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Reliability and industrialisation of processes and equipment in electronic assembly. Compliance with "WEEE" & "ROHS" european directives (AMELIE)
Start date: Sep 1, 2005, End date: May 31, 2008 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Background Electronic boards consist of components assembled on printed circuit boards, using solder paste. Lead content of the boards is high and, in some cases, the metal can even be found in the component itself. Lead-based hazardous substances in electronic products present a risk through the whole life-cycle, from the design, supply chain and assembly, to the repair and recycling. An alternative to the use of lead has to be found, as two European Directives, the 2002/96/CE on Waste of Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) and the 2002/95/CE on the Reduction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) ban the use of dangerous substances such as lead. Objectives The AMELIE project had three main objectives. The first was to contribute to the design, development and validation of lead-free industrial assembly lines, integrating the whole electronic supply chain. The project would also study the reliability of new lead-free alloys in compliance with the RoHS and WEEE Directives. Finally, the project would promote the dissemination of the project's results to small and medium-sized companies and public institutions. The AMELIE project took a problem-solving approach, ranging from dual management of leaded/lead-free components and analysis of the environmental impact, through to sharing the knowledge acquired by the consortium with SMEs at local and European level. Results The AMELIE project is a first step in the transition to lead-free products in sectors where high-reliability is a must, such as the electronic assembly for the civil and military aeronautic industry. With the aim of evaluating the reliability of lead-free materials and assembly processes, two test vehicles were designed and assembled. To test the reliability, the vehicles underwent humidity storage and high temperature storage and were subjected to thermal cycling between -55°C and + 125°C to cause rupture. The acceptance level for vehicles subjected to these thermomechanical and climatic stresses is 1 500 cycles. After more than 4 000 thermal cycles, most of the components were still without electrical failures. In conclusion, most of the components fulfil the standards set up for leaded alloy, demonstrating the reliability of lead-free test vehicles. Based on the technical solutions and process choices selected and the first results of the evaluation phase, two functional demonstrators have been defined (one representative of GAIA CONVERTER requirements - power converter - and one representative of THALES SA requirements -for aerospace applications). These two demonstrators were successfully assembled on an industrial assembly line. In terms of environmental benefits, all technical developments comply with the RoHS and WEEE directives. The beneficiary points out that the environmental impact of the alternative solders (using metals such as Ag, Cu, Ni, and Sn) is not very well known, and expresses the need to better assess the environmental impact of the alternative processes against current practice. The demonstration took into account the whole electronic supply chain from purchasing activities to the implementation of a lead-free industrial assembly line and the management of the with/without lead mix. The method can be easily transferred to other high reliability products and there are no significant obstacles for replicability. Transferability of project results has been achieved with two small and medium-sized companies located in the Aquitaine region by assisting these companies step by step as they introduce lead-free manufacturing. Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).
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