Lead-Free PCB trials a success

Norcott EMS and the UK arm of Miranda Technologies (a broadcast hardware/software specialist), have successfully concluded a collaborative lead-free trial of PCB assemblies focusing on the Canadian company’s master control and channel branding products. In looking to migrate its product manufacturing to a lead-free process in preparation for the implementation of the new RoHS directive, Miranda turned to Norcott to help it assess the viability of its existing PCB designs and identify any necessary modifications.

Norcotts managing director, Pete Lomas, said: Having worked with Miranda for some time now, we were already aware of the packaging and PCB fabrication technologies they use. As a result, we were able to advise on possible issues that could arise during the migration process and on the appropriate PCB finishes.

As Lomas explained, the trial was not without its issues: ‘A critical part was not yet available lead-free and the current device was unable to withstand the increased reflow temperature. The solution was to attach the component in a subsequent process step, allowing the complete assembly to be functionally validated.
This has been a common theme during the migration phase for many of our customers. They want to become RoHS compliant but the component manufacturers are yet to release qualified parts or availability is patchy.

Mirandas materials manager, Mike Harwood, was equally pleased with Norcott’s comprehensive PCB trials, commenting: We received the assemblies and put them straight into inspection and test. They all worked perfectly first time.

The feedback I received from my engineering team was that cosmetically, the solder joints looked fine. Our people are aware that lead-free soldering can appear different and ‘less wetted’ than conventional lead solder, so a slightly yellow appearance wasn’t a shock to us. In fact, they looked much better than we had anticipated and it’s important to understand that this is perfectly normal with lead free soldering.

Norcott quality manager, Dave Forster, was equally delighted to see the test process yield such positive results, concluding: Close collaboration between the OEM and their chosen EMS provider is key to the successful migration of existing designs to a RoHS compliant process.