Talking About the AirAsia Crash Report

A great discussion of the final report of last year’s AirAsia crash is taking place on the IPC TechNet listserv this week. Investigators say solder fatigue on the plane’s rudder control warning system precipitated the disaster.

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In Their Element

One of the truly fun diversions of the electronics manufacturing community has been the ongoing Friday Element Quiz on the IPC TechNet email listserv.

For nearly two years, a few clues have been posited to the TechNet members each week, who then try to guess the corresponding element. (No element was repeated.)

The quiz was the brainchild of Dave Hillman, an engineer at Rockwell Collins and one of the longtime contributors to the listserv. Each week, Hillman (with the help of a few reference manuals), poses a question to the group. For example:

This element has no biological role for humans. History shows that the mineral containing this element was encountered in silver mines in the Bohemia (Czech Republic) in the Middle Ages and was give a name that is the combination of the words “ill luck” and deceiver” because it was found to have no use. This element plays a significant role in industry today in several different industry segments and is more abundant that tin in the Earth’s crust. What element is being described?*

For those not keeping track, the first winner was Lamar Young of SCS Coatings; the most recent was Hillman’s colleague Doug Pauls. Over the 96 weeks the quiz has run, there have been several repeat winners. The leaders to date are Dr. Bev Christian of RIM, who has picked the correct answer eight times, nosing out Leland Woodall of CSTech, who has correctly named seven elements.

Given there are 112 elements, the FEQ should be winding down. By popular demand, however, Hillman has stocked up on new reference books and pledges to start over.

Let the good times roll.

*The element is Uranium (U).


Is a Pb-Free Consensus Achievable?


Recently I posted a note about a flurry of Technet posts in which I was misquoted regarding the status of lead-free electronics assembly.  Harvey Miller then weighed in.  I responded. And this in turn raised more comments.

All of this caused me to wonder, is it possible to achieve a consensus on the state of Pb-free assembly? I think it might be and am going to try. The main thing that I think is important in this quest is that any points for the consensus, or lack thereof, be supported by data and analysis, not emotion.

If you have a point to add, that is backed by data and analysis, please share it with me.  One of the things I hope to accomplish is to develop a list of references, that can be referred to to support the consensus.

Stay tuned for more info on this effort.


Dr. Ron

Toyota Recall Has Pb-Free Critics in Overdrive

Are Toyota’s gas pedal failures caused by a breakdown in the electronics system? And if so, are the much-publicized recalls tied to a lead-free problem?

That’s been the hot topic on the TechNet email forum for over a week now. The mainstream media, of course, has gotten hold of the issue too, and is running with it like a Camry with a stuck gas pedal.

Here’s a list of some articles to date:

  • MSNBC is considering the likelihood of an issue with the electronics sensors.
  • The Los Angeles Times notes that the electronic throttle system uses sensors, microprocessors and electric motors, rather than a traditional link such as a steel cable.
  • AOL Autos and Autoblog look at a recalled pedal and discuss how possible sources of the problems.

Bob Landman, a reliability expert and a Life Senior Member of IEEE, has been vocal that the connection between lead-free solder and tin whiskers is both real and potentially deadly.  He asserts “the increased use of electronics in automobiles when mixed with RoHS can make for a deadly cocktail. We don’t know what the causative agent [in regards to the Toyota recalls] was, but I have heard recently of brand new autos showing up at dealers that will not start.  That cause has been linked to tin whiskers.”

We do not yet have enough information to determine whether tin whiskers or even lead-free solders are to blame. One would hope Toyota would come clean about the true cause, if indeed it can be determined, so that the industry at large can learn from their mistakes.

UPDATE: Toyota today stated the cause was not electronic in nature.