2011. február 25.

Lead free solder

I had a clash again with lead free soldering today, when I had to change a bunch of capacitors in my mainboard. So after about 4 hours of sweating and swearing just for changing 8 capacitors I have to draw a few conclusions:
  1. first of all I would like to know whoever did come up with the idea of lead free soldering, I surely would beat the crap out of him – I don't think there is a more insane idea that would give more headache and more pain to a nice guy who just doesn't want to throw away fairly good products containing potentially hazardous materials
  2. now let's think it over: lead free solder has some really interesting qualities: it doesn't melt easily, if it does melt eventually it melt only locally and doesn't flow on copper, it cools rapidly and throws whiskers in the process; we can conclude thus that lead free solder is good for anything but soldering, no wonder it is so hard to solder today electronic equipment: you need special ovens to do this and there is always a large number of failures
  3. even worse than soldering is the desoldering and resoldering process: it is impossible to mimic the temperature profile of the oves with a simple soldering iron: this means that repairing ROHS equipment in large scale is practically impossible, only really crazy people like me try to repair such things
  4. what does happen with all the electronic boards with some simple and easy to repair (or used to be easy) failures: they are simply replaced with a new one and thrown away; on a side note it is interesting that more and more electronics fail prematurely and needs to be replaced (which I think can be at least partially explained by the bad soldering capabilities of lead-free technique)
  5. so finally lets see where we got with lead-free solder: we have much more hazardous waste (because electronics do contain a lot of hazardous material besides lead) which is thrown away because it's not feasible to repair – probably much more than we would have if there was still lead in the solder; we are spending much more money on new or replacement equipment and most importantly hobbyists and amateurs are a dying breed because the large headaches lead-free is causing
The only ones winning with this are the large companies producing electronic equipment: why am I not surprised on this.