Responsible manufacturing practices in the electronics industry seek to address environmental, performance and end-user safety concerns.
Thanks to the increasing environmental awareness, companies are looking for greener options within their production processes. The electronics industry for instance, uses a number of chemicals for which there are an increasing number of more environment-friendly alternatives that not only offer gains from an environmental perspective but also deliver enhanced performance.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Chemical products used in the manufacture and protection of electronics include conformal coatings and various cleaning technologies, which often contain VOCs or carbon based compounds that vaporise easily at room temperature.
VOC emissions need to be controlled due to their effect on the environment and human health. A major contributor to the formation of ground-level ozone, a major component of smog, which can impact forests and vegetation, VOCs can also cause serious health problems.
Chemical cleaners are used in the electronics industry to remove potentially harmful contaminants during PCB production, thereby improving product lifetime by ensuring good surface resistance and preventing current leakage that may lead to PCB failure.
From the available solvent-based and water-based cleaners, the latter reduces VOC levels, making them safer for the environment. But since many are supplied as ready-to-use mixtures, these cleaners increase waste due to the greater number of containers used in addition to the requirement for significant amounts of water.
Water-based products such as the Safewash range are concentrated products that reduce waste and water requirement.
Conformal coatings are used on newly manufactured and cleaned printed circuit boards to prevent performance deterioration caused by adsorption of atmospheric moisture, contamination of the surface with airborne ionic material and electrostatic attraction of dust to the surface among other factors.
Conformal coatings ‘conform’ to the contours of the board allowing for excellent protection and coverage, ultimately extending the working life of the PCB.
Alternatives are available to replace conventional solvent based conformal coatings and include water-based, UV cure and moisture cure systems. Some alternatives have however failed to meet the high level specifications set out by traditional coatings but recent technological advancements have led to the development of non-VOC alternatives.
VOC emissions can also be monitored by considering aerosol products typically used for general maintenance and in particular, the propellants used. Propellants may be flammable or non-flammable, each with a specified GWP (Global Warming Potential) and ODP (Ozone Depleting Potential) value.
While non-flammable propellants offer obvious safety advantages, they also have higher GWP values. New developments have resulted in a new range of propellants that offers both low GWP and non-flammable properties.
These include EADH, a powerful non-flammable airduster and FREH, a non-flammable freezer spray, both available from Electrolube.
REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals) is an EU wide regulation that affects all areas of the chemical industry including manufacturers, importers, distributors, downstream and end users, with key aims including improvement of protection and awareness regarding the risks of chemicals to human health and the environment, whilst enhancing the development of the EU chemicals industry.
Registration to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) will include test data to show the effect of the substance on human health and the environment, with such changes inspiring responsible chemical manufacturers to introduce safer alternatives to hazardous products.
Chemicals banned in the EU include Dichloromethane (DCM) used in paint strippers/ coating removers due to its harmful classification as a category 3 carcinogen.
Alternatives to DCM type materials are now available in the Electrolube range and include RRS – Resin Remover Solvent and CCRG – Conformal Coating Remover Gel with both products offering comparable performance to traditional DCM based removers in a more user-friendly system.
Environmental awareness has resulted in several legislations for monitoring the use of chemical products in a variety of sectors. Manufacturers and consumers can reduce their carbon footprints by ensuring efficient processes, minimised energy consumption and careful product selection.
Sourcing high performance and environment-friendly options such as concentrates and low/zero VOC products can make a significant but positive impact on the environment in addition to creating a safer workplace.
Electrolube’s high specification electrochemicals meet all performance, environmental and end-user safety requirements.
The Electrolube range of chemical products for the electronics industry is manufactured by HK Wentworth .