editor's blog
Subscribe Now

Heretical Lead

Much of the motivation for Verdant’s solderless Occam process comes from the poorer reliability of solder these days. Solder has always been something of a weak spot for reliability: the phrase “cold solder joint” is practically a household word (at least for handy households). But why are things worse now?

Simple answer: we’ve removed the lead from solder. Now it doesn’t flow as well, it’s more brittle and therefore subject to more cracking, and the higher temperatures required for this solder stress out the components more.

So why did we remove the lead?

Because lead is evil, of course. It made the Romans crazy and it’s bad for kids.

No one disputes that lead is a bad thing for kids. But as to the rest, well, is the science behind lead-free electronics sound?

No, according to Verdant’s Joe Fjelstad. And before you jump to the conclusion that he’s just another capitalist pig-dog out to rape the environment in order to make money, he notes that he was doing Earth Day stuff before there even was an Earth Day. Frankly, listening to his philosophies, it would be hard to confuse him with an anti-environmentalist.

His point is this: straight-up lead isn’t the issue; the issue is “lead sugar,” which is lead acetate. That’s what’s in paint. It wasn’t the lead-lined plumbing that drove the Romans to Looney-Land; it was lead-lined wine vessels, with which acetic acid reacts. The resulting lead sugar makes the wine sweeter. The sweetness is also why kids tend to chew on it. And it’s why you don’t want to put vinegar in lead crystal.

By contrast, the lead in solder isn’t lead acetate. And, by his numbers, all of that lead is less than ½ of 1% of the lead in production, and the amount that gets wasted (which is where the environmental concern arises) is a small percentage of that. So, even if the lead in solder were an issue, it would be a miniscule one.

So what stimulated the lead-free movement, anyway? Were people getting ill from it? That’s usually what spurs this kind of action – and even then, it usually takes a lot of people getting sick before change can be brought about. According to Joe, there have been only two documented cases, one involving “pica” – a condition where people eat minerals like clay directly. A guy was stripping wire with his teeth, and the wire had lead that had rubbed off on it from a bearing in the wire manufacturing line. Joe was aware of one other issue with someone at a plating plant. So, if his statistics are correct, there was no mass health issue (not to trivialize the particular individuals in question). If you need real minerals and supplements for your body, check this article.

Joe says he fought the lead-free thing for 9 years; obviously he lost. He seems to view it as an irrational policy not based on any sound science. Lead has been declared an enemy, and that means it must be expunged everywhere. (I know that my wheel weights now can fall off within a few miles of installation since lead has been eliminated from them…) Science often gets in the way of such reactions, especially when we can argue that the children are at risk (whether or not they actually are).

His bottom line: we don’t have better health as a result of this movement; we just have worse electronics. So if you can’t have decent solder, his solution is simply to get rid of solder. Hence Occam.


Leave a Reply

featured blogs
Sep 26, 2021
https://youtu.be/Ivi2dTIcm9E Made at my garden gate (camera Carey Guo) Monday: Ten Lessons from Three Generations of Google TPUs Tuesday: At a Digital Crossroads Wednesday: Announcing Helium, Hybrid... [[ Click on the title to access the full blog on the Cadence Community si...
Sep 24, 2021
Wi-Fi, NB-IoT, Bluetooth, LoRaWAN... This webinar will help you to choose the appropriate connectivity protocol for your IoT application....
Sep 23, 2021
The GIRLS GO Engineering scholarship provides opportunities for women in tech and fosters diversity in STEM; see the winners of our 2021 engineering challenge! The post GIRLS GO Engineering! Empowers Our Next-Gen Women in Tech appeared first on From Silicon To Software....
Sep 23, 2021
The Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP), implemented by the United Nations Development Programme, is collaborating with the InnovateFPGA contest. Showcase your  skills with Intel Edge-Centric FPGAs and help develop technical solutions that reduce env...

featured video

Silicon Lifecycle Management Paradigm Shift

Sponsored by Synopsys

An end-to-end platform solution, Silicon Lifecycle Management leverages existing, mature, world-class technologies within Synopsys. This exciting new concept will revolutionize the semiconductor industry and how we manage silicon design. For the first time, designers can look inside silicon chip devices from the moment the design is created to the point at which they end their life.

Click here to learn more about Silicon Lifecycle Management

featured paper

Ultra Portable IO On The Go

Sponsored by Maxim Integrated (now part of Analog Devices)

The Go-IO programmable logic controller (PLC) reference design (MAXREFDES212) consists of multiple software configurable IOs in a compact form factor (less than 1 cubic inch) to address the needs of industrial automation, building automation, and industrial robotics. Go-IO provides design engineers with the means to rapidly create and prototype new industrial control systems before they are sourced and constructed.

Click to read more

featured chalk talk

KISSLING Products: Rugged and Reliable Solutions

Sponsored by Mouser Electronics and TE Connectivity

Rugged and reliable designs today have a specific set of design requirements that may not be found in other industries including robustness, durability, and the ability to resist harsh environments. In this episode of Chalk Talk, Amelia Dalton chats with Mark Dickson from TE Connectivity about the KISSLING product family which includes a wide variety of rugged and reliable solutions for your next design.

Click here for more information about TE Connectivity / KISSLING Ruggedized Switching Products