The costs associated with meeting the requirement of providing lead-free equipment keep going up. The Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Act has cost the electronics industry an estimated $30 billion since it was enacted in 2003. Of the six hazardous substances restricted in electrical and electronic equipment, the elimination of lead solder from Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) is the most troublesome.
Verizon and AT&T have released new test requirements for any electrical equipment using lead-free solder. The test requirements are demanding and won’t come cheap.
Each circuit board must be run through a battery of tests. Any board having less than 4000 solder joints must have more than one sample tested. Temperature testing consists of thermal shock, temperature cycling and over temperature. There are additional tests for mechanical shock, destructive testing and salt fog.
The cost of testing could range from $30,000 to $40,000 per board, exclusive of the cost of the board. Release dates will be pushed back six months or more to accommodate additional testing.
It Gets Worse
Any change to the bill of materials, manufacturing process or supply chain will necessitate retesting. With as many as eight circuit boards per server, it would be surprising if retesting didn’t become routine. And if you plan to save costs by using a single test for both providers, think again. The testing requirements are not the same.
The simple solution would be to return to lead-based solder in PCBs. However, electronics companies have invested significant time and money to design lead-free equipment. It seems the only option is to prepare for even higher costs of complying with RoHS in the future.