Under the XRF-ray

XRF is generally agreed to be the best solution for inspecting incoming articles for RoHS-banned substances. So why has the industry been generally slow on the uptake? Most XRF vendors I speak with indicate sales are slower than they had initially expected.

I find this all a bit shocking. Component counterfeiting or mismarkings are an industry-wide problem. At Apex last year, a major aerospace supplier reportedly claimed as much as 30% of its incoming components were the wrong type (for example, leads were all tin instead of SnPb). Another major defense company saw its EMS supplier rework hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of boards after finding a lot of SnPb BGAs were actually Pb-free.
While the upfront cost of the systems — $40,000 to $50,000 — is about as much as a cheap (OK, really cheap) reflow oven, the back-end payoff comes quickly, in my book.

In speaking with XRF vendors that have been through this cycle in other industries, such as paint, it would appear there’s at least a three-year lag before manufacturers starting anteing up for the inspection devices. Given that the EU RoHS went into effect July 1, 2006, that would mean we are still in the learning phase.

What are your thoughts?

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About Mike

Mike Buetow is president of the Printed Circuit Engineering Association (pcea.net). He previously was editor-in-chief of Circuits Assembly magazine, the leading publication for electronics manufacturing, and PCD&F, the leading publication for printed circuit design and fabrication. He spent 21 years as vice president and editorial director of UP Media Group, for which he oversaw all editorial and production aspects. He has more than 30 years' experience in the electronics industry, including six years at IPC, an electronics trade association, at which he was a technical projects manager and communications director. He has also held editorial positions at SMT Magazine, community newspapers and in book publishing. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois. Follow Mike on Twitter: @mikebuetow

3 thoughts on “Under the XRF-ray

  1. Am I missing something? Since when is it a problem to install Pb-free parts on a SnPb assembly? For the past few decades, we regularly installed tin-plated parts (resistors, capacitors, IC’s, etc) in our SnPb boards. Did you mean to say installing SnPb parts in a Pb-free assembly? Nonetheless, it is no wonder we waste billons in our attempts (and misfires) to implement RoHS.

  2. It’s a problem when the entire product needs to be SnPb; for example, for Class 3 or other high-rel products. This is a painful and very situation at companies like Boeing, where Pb-free parts are infiltrating their supply streams.

  3. If you use Pb-free BGAs in SnPb process you can get insufficiently reflowed balls. Pure tin finishes pose the risk of tin whiskers.

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