We are waiting to see more RoHS initiatives coming up in India

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Gary Nevison is the Premier Farnell Plc. spokesperson and customer interface on legislation that affects the electronics industry, such as the RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances), REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation, & Restriction of Chemicals), EuP (Energy-Using Products) and WEEE (Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment) directives.Nevison sits on the AFDEC (Association of Franchised Distributors of Electronic Components) Council, representing UK distribution and was elected as chairperson for its dedicated RoHS development team in 2005. During that year Nevison was also the Chairman of the European organisation DMASS (Distributors and Manufacturers Association of Semiconductor Specialists) and today sits on the board of Electronics Yorkshire, helping businesses in the UK, in particular, training on legislative matters. Gary Nevison spoke to Jesus Milton Rousseau S. of Electronics Bazaar about the global impact of RoHS and its relevance in India and other Asian countries.

Gary Nevison
Gary Nevison

Friday, February 18, 2009:

EB: What is RoHS? Is it a hype or a practical solution for the environment?

RoHS is the restriction of use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipments. It aims at removing hazardous substances from electronic equipment. All European Union directives are well-intentioned but have been a challenge and often costly to the industry. RoHS currently covers eight different product categories and six chemical substances, although this list is expected to grow. Lead-free products are good for the environment. RoHS is beyond the hype stage and is spreading to countries likeChina, Korea, Taiwan and Australia. Before RoHS became a legislation, many thought it would never be implemented. But now people in Europe are used to RoHS compliant products. Design engineers are also getting used to the challenges and technical aspects of lead-free solder.

EB: How has RoHS affected the design and manufacturing industries?

RoHS complaint products have slowly gained market share. Compliant parts were not always given new order codes, causing problems for the buyer. Segregating lead and lead-free products in storage bins became a bigissue and mixed stock was often the cause of non-compliance. Customers, therefore, had to obtain only RoHS compliant products, although a few areas, such as military, remained outside the scope of RoHS, which could still use lead-based products. Another problem was the higher temperatures required to reach melting point when soldering. Many design engineers are now used to the differences between lead-free and traditional tin/lead solders. Two years ago manufacturers produced both lead and lead-free products, but now most of them use lead-free stuff, cutting down on the additionalcost other than the initial investment Manufacturers, who are dependent on military business, still make leaded products.

EB: How great was the challenge for the electronic design industry to design components without the use of lead, mercury, chromium, cadium, etc.

It was a great challenge, but they have adapted at a surprisingly quick pace!

EB: How much recycling of electronic goods is done worldwide? Does it help the electronic manufacture industry?

Unfortunately, not much recycling of electronic goods are being done worldwide. Waste is recycled at a product’s end-of-life phase. Breaking down of wastes is a significant responsibility and has to be financed. However, backyard or roadside dismantling or breaking down of toxic wastes exists in countries like India and China. This is often electronic wastes shipped by the so called ‘developed’ countries as recycling is low cost in these countries compared to the US. Poor villagers often extract valuable materials like gold from these wastes, but unfortunately, inhaling toxic gases cause significant health problems. RoHS is a single market directive, hence implementation should be the same in every European country. However, implementation of WEEE varies from country to country. WEEE has been around for several years and RoHS is complimentary to it. RoHS removes hazardous substances, making recycling easier.

EB: What are the RoHS standards in India and how strict are they?

India has no RoHS directive as off now. Continental Devices Ltd in Delhi manufactures lead-free products for large European companies such as ST Microeltronics. HCL manufactures RoHS compliant computers and TCR in Mumbai offers a RoHS compliant testing service. The levels of lead in people’s blood in India are of great concern and we are waiting to see more RoHS initiatives coming up in India. China is also adopting its own version of RoHS, but it is not identical to that in Europe. There is a strong need for development in RoHS compliant activity in India. From the business point of view, RoHS is viewed as a disadvantage. When countries around India adopt RoHS, India will have no choice but to follow suite at a faster pace.

EB: The RoHS directive and the UK RoHS regulations came into force on July 1, 2006. What are the modifications done in the last two years?

The stocks have been segregated as RoHS compliant and non-compliant products. Design engineers have started addressing issues of soldering components and had moved from traditional tin/lead to lead-free soldering. New wave soldering equipment for a machine that supports the lead-free process costs up to 30,000 pounds. Farnell is raising awareness in this sector on the technical issuesof RoHS, including lead-free soldering and associated problems such as tin whiskers.

EB: Has RoHS been reviewed in the last two years?

Yes, a full review of RoHS is currently taking place and the results will be announced next month or so. It is likely that more product categories, such as medical and test equipment, will be added. There are also more substances to be added to the list—46 substances are under review, which will be reduced to about eight or nine. Exemptions will also get reviewed.

EB: Do you think we need stronger RoHS regulations?

Yes, of course. Presently, companies that don’t follow RoHS face punishments like products being withdrawn from sale, financial penalties, sometimes even imprisonment. Policing of legislation is slowly becoming more vigorous.

EB: Do you think every country would adopt RoHS directives in the near future?

The speed of RoHS implementation varies from country to country. Korea will implement it in the middle of this year and China will adopt it by the year end. China is already a year behind schedule. Australia is the only country to adopt voluntarily. Thailand and Taiwan are expected to adopt it next year. I am sure more countries will follow suite. India is driven by market forces, so within the next couple of years it should be looking to implement some kind of RoHS restrictions. RoHS was debated for three years in Europe before it became a legislation.

EB: How has EU legislation affected the design engineers?

The impact of RoHS was immediate. Only fully compliant equipment could be made available for sale since July 1, 2006. However, equipment available for sale before July 2006 could be repaired with non-compliant components.

EB: How is Farnell promoting RoHS?

Farnell has an industry leading legislation website that can be accessed via www.global-legislation.com. Since Farnell started in Europe back in 2003, we were perceived as the market leaders. We have thousands of compliant products available from stock and can supply all required compliance information. We speak on legislation around the world. We have built a perception of providing the best knowledge and information via training, website and individualised system and easy-to-understand guides on the many directives. We have introduced a direct e-mail address—glegislation@ premierfarnell.com—to answer people’s queries. Farnell helps with clear compliance documentation, which helps customers feel confident about the products they receive. I also maintain a legislation blog in the UK, US and China.

EB: Does Farnell supply RoHS compliant products/components only?

We supply both, but have moved over with time and all new products added in the last couple of years have been RoHS compliant. Some distributors with military customers still offer leaded products.

EB: What are the main differences between the EU RoHS and Asia- Pacific/China RoHS. Which is more effective?

The maximum permitted levels of restricted substances is the same for both. In China, Phase one was based on labeling and came into force on March 1, 2007; Phase two is a catalogue of products/equipments that have substance restrictions. The catalogue will also provide the implementation date on each product as well as details of any exemption. All products that appear in this catalogue must be fully tested and gain accreditation in China before they can be sold. China RoHS covers 1,800 electronic information products. The catalogue will be updated every year.

EB: Any final comments?

The environment is an issue of concern for everybody. The electronics industry is also responsible for protecting human health as well as the environment. As development will accelerate, more and more products and substances will fall under RoHS.

Electronics Bazaar, South Asia’s No.1 Electronics B2B magazine


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