Printed Circuit Boards – Understanding the Requirements of the European RoHS

The Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive, a European project intended to decrease the environmental impact on electronic or electrical products in the waste stream and improve the recyclability of waste. Its initiative is to create electronic and electrical products that are sold in Europe to free of hazardous substances as of July 1, 2006. This means all companies that manufacture, import or rebrand electronic equipment destined for Europe must ensure their products comply with RoHS guidelines.

Some manufacturers may find complying with RoHS costly and complex, but it will ultimately help them in the long run since there certain US states are passing their own ROHS regulations such as SB20 and SB40 in California.

The Waste and Electrical Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive, the catalyst behind RoHS, requires those who produce electronic equipment to take on the responsibility of recycling and/or recovering their products.

Overview of the RoHS Directive and Its Requirements

Sometimes confused with the movement for “lead-free” electronic production, the RoHS command focuses on six substances. Lead, a vital issue, and five other substances covered by the directive. The others include Hexavalent Chromium, Cadmium, Mercury, PBBs and PBDEs.

Banned/Restricted Substance Use/Where Found in Electronics

• Yellow pigments, phosphorescent coatings, paints, cadmium batteries, plastic additives, especially PVC and LEDs/detectors/devices.
• Lamps, lighting/bulbs (scanners, displays, projectors), pigments, Mercury Switches, paints and polyurethane materials (high gloss windows)
• Alloys, Hexavalent Chromium Metal finishes for deterioration protection- Chasses fastener- aluminum conversion coatings
• Flame retardants such as cables, housings, plastics, connectors and paints, (PBBs) Polybrominated Byphenyls
• (PBDE) Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers
• PVC cables- UV/heat stabilizers, chasses, washers, metal parts- Lead solder and interconnect paints, pigments, batteries, discrete components , sealing glasses, CRT glass, and piezoelectric devices

Who Must Comply and What Products Does It Cover?

RoHS regulations include a wide class of products, including toys, sports, leisure, medical equipment, monitoring and control instruments, electrical/electronic instruments and IT/Telecom and consumer equipment.

Producers may need to make changes to product design stipulations and command different production processes for the subassemblies and components they use in their products. The burden to comply lies with the producers, so they must direct the actions of PCB fabrication, materials, assembly, component and other supplies to make sure everything contributes properly to end-product compliance.

Product Exceptions

Production exceptions include industrial tools, medical equipment and replacement parts. Producers can supply “original equipment” or non-conforming replacement parts to repair a product sold into the market before the RoHS took effect. However, they cannot use non-conforming replacement parts to repair conforming parts.

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