Our idea for an assessment regime came from Figure 1, whose tasks can be defined in ‘alternative language’ as “How deep is the mire we are in?”, “What are the options for getting out of this fix?” and “How do we manage this affordably?” – three assignments building to a logical and satisfyingly complete report that you can later mirror in your company situation.

Figure 1: The phases of lead free implementation in a typical company

The phases of lead free implementation in a typical company

Exposing these issues (although not being able to explore them in depth) is of course what a lead-free impact audit does. In an ideal world, we could challenge you to apply module principles to their own company, and produce such an audit in three stages. However, this doesn’t give the required level playing field, and is very difficult to mark.

Our assessments are therefore based on a realistic scenario, set at an imaginary company that is a composite of a number of real medium-size contract manufacturers. The products, equipment, processes and organisation are described in some detail, and support information for the selected processes and equipment is either easily accessible from a web site or else available from us.

For Assignment 1, we expect you to be able to articulate the impact of lead-free legislation on the scenario company, and discuss some of the issues.

Assignment 2 is a report on the options available for the scenario company and the issues involved in converted suitable products to lead-free. As part of this, you will be asked to work on a case study, where you are presented with the layout and parts list for a product that the company plans to convert to lead-free. You will need to research the components, examine the board specification and intended process, and look for practical problems that might impact on manufacturability or reliability, including aspects such as pad design for chip components, the need for board support, and the use of lead-free BGAs.

For Assignment 3, the task is to complete the audit by reporting on the practicalities of implementing lead-free. For this, in order to create a realistic scenario, more detail will be given about the people involved, the way in which the company is managed, and the company procedures.

The marks given for these assignments are loaded more heavily as the work progresses. This reflects the much greater depth of analysis needed in later phases of your studies, and also allows you to get early feedback on your progress without having a major impact on your overall mark for the module.

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