,

Let’s see how Patty and Pete are doing with their Medical Device RoHS Crisis ….

Patty and Pete sat in a plane on the runway of the Manchester, NH, airport. Patty was just calming down after Jeff Sparkel  told her that Hal Lindsay had performed an analysis to show that the flagship medical device that Jeff’s factory assembled was RoHS-compliant using tin-lead solder. Corporate RoHS compliance was under her responsibility and she was panicking that ACME’s St. Paul site would miss the July 22, 2014 compliance date for medical devices. She literally drove straight to the airport after chatting with Sparkel on the phone. Fortunately, she and Pete both had a three-day suitcase in their offices for such emergencies. Rob’s mom agreed to help with her twin boys. What a blessing to have a mother-in-law like Rob’s mom.

To add to the stress, she and Pete almost missed the plane. He insisted that he needed to stop at a drug store, though he was secretive about the reason.

As the plane lifted off, Patty had to find out about this drug store mystery.

“OK, Pete. Why the drug store?” Patty asked.

“I’m afraid that, if I tell you, you’ll lecture me,” Pete said sheepishly.

“Out with it! Out with it,” Patty commanded.

“I bought Vick’s VapoRub to put under my nose when we are with Mr. Lindsay.  Ain’t no way I’m gonna’ be with that stink bomb unprepared,”  Pete responded.

Patty was going to say something but she started chuckling uncontrollably.

“You are welcome to share with me,” Pete offered.

As Patty tried to catch her breath, she just shook her head no.

They arrived at their hotel room at 10PM, after a quick, late dinner.

Fortunately, the timing of events was favorable. Lindsay had planned to give his final presentation the next day. Sparkel was actually pleased that Patty asked to attend.

Patty met Pete for breakfast at 7AM. By then she had run 5 miles, worked out with weights at the hotel gym, and showered. They arrived at Sparkel’s office at 7:45 and headed directly to the conference room where Lindsay was preparing to present. Upon seeing Patty and Pete, Hal Lindsay seemed surprised and turned a little red in the face.  Pete checked the room for ventilation.

Patty and Pete agreed to listen to Lindsay’s complete presentation without interruption.

“I know everyone here except for that guy in the back. He looks like a lawyer,” Pete whispered into Patty’s ear.

“He looks like a lawyer because he is one,” Patty responded. “He is my special guest,” she said.

Lindsay began his presentation sharply at 8AM. Patty had to admit that she was impressed with Lindsay’s experimental procedure. He had taken three of ACME’s St. Paul site’s highest-volume products and carefully performed teardown analyses. He painstakingly extracted all of the solder from the PCBs. One product weighed 10.2 kg and contained 11.2 grams of tin-lead eutectic solder. Patty checked Lindsay’s calculations. The fraction of lead in the unit was 0.042%, less than 0.1% that RoHS requires. All three products were below 0.05% by weight lead.

Lindsay then discussed his plan to analyze enough units to give the data statistical confidence. His charge would be an additional $20,000. Jeff Sparkel then asked if there were questions.

Patty raised her hand.

“Mr. Lindsay, what about RoHS’s requirement that all concentrations of substances of concern by ‘per homogeneous material?’ ” Patty asked.

Lindsay looked confused. His face turned a little red. It appeared that he didn’t understand what she was asking.

“Patty, please explain what ‘per homogeneous material’ means?” Sparkel asked.

“It means that any part of the product that could be mechanically separated must be less than 0.1% lead. As an example, a soldered joint can be cut out of a medical device with an X-Acto knife. Accordingly, the small piece of solder must be RoHS-compliant, so the solder itself must have less than 0.1% lead,” Patty explained.

“Per hemorrhoidgenous material, don’t apply to no medical devices,” Lindsay grumbled.

Both Patty and Pete had trouble not chuckling at Lindsay’s mispronunciation of “homogenous.”

“I beg to differ. Dr. Coleman’s explanation of ‘per homogenous material’ is spot on,” said Patty’s special guest.

Patty chuckled to herself when she realized that her guest thought she had a Ph.D.

“Who are you?” asked Jeff Sparkel.

“I’m Aaron Toynbee, Esq, our company’s general counsel. My department has responsibility for interpreting corporate compliance with environmental laws like RoHS.  We have studied the RoHS law extensively and the requirement for medical device compliance. Almost all of the medical devices we manufacture must meet RoHS compliance by July 22, 2014. I was alarmed when Dr. Coleman pointed out that there was some lack of understanding here about this.” Toynbee said.

After Toynbee spoke, it was agreed that the St. Paul team would work with Patty and Pete to resurrect the RoHS initiative that had been developed some time ago. Patty let out a deep sigh of relief.

Just as it appeared that the meeting was over, one of the younger engineers asked, “Are we still going to have Mr. Lindsay perform the analysis he suggested. It seems to me that there may be some benefit in getting this type of data.”

There appeared to be some murmuring of agreement. Hal Lindsay brightened, as it appeared that his proposed work might still be accepted.

Patty sat by watching this with incredulity. She remembered the Professor telling her that sometimes people will be too polite and not say what needs to be said. This was not going to be one of those times.

“You have got to be kidding me!” she shouted.  “There is no way we are going to continue any of this useless work!” she said even louder.

At this, Hal Lindsay’s  face turned beet red and he charged over to where Patty and Pete were. Out of the corner of her eye, Patty could see the Vick’s VapoRub gleaming under Pete’s nose.

Patty was now standing up and Lindsay had advanced to within five feet of her.

All of the sudden Lindsay came up to within a foot of Patty.

“It’s tree-huggers like you that that allowed this RoHS crap to happen in the first place,” he screamed into her face.

Patty was not prepared for this olfactory assault. Worse yet, some of Lindsay’s spittle ended up on her face. A natural gag reflex took over and she started having trouble breathing. Those in the meeting were horrified as they watched Patty crumble and slump to the floor.

Pete jumped up and instinctively and firmly pushed Lindsay back away from Patty. His Vick’s VapoRub doing its job. Sparkel’s  second-in-command, Jennifer Halliday, gently escorted Lindsay from the building, before any fisticuffs ensued.

Sparkel  and one of the female engineers helped Patty as she tried to get up. Within a few moments Patty was herself again. Everyone knew what happened, but when Patty said she probably should have eaten more for breakfast, everyone murmured in agreement.  Sparkel asked if just he, Patty, and Pete could wrap things up. Patty agreed, but asked to go to the ladies room first.

When she returned, Patty again reiterated that medical devices have to obey the “per homogeneous material” requirement and that the only way this was possible was to change to a lead-free solder. Patty and Pete confirmed their agreement to stay on for a few days to work with Sparkel’s team, to resurrect the plan to be RoHS-compliant by June 2014, a month early.

With two days of hard work, the plan was redeveloped, and Patty and Pete were confident the St. Paul team was on the right track. Jeff Sparkel apologized to Patty about 10 times.

Within no time Patty and Pete were back on the plane, heading home.

“Hey kiddo! You should receive hazardous duty pay for this one,” Pete teased.

“No kidding,” Patty responded.

“When you said you needed to go to the ladies room, I was a little worried,”  Pete said. “I thought maybe some permanent damage was done,” he went on.

“It was worse than that. I had to wash Lindsay’s spit off my face,” Patty groaned.

“Definitely Purple Heart material,”  Pete teased.

They both chuckled.

 

Cheers,

Dr. Ron

 

‘Per Homogeneous Material’ Also Applies to Medical Devices Under RoHS

Folks,

It’s been awhile, let’s see what Patty is up to….

Patty was in her office, finishing lunch and reading Golf Digest. She was happy to see Tiger Woods doing better, but a little disappointed he didn’t do well in the PGA Championship. Like others, she was touched to see him holding his young son after a recent tournament.

Lost in thought, she was startled as Pete knocked on her door.

“Hey kiddo! Did you hear the latest?” Pete teased.

“OK. Go ahead and tell me. You always have the scoop,” Patty replied with a friendly chuckle. By now Patty was used to the fact that Pete always seemed to know what was going on before she did.

“Our plant in St. Paul, the one that assembles medical devices, is not going to have to convert to lead-free solder. So, nobody there is working on the transition,” Pete replied.

“They are too! As you remember, we had a lead-free and RoHS kick off meeting there in March. You were with me,” Patty shot back, a little annoyed.

“’Tis true. ‘Tis true. But, that was before Hal Lindsay hit the scene,” Pete said.

“How is that blowhard involved? Patty asked, her face turning red. Lindsay was an anti-RoHS curmudgeon who used to attend Boston area SMTA meetings. He and Patty had several heated discussions about RoHS while at these meetings. Lindsay was a physically big, intimidating man, and one of their encounters left Patty shaken. She remembered him screaming at her, “Its tree-huggers like you that allowed lead-free laws to get passed in the first place.”

“Well, the GM of the St. Paul plant has been convinced by ‘Halitosis Hal’ that they don’t need to do anything to comply with RoHS,” Pete continued.

Patty repeatedly warned Pete about using derogatory nicknames, but she forgot herself and chuckled a little bit. At one SMTA meeting, Hal’s breath was so bad that he stunk up the corner of the room in which he was sitting.

Patty composed herself, “Jeff Sparkel, is a great GM. How did Lindsay convince him it was possible to comply with RoHS and not switch to lead-free solder?” Patty asked.

“I think it has to do with ‘per homogeneous material,’” Pete replied. “I’ll have to talk to Jeff and see what is going on,” Patty stated. “Better do it soon,” Pete suggested, “Medical equipment RoHS compliance is less than a year away.”

As Pete left her office, she admonished him, “No more calling him “Halitosis Hal’,” but then she cracked up herself.

Jeff Sparkel was one of Patty’s favorite people. He was warm, engaging, hardworking, and reasonable to work with. However, he was more a businessman than an engineer. He had his MBA from Ivy University and knew The Professor.

Patty reached for her phone to give him a call. He picked up on the first ring.

“Hey Patty! What’s up? it’s great to hear from you,” Jeff said. Patty explained why she was calling, and the fact that she was alarmed at what Pete told her.

“That Lindsay is a piece of work, I’ll grant you that. But, he told us he can prove that we don’t need to go lead-free for only $10K. So we hired him,” Jeff said.

“What did you get for that?” Patty asked.

“He carefully took apart one of our medical office units that was scrapped. He extracted all of the solder and weighed it. He showed us that the weight of the solder was less than 0.05% of the weight of the unit. RoHS requires less than 0.1%, so we are golden. He wrote a report. Best $10K I ever spent. It was going to cost us more than $300K to convert to lead-free,” Sparkel summed up.

Patty had the worst sinking felling she had since she joined ACME Corp. Jeff’s business had to be RoHS compliant by July 22, 2014, and he had lost almost 6 months of prep time.

“Jeff, Yikes! Apparently no one on your team understands RoHS’s ‘per homogeneous material’ requirement” Patty exclaimed.

The was only silence on the other end of the phone.

What is, “per homogeneous material?” Is it important? Will Patty and Pete confront Hal Lindsay?

Stay tuned.

Cheers,

Dr. Ron

RoHS, Six Years After

Folks,

I was at IPC Apex Expo the other week.  San Diego is a great venue for the show, but I always forget how cold it can be (55°-65°F) this time of year.

While at the show, I was interviewed on lead-free reliability and its cost for consumer electronics. These are topics I think about often, so let’s discuss them a bit. First, let’s consider reliability.  RoHS was enacted on July 1, 2006, more than 6 ½ years ago. Each year more than $1 trillion worth of electronics are made, therefore, in this period of time, something over $3 trillion worth of consumer electronics have been manufactured. There have been no “the sky is falling”-type of reliability issues in this time. How can I say this? Well, my office at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth is across the hall from the IT (information Technology) Dept. They purchase all the millions of dollars worth of PCs, printers, displays etc. that Thayer uses. Several years ago (say early 2011) I stopped by when most of the department was in and cheerfully asked if the reliability of the equipment they purchase has gone down since lead-free assembly was enacted. They asked me in unison, “What’s lead-free assembly.” After I explained what lead-free assembly was, they confirmed that they have noticed no changes in reliability. Since RoHS, my family has purchase about 100+ electronic devices, a few have had reliability problems, about as many as in the past. Most were attributed to hard drive fails. Of the scores of friends and colleagues I have, no one has ever commented that they have noticed an increase in electronics fails. So, my conclusion is that consumer product reliability is not “practically” worse if my family and  these many  other folks haven’t noticed it.

I have made an informal study of reliability data of lead-free vis-a-vis tin-lead solders published in papers. A statement from Rockwell Collins’ JCAA/JGF-PP No Lead solder Project: -55C-125C Thermal Cycle Testing Final Report  sums up my overview conclusion nicely: “Test vehicles assembled with lead-free materials (notably tin-silver-copper) exhibited lower reliability under some test conditions.”  Naysayers might be quick to suggest that this statement says that lead-free is no good. However, the statement could be reworded to say: “In considerably more than half of the test conditions, test vehicles assembled with lead-free materials had higher reliability.” Counting the comparisons in the Rockwell-Collins paper shows lead-free better in 51 cases, tin-lead better in 31 cases, and one draw. However, it is disturbing that a small percentage of lead-free assembled test vehicles had much much worse reliability than tin-lead test vehicles. This later information makes me believe that lead-free is not yet ready for mission-critical, high-reliability, long-life products. These small numbers of much poorer reliability assemblies must be understood and corrected before lead-free is ready for mission-critical prime time. The much shorter lifecycle of today’s consumer electronics may also mask this concern.

What about cost? I don’t at all want to minimize the expense that many went through to go lead-free and RoHS compliant. In about 2007, one of our colleagues estimated that it cost the electronics industry $20 billion to become RoHS compliant. I think this number is low, but, from a consumer’s perspective, there has been no cost hardship. The price of a PC continued to go down during and after RoHS implementation, as shown in the figure below. While performing my non-scientific survey of co-workers, family, and friends on reliability, I also asked about cost. All agreed, electronics are cheaper than ever.

 

Challenges still exist, even in consumer electronics with the Head-in-Pillow, Graping, non wet opens, and other defects.  However, we can all purchase lead-free, RoHS compliant products at a reasonable cost and reliability.

 

Cheers,

Dr. Ron

The source for the image is :http://thomaslah.wordpress.com/2010/02/03/apple-and-intel-defying-gravity/

 

Best Wishes,

Dr. Ron

China Chemical Registration

As of March 1, 2013, the following must obtain an appropriate Registration Certificate for Environmental Management Registration for Hazardous Chemicals in China:

  • newly established companies that produce hazardous chemicals
  • companies using hazardous chemicals for production purposes
  • companies importing or exporting hazardous chemical.

Registration Certificates will be issued by China’s Environmental Protection divisions and will be valid for three years. Existing companies that produce or use hazardous chemicals for production purposes have a three-year transition period to complete registration— this registration is separate from the registration required by the State Administration of Work Safety and it is said to aim at better tracking of the environmental impact caused by hazardous chemicals, rather than the health and safety impact.

Perhaps the biggest concern with the new Chinese chemical policies overall is how they add to the larger international weave of chemical restrictions, standards and regulations. The way to handle China’s hazcom rules— all of them, new and future— is to make sure that the way your company handles REACH, RoHS, Prop 65, GHS and TSCA also handles any Asian restrictions as well, from South Korea to Japan to India and China.

Newbies, look out. Newly established manufacturers must register their hazardous chemicals before completion and final acceptance of their project, while importers must register before they import a hazardous chemical for the first time. And the Registration must be complete before the final acceptance of any new construction projects or expansion projects of hazardous chemical manufacturers and users.

Legacy. Entities in China that manufacture or import hazardous chemicals must register their hazardous chemicals with China’s State Administration of Work Safety and China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP), while entities that use hazardous chemicals must register with China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP). Hazardous chemical manufacturers and users must also engage in material disclosure, that is, public disclosure of information regarding their hazardous chemicals production and use.

Information to submit when registering includes:

  1. classification and labeling information
  2. physical and chemical properties
  3. primary use
  4. hazardous characteristics
  5. safety information for storage, use and shipment
  6. emergency response measures.

In addition, hazardous chemical manufacturers must maintain a 24-hour domestic telephone hotline to provide users with emergency consulting services and technical instructions and other assistance with respect to hazardous chemical accidents. Another option is to assign the hotline to the Chinese government.

Action. In light of these regulations, the legal firm Baker & McKenzie suggests that entities in China who are manufacturing, importing, or using hazardous chemicals should consider: Designating certain employees, or creating a specific department, to be in charge of hazardous chemical registration and ongoing compliance requirements Conduct due diligence on suppliers in China who may be subject to these requirements as part of

Supply Chain Management (SCM). Rather than setting up an entire department to manage these changing compliance requirements in Asia, we would suggest subscribing to a secure SaaS software that manages compliance for you. In the end, it’s the most cost-effective way to manage fluctuating global regulations and supplier relations around them.

New RoHS Exemption Consultation

There is a new consultation for RoHS exemptions going on now. It started on Friday, Nov. 9. This stakeholder consultation runs for 12 weeks from now through Feb. 1.

From Philips to Toshiba Semiconductor and Xerox, the list of interested stakeholders in the RoHS exemptions assessment is formidable, although a bit thinner than you’d expect. Note: some companies chose to remain unidentified on the public list.

Four exemption requests are covered in this new consultation:

  1. Exemption request 12 “Leaded solder utilized in stacked, area array electronics packaging within ionizing radiation detectors including CT and X-ray”
  2. Exemption request 13 “Lead in platinized platinum electrodes for measurement instruments”
  3. Exemption request 14 “Lead in solders for the ignition module and other electronic engine controls mounted directly on or close to the cylinder of hand-held engines (classes SH: 1, SH: 2, SH: 3 of 2002/88/EC)”
  4. Exemption request 15 “Hand crafted luminous discharge tubes (HLDT) used for signs, decorative or general lighting and light-artwork”

The new RoHS project hopes to minimize compliance burdens.

Go to http://rohs.exemptions.oeko.info/index.php?id=152 for guidance on the new exemption consultation. [A good overview of RoHS 2 is here.]

Next steps Unconfidential information submitted during the consultation will be posted on the EU CIRCA website (Browse categories > European Commission > Environment > RoHS 2012 Exemptions Review, at top left, click on “Library”). Further exchange with stakeholders will be held after the consultation has ended for those issues where further need for information and / or need for (technical) discussion has been identified.

My 2 cents It would behoove most companies to be stakeholders in this type of discussion. But the fact is that we’re all busy right now, if not “stretched.” You have to choose your battles wisely from a time management point of view— which is the main reason why every major RoHS-affected company isn’t listed as a stakeholder.

For more on this consultation, go to http://rohs.exemptions.oeko.info/.

Also, a Thank You to John Sharp of TriQuint Semiconductor, Inc for passing along this information.  Kudos.

New EU RoHS 2 Guidance FAQ

Guidance document in the form of a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for the RoHS Recast has been published. The RoHS Recast entered into force on July 21, 2011, and requires Member States to transpose the provisions into their respective national laws by January 2, 2013, less than 6 months away.

Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances (RoHS) started as a UK directive and has been adopted by the EU. (It’s up to member states to determine compliance details such as implementation and enforcement.) The Directive is part of the European Union’s lateral waste management legislation. RoHS applies to equipment as defined by a certain section of the WEEE directive.

RoHS applies to the following categories:

  1. Large household appliances
  2. Small household appliances
  3. IT & Telecommunications equipment (infrastructure equipment is exempt in some countries)
  4. Consumer equipment
  5. Lighting equipment—including light bulbs
  6. Electronic and electrical tools
  7. Toys, leisure, and sports equipment (including video games)
  8. Medical devices (exemption removed in July, 2011)
  9. Monitoring and control instruments (exemption removed in July, 2011)
  10. Automatic dispensers
  11. Semiconductor devices

One of the prime objectives of RoHS 2 is to address concerns related to the increasing volume of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) arising in the EU.  Hazardous substances in this type of equipment could be released during waste management processes and could give rise to damage to human health and the environment.  The most effective way to address this concern is to restrict the use of the hazardous substances at the point of manufacture.

The new RoHS 2 FAQ  This new Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document aims to help economic operators interpret the provisions of RoHS 2 in order to ensure RoHS 2 compliance. However, as the Directive being addressed only to the Member States, the rights and obligations for private parties exclusively flow from the measures enacted by the authorities of the Member States to implement it.

The FAQ is considered a ‘living document’ and may be revised in the future, according to the experience with the implementation and review of RoHS 2. The FAQs reflect the views of DG Environment and as such are not legally binding, it’s important to note that binding interpretation of EU legislation is the exclusive competence of the Court of Justice of the European Union. These FAQs should be read in conjunction with the general principles of the New Legislative Framework (NLF) and the Commission’s guide to the implementation of directives based on the New Approach and the Global Approach also known as the Blue Guide.

Where to get the RoHS 2 FAQ  Seems obvious but it’s important to say it: the FAQ document may undergo significant changes moving forward, as events warrant.  But it’s a solid start. As far as the new guidance goes, remember to submit your comments by September 14, 2012.

Get the document here:  http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/rohs_eee/pdf/faq.pdf

 

The New RoHS

In RoHS news, the real news is that the RoHS2 is really just RoHS.  We still hear people talking about “RoHS2” and “RoHS Recast”  — and there is simply no such thing:  there is just RoHS.  Yes, there were significant updates to the EU Directive that Restricts Hazardous Substances.  That process occurred over the past year.  Amendments to RoHS have been incorporated into RoHS itself.  So the terms “RoHS recast” and “RoHS2” have no meaning.

RoHS right now. Over the past year, the ban on heavy metals and other dangerous chemicals in electrical and electronic equipment has been extended to a much wider range of products. The changes apply to electronic products such as thermostats, medical devices and control panels.

European Member States have until the end of 2012 to transpose the new rules.  This means most will wait until the last minute (and beyond), but some will not, and to an American mind the order and timing will seem somewhat random.  Since there is no orderly way to hedge your bets here, getting to RoHS compliance in Q1 2012 or (Q2 at the latest) is the path of least risk.

The RoHS Directive will continue to ban lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium and the flame retardants Polybrominated biphenyls (PBB) and Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE). The previous RoHS Directive covered several categories of electrical and electronic equipment including household appliances, IT and consumer equipment, but RoHS has now been extended to all electronic equipment, cables and spare parts.  Exemptions can still be granted in cases where no satisfactory alternative is available.

Updates to RoHS.

  •  A gradual extension of the rules to all electrical and electronic equipment (EEE), cables and spare parts, with a view to full compliance by 2019
  •  A review of the list of banned substances by July 2014, and periodically thereafter
  •  Clearer and more transparent rules for granting exemptions from the substance ban
  •  Improved coherence with the REACH Regulation on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals
  •  Clarification of important definitions
  •  CE marking denoting compliance with European norms reserved for electronic products that also respect RoHS requirements

In view of the significant extension of the scope, the new Directive introduces transition periods of up to 8 years for the new products affected by the rules.

Photovoltaic panels are exempted from the new Directive in an effort to help the EU reach its objectives for renewable energy and energy efficiency.  Also included in the new RoHS is a mechanism to make it easier for the Commission to monitor compliance.

RoHS2 background. The revision was launched in 2008. Agreement between the European Parliament and the Council was reached in 2010 and the Directive was adopted in June 2011. Member States have 18 months to transpose the Directive. Until then, RoHS I continues to apply.

Detailed information can be found in the directive here.  See also the Europa.eu site on waste and RoHS.

RoHS is a directive, not a regulation:  A directive is about results, not process.  With RoHS for example, the required result is the restricted use of certain toxic metals in electronics manufacturing & in related disposal and waste.  A regulation, on the other hand, delineates how to get the result, a good example being the REACH regulation, which contains a detailed process for substance registration, use, and data sharing.

This blog is hesitant to recommend specific consultants for RoHS compliance.  However, some software for RoHS compliance such as Material Disclosure from Actio Corp., is worth looking at for RoHS compliance.

Is Flat the Next Big Thing?

The Human Media Lab at Queen’s University, Canada and Arizona State University’s Motivational Environments Research group have teamed up to create what’s been dubbed the “PaperPhone.”  The phone was created with the same e-ink technology found in the Kindle e-book reader and in flexible printed circuits featuring an array of bend sensors.

E-history: the world is flat, but bendy. The first electronic paper, developed in the 1970s in Palo Alto, was called Gyricon and consisted of polyethylene spheres between 75 and 106 micrometers across. In the 1990s another type of electronic paper was invented by Joseph Jacobson, who later co-founded the E Ink Corporation.

In an electrophoretic display, particles with a diameter of one micrometer are dispersed in a hydrocarbon oil with a dark-colored dye with surfactants and charging agents. This mixture is placed between two parallel, conductive plates. With applied voltage, the particles will migrate electrophoretically to the plate bearing its opposite charge.  Arranging this movement into patterns — in this case pixels — is the basis for a paper thin display.

Although called the “PaperPhone”, the name doesn’t quite do the prototype justice. “SmartPaperPhone” may be more fitting. The device can perform several tasks, depending on what shape you form it into.  Want to make a phone call? Bend the paper into a concave shape. Have a favorite e-book? Bend the page corner to turn to the next page. You’ll even have an mp3 player that’s much thinner than your current iPod.

E-regulatory compliance. As far as regulating something like this is concerned “the electronic components and lithium batteries are not regulated as hazardous waste. The entire electronics assembly is RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) compliant and marked as such on the printed circuit board in the cover. All of it can be recycled through your local municipal waste program in the same manner as you dispose of household batteries. (Check local regulations for any further restrictions.) The paper can go in your paper recycling, and the protective foam in your plastic recycling.”

E-exciting or e-issues? While exciting, there are some issues with the PaperPhone. Batteries are still fairly clunky and won’t easily bend. The memory has to be kept somewhere as well. What good is a flexible electronic paper phone if most of is has to stay stationary to accommodate the required working innards?

It could be that buying a ream of cellphones at your local big-box retailer may not be that far off.

Learn more about the technology below:

http://www.hml.queensu.ca/paperphone
http://www.circuitsassembly.com/cms/magazine/209/9557/
http://www.esquire.com/features/how-e-ink-was-made
http://supply-chain-data-mgmt.blogspot.com/2011/05/green-chemistry-sleeper-hit-in-supply.html

Adam Baer (guest-blogger for Kal Kawar) manages materials regulation data and reports at Actio Corp.  He holds a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Maine.