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NBI Newsletter 10/2005:

Going "Green" - NBI Developing Lead-Free Process

NBI is developing a lead-free soldering process that conforms to IPC-A-610 Revision D.

In March of this year, NBI began a feasibility study for developing a lead-free soldering process for manufacturing circuit boards. NBI began by reviewing the available research material, going to trade shows, talking with other contract manufacturers, and by polling customers to judge their level of interest. Although none of NBI's customers expressed a strong interest in going "lead-free" at that time, NBI continued research and began an experimentation project.

By the middle of May, NBI engineers were ready to begin hands-on experiments to find out if the published problems with running a lead-free process would apply to NBI as well.

A set of relatively simple lead-free boards was procured. NBI's engineers ran them through the SMT process with various oven profiles using three different lead-free solder paste formulations. The results were very satisfying. Only minor oven profile adjustments were required to achieve high quality lead-free solder joints. After the successful SMT reflow experiments, NBI engineers had the PTH components hand inserted and hand soldered using both water-wash and no-clean lead-free wire solder formulations. Once again, the results were much better than expected.

The boards were final inspected and function-tested. Again, the results were good.

To support its customers in the coming months, NBI has adopted a timeline to complete development and installation of a robust lead-free process and have it on-line by March 2006. This will allow NBI customers time to build up inventories in advance of the July 2006 deadline of the European initiative.

In addition to lead-free, NBI will continue to support traditional 63/37 solder alloy processes as long as customer demand continues. The two processes will meet the needs of customers who wish to continue with 63/37 and customers that must change to lead-free.

NBI will keep you posted about its lead-free progress in future issues of this newsletter.

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