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 Post subject: RoHS
PostPosted: Mon Oct 16, 2006 1:33 pm 
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I recently noticed that gigabyte has a number of video cards for sale that are marked as RoHS, which according to wikipedia, stands for Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive.

So I read the wikipedia article, but can anyone tell me what exactly this means to me as the consumer? I know that PCBs have all sorts of nasty trace amounts of chemicals on them (e.g. lead); the criticism section of the wikipedia article stated that although some environmental elements are minimized, others are more pronounced?

As I know squat about this subject, any insight is welcome.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 16, 2006 1:58 pm 
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The prohibited substances:

http://www.rohsguide.com/rohs-faq.htm

Quote:
What are the restricted materials mandated under RoHS?
The substances banned under RoHS are lead (Pb), mercury (Hg), cadmium (Cd), hexavalent chromium (CrVI), polybrominated biphenyls (PBB) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE).


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the criticism section of the wikipedia article stated that although some environmental elements are minimized, others are more pronounced?


Lead-free solder requires much higher temperatures, this increases primary energy use and hence GHG emissions. There are other impacts but that is the main one.

RoHS under fire


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2006 10:59 am 
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There are some other tradeoffs as well. Many of the substitutes for for the hazardous suybstances don't ptobide the same elvel of quality in the finished products resulting in a shorter useful life (faster to the landfill) and a higher potential failure rate (lower MTBF) which gain means faster to the landfills.

It's a delicate balancing game that in some cases is counterproductive. This is especially true in the case of lead, which usually appears only in solder in electronics.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2006 1:38 pm 
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Don't forget this is an European directive. In Europe a much larger portion of the solid waste is burned, not dumped in landfills. So whether the lead leaches from solder in landfills isn't that interesting. Most of it will end up in slag and fly ash, which will end up in landfills and which are much more prone to leaching.

If you can keep more toxic stuff out of the waste, then the slag and fly ash could become less toxic and possibly be reused in stead of dumped.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2006 4:55 pm 
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NyteOwl wrote:
Many of the substitutes for for the hazardous suybstances don't ptobide the same elvel of quality in the finished products resulting in a shorter useful life (faster to the landfill) and a higher potential failure rate (lower MTBF) which gain means faster to the landfills.


Perhaps, but I think in the case of electronics, obsolence sends most products to the landfill before they break.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2006 7:04 am 
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Companies will develop technology around restrictions however wouldn't taxes be better to allow for cases where technology can't go around but the money is used to clean the resulting pollution?


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2006 9:27 am 
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disphenoidal wrote:
Perhaps, but I think in the case of electronics, obsolence sends most products to the landfill before they break.


In a way that's a good part of the problem. Many of these items are not functionally obsolete yet are discarded for the newest shiny toy dispite the fact that they still function just fine, have years of useable life left but are "obsolete" because the companies want to sell newer, bigger, stronger faster - insert adjective here - product, whether it is needed or adds any real value.

If, as a society, we could curb rampant competitive consumerism for even a decade, a good many of such problems would be hugely diminished if not disappear (at least until the selling/buuying/dumping cycle started again).

This is unlikely to happen as most people have been conditioned from childhood to want the newest of anything whether they need it or not and the companies are only to happy to provide it when it adds to their bottom line.

How many secretaries need 2-3GHz PC's with 1600x1200 GPU's and monitors to handle correspondence, calendars, e-mail? How many of those who use their PC's mainly to do e-mail or surf the web need that new Core 2 Duo or Athlon 64 FX?

At the end of the day, it is a psychological and societal issue, not a technological one.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2006 10:40 am 
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Quote:
If, as a society, we could curb rampant competitive consumerism for even a decade, a good many of such problems would be hugely diminished if not disappear


The economy of most western societies would also collapse (in UK and US 70% of GDP is from consumer sector).


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2006 1:57 pm 
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If x% of the GDP is from the production, sale, distribution, etc. of wasteful and needless consumer goods, then that x% of the country's economic potential is wasted.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2006 9:40 pm 
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Producing inefficiency and waste for jobs is foolish.

People should be free to buy the latest and greatest provided they actually pay for pollution they produce though. A property owner has the right to buy luxury, investment in capital, or charity with his property, no?

A tax or regulation on the manufacturer as well as perhaps a benefit to the consumer (rebate for recycling) ought to work fairly well. That and increasing awareness would resolve a part of the issue.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Oct 19, 2006 10:40 am 
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I did my senior design project on the impact of switching to lead-free components, and in the course of the project studied RoHS thoroughly. It is a European directive of course, but impact is global; when you consider that companies aren't likely to continue to make both leaded and lead-free versions of the same components for long (although some still do so now) this becomes apparent. In addition, Similar directives are being issued elsewhere... China has their own version of RoHS coming out, and California is planning to come out with laws closely resembling RoHS. In addition, Japan has been issuing similar legislation while in Korea, the majority of companies in the industry have themselves taken the initiative to make the switch to lead-free.

The problem with lead-free solder is that no good alloy has been found - almost all are either too expensive, have too high of a melting point, or both. Higher melting points require higher temperatures, stressing production equipment and components being soldered and shortening the service lives of each. SAC solder, being the most used lead-free alloy, must be heated above its 218C melting point - far above that of SnPb solder. In addition, SAC solder must be held above its melting point for a longer period of time than SnPb.

Another problem with lead-free solder that can arise is that of the old leaded components, and the interaction between leaded and lead-free solder. Such an occasion may arise when a large invenory of leaded components already exist and are still used when leaded solder is no longer used, or if a device with leaded components needs repair. Because RoHS has certain exceptions to it (military, automotive, and so forth), such problems will continue to surface in the future.

To summarize, when contaminated with small amounts of lead (1-2%), we found that solder joints composed of SAC solder will weaken if not heated properly. This is because the lead has a tendency to "pool" together in the center of the solder joint if not heated for a long enough period. We found the best results with a very long period (90-100 seconds) at temperatures around 215C allowed enough of the Pb to migrate into the solder ball to create a strong solder joint, without requiring temperatures quite as high as many industry processes (230C? Not sure what they're using now.) This is due to the way SAC solder melts - its phase change is not as well-defined as SnPb solder and at 215C, it has melted enough to allow the lead to migrate, requiring only enough time for the migration to happen.

If anyone's interested PM me and i'll see if I can dig up our paper on it.

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