Implementing lead-free


The EU legislation relating to lead-free electronics was implemented on 1 July 2006. As this module was written from the pre-implementation perspective, it is now of less utility, so is not scheduled to run again as an assessed module. However, the bulk of the material remains relevant, so has been retained here as a reference resource and the units that were previously restricted (Units 4–12) have been made open access. Whilst the cut-off date has passed, in actual practice many companies are still struggling with implementing lead-free, both in the European context and to meet the challenges of parallel legislation being introduced elsewhere in the world, particularly in China. We hope that the information you can glean from our material will be helpful in meeting these ongoing challenges. Note that copyright remains with the University of Bolton, and that the author, Martin Tarr, retains his moral right to be associated with his work.

Other aspects of environmental engineering are also becoming more important, and it is our plan to produce a “Green Electronics” module, which will properly reflect a wider perspective. If you have ideas or requests on any environmental topic, please make contact with Martin Tarr.


Module overview

The aim

Welcome to our module on implementing lead-free. There is more about our aim at this link, but in brief we are trying:

You will be dealing with technical, logistics and managerial issues that are representative of the real world – urgent, uncertain and many-facetted, and with financial, technical and personnel constraints. After the process is complete, you should also have practical insights into change implementation that you will be able to apply to whatever challenges face your company in the future – managing change is a transferable skill.

How the module is structured

This module differs from others in the AMI series in two ways:

Firstly, because the lead-free challenge is an ever-changing situation, so that even the legal framework has yet to be finally put in place, we will be asking you to research the latest ideas and perspectives, and not just to rely on the analysis and conclusions of the module authors.

Secondly, we have based the assessment on a scenario, in which we describe an imaginary, but very realistic, contract electronics manufacturer, whose customers are struggling with the challenges of the lead-free legislation.

Using a scenario, rather than asking you to apply the course concepts to your own company, gives a level playing field for everyone and also allows us to expose students working for OEMs to a much wider range of issues.

The background to the assignments is given at this link, and in the module descriptor. To add reality to Assignment 2, one of its elements is to carry out some of the work involved in provisioning components that are both lead-free and lead-free process compatible for a real circuit, so that you can draw valid conclusions as to the size of this task.

Different aspects of our scenario company

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The module content

The module is arranged as 12 units of slightly varying lengths, each broadly corresponding to a week’s study. The introductory pair of units seeks to scope the impact of the legislation on a company; the following pair examine some of the alternative courses of action, and the materials available. Building on the selection of solder materials discussed in Unit 4, the central core of four units considers key aspects of lead-soldering processes. The final third of the module deals with the effects of lead-free implementation on the company, starting from design, and considering the practicalities of implementation. Click on the links below for access to these units, or use the drop-down menu at the top right in the navigation bar. The first three units are freely available, but you need to enrol to gain access to the entire site.


Unit 1: Background to the lead-free revolution

Unit 2: The legislative framework

Materials options  

Unit 3: Alternatives to soldering

Unit 4: Alternative solders

The effect on processes

Unit 5: The lead-free joint

Unit 6: Implications for assembly

Unit 7: Implications for board fabrication

Unit 8: Reliability issues

Other effects on the product

Unit 9: Design implications

Managing the transition to lead-free

Unit 10: The transition process

Unit 11: Implications for the company

Unit 12: Management issues

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Studying the module

Everyone will have their preferred way of studying, and their own constraints on time, so the study plan at this link is just a suggestion. Based on previous experience we would expect slower progress with the first two units, but for your pace then to quicken.

As mentioned earlier, this is a research-based module, where you are encouraged to look at a range of resources. Before tackling Unit 1, we strongly recommend that you look at this page of resources – as well as explaining the variety of materials within the units, there are links to many other web-based and printed resources.

Web health warning!

Because this module is research-based, substantial and regular web access is highly desirable. Being away on business for a week or so at a time on several occasions during the module is not an insuperable difficulty; less access than this will give you severe problems. Broadband access is helpful, but not essential, provided that you take care in setting your browser to avoid downloading large image files.


In most Units there are a number of activities, ranging from simple questions through to quite complex research tasks. Where appropriate, we place at the end of the task either an outline of our answer or some comment. This is separated from the task by only a relatively small distance, and it’s very tempting to scroll down and go straight to the answer/comment. Please don’t, or you won’t learn a lot!

Were you to take short cuts, you would also find it very difficult to answer the question that is always implied, if not explicitly stated as part of each model answer, which is “How does what you have discovered differ from our ‘snapshot’ of the situation as it was in mid-2004?” Given that lead-free is a fast-moving topic, especially as regards implementation issues, you must expect there to be at least some differences, which of course you need to be able to explain.

Key information

Many resources have been suggested, so you need to be selective and also to watch how much time you spend on each. If you make notes as you go, compare each resource with the others, looking for similarities and differences.


Because there is a great deal of material, mirroring the complexity of the problem in the real world, we recommend that you give careful consideration early on in your studies as to how to manage the data – our thoughts on how to do this are given at this link.

Lead-free is a fast moving topic, so checking your data for currency is important, as is keeping in touch with the latest developments. Although not intended as a substitute for your own efforts, as each new group of students starts, material will be posted from time to time on this update page.

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So many people have made material available for this module that a separate page has been created to acknowledge their contribution and give links to their company web sites. In many cases other information will be available through these links and we would encourage you to search widely.

Author/Tutor Profile

Martin Tarr is a specialist consultant engaged to tutor this module. He provides technical and marketing services to many companies in the electronics industry and also teaches with Napier University at the Scottish Advanced Manufacturing Centre. His area of interest covers all aspects of interconnect technology from semiconductor back-end processes through to equipment practice, but in recent years there has been an inevitable emphasis on surface mount technology.

In his 35 years in the electronics industry, Martin has learnt the hard way how components are made and assembled, and how they fail – there are some interesting parallels between components and companies in his CV! He has been intimately involved with custom applications of a wide range of technologies from valves to multi-chip modules, and in industries from avionics to heart pacemakers to industrial process control. In recent years, he has combined his technical/marketing consultancy with a commitment to teaching and has qualified as a member of the Institute of Learning and Teaching.

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