According to a recent survey carried out by ERA technology, only 3% of companies have developed lead-free products, only 9% of companies have started trials with lead-free solders, and 50% of companies have admitted that they do not understand the impact of the ban, which comes into effect in 2006.
However, help is at hand from TWI and the National Physical Laboratory. TWI has set up a two year international group sponsored project aimed at developing a clear understanding of the issues relating to the use of lead-free alloys for long life and high reliability products. Results from the project, involving the additional expertise of the University of Greenwich and the Open University, will be available during the duration of the project allowing advance information to assist companies in their own implementation strategies. The project will be officially launched on 10 September.
As well as launching a new code of practice for lead-free processing, NPL has developed a new technique for measuring the creep and stress relaxation properties of lead-free alloys. Only two materials are required to form a test piece - copper and the solder under test. Data is obtained using an electro-thermal mechanical testing (ETMT) machine developed at NPL.