We first started looking at lead-free in early 2000, with a series of initial meetings held at the Corporate Research Centre in France. We began by examining tin and tin alloys. For instance, bright tin-copper and matte tin.
FCI is a global company and our mission of global participation can only be fulfilled by following European regulations such as the RoHS, WEEE and ELV directives, and by satisfying the needs of our customers.
The challenges were: (a)the evaluation of matte tin baths, (b) the optimization of process windows, (c) the coating qualifications test procedures for adhesion, solderability, joint reliability, heat age and tin whiskers, (d) the plastic housing material qualifications and (e) the assembly operations.
In the past, tin-lead solder alloys of various compositions were plated. These coatings have been replaced by whisker-resistant, preferred matte tin deposits. The maximum allowable lead in the deposit should be less than 0.1%. The lead contamination is unintentional and arises from impurities contributed by chemicals, anodes, and the plating process. In addition to lead, FCI has strategies in place to ensure compliance with restrictions on other hazardous materials such as cadmium, chromium, and the ban on brominated fire retardants in plastics.
The FCI lead-free road map is to convert products well before the deadline of July 1st 2006. At the same time many products will remain available to customers that do not need to convert. Tin-lead products will become obsolete when there is no more commercial need for these products. FCI is converting products directly to RoHS-compatible. RoHS-compatible means the products meet the requirements of the RoHS and can be processed in a lead-free termination process. This assures reliability of the lead-free termination under the conditions specified on the customer drawing. All products that are RoHS-compatible are easily recognized by the LF part number. Also products that were already RoHS-compatible, like gold plated connectors, will get a new LF part number to make them easily recognizable and to confirm that the RoHS requirements are met. Products that do not see a lead-free termination process, like some housings and shields, will not change to the LF part number.
FCI’s flexible approach makes products available when customers need them. As a result, there is no master plan whereby all products will be converted at a particular moment. Such a plan could never properly take account of customer requirements. FCI is committed to deliver lead-free products as of January 2005, in line with customer demand. If customers wish to have a supply of lead-free products early in 2005, we request that they contact their sales representative to inform them of the potential need. This request will then be taken into account and, with a small lead-time, products can be made available. Via the FCI website a tool is available to find the current planning by part number.
FCI has completed extensive qualification programs with every element of its products. Qualifications cover the plating finish, processability and reliability. It includes extensive re-qualification of all termination styles under the new lead-free conditions. All of these qualification programs were completed in 2003 and 2004. Operating from this strong base of completed qualification work, FCI can move quickly when required.
Yes, most products are fully forward and backward compatible. FCI has tested this compatibility and confirmed that terminations continue to meet qualification requirements if they are made with mixes of leaded parts in a lead-free process, or the other way around. Products using BGA are not forward and backward compatible.
FCI has been building flexible manufacturing lines to enable tin-lead and lead-free production lines to run side-by-side. This strategy has given FCI a maximum of flexibility in meeting customer time plans and in coping with ramp-up scenarios during the conversion of products from tin-lead to lead-free.