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issue: January 2006 APPLIANCE Magazine

Technology Report
RoHS-Compliance Testers

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Two new measurement devices use X-ray fluorescence to confirm that appliance components are compliant with upcoming European legislation.

Upcoming European legislation limits the amount of lead (Pb) content used in electronics and other appliance components. Fischer Technology's XDAL instrument uses X-ray fluorescence to reveal the distribution of Pb (shown in red), which is located in soldering pads or electronic components.

To help manufacturers meet the July 2006 compliance deadline for Europe's Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive, Fischer Technology developed two material analysis instruments that are said to be accurate and easy to use. The testers-Fischerscope(r) X-Ray XAN(r) and XDAL(r) -identify how high the content of prohibited metals are in components made from plastics, plastic chassis, printed circuit boards, and electrical parts.

The RoHS Directive restricts the use of lead (Pb), mercury (Hg), cadmium (Cd), chromium (Cr VI), polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs), and polybrominated diphenylethers (PBEs) in certain products, including appliance components. Allowed limits are mostly in the range of 1,000 ppm, although cadmium is limited to 100 ppm. With such strict limitations, Fischer Technology says equipment like its XAN and XDAL are necessities for manufacturers. "Without a proper screening method, incoming parts for assembly could contain a higher ppm of the banned substances than is required by law," notes Paul Lomax, marketing director for Windsor, Connecticut, U.S.-based Fischer.

The testing devices use X-ray fluorescence technology to identify whether appliance components are RoHS-compliant. Specimens are placed in a measuring chamber, and if the concentration of the prohibited substances exceeds the allowed threshold, the user is immediately warned with data displayed in red.

According to Fischer, the screening process allows users to know immediately if the threshold is exceeded. The X-ray fluorescence determines the toxic content for Pb, Hg and Cd. To determine the amount of Cr and Br in the specimen, the total content of atoms can be measured. If the total content is below the allowed threshold, Fischer says users can be assured that the Cr VI or PBB and PBE is below the permissible threshold. If the threshold is exceeded, another analysis method can be used to determine the amount of Cr VI or the PBB and PBE content.

A high-resolution video camera is included as standard with the measuring instruments. This optical system, along with some variable collimators that control the X-ray beam, are said to allow for the analysis of even the smallest specimens. Users can also adapt the size of the measurement spot using the instrument software. Both the XAN and XDAL measure the content of the prohibited metals, but the XAN measures the component from the bottom up, with the user manually positioning the sample. The XDAL is capable of measuring larger samples, with a programmable XY(Z) measurement stage.

According to Lomax, X-ray fluorescence measurement is non-destructive and quick compared to other methods. Depending on the samples, measuring times for the specified detection limits are 50 seconds to 200 seconds. "In a matter of seconds, Fischer's XDAL can screen a product and provide a pass-fail report," notes Lomax. "It also identifies specifically where the component has the banned substance."

He adds that while the new testing devices are accurate and reliable, their development is ongoing. "The movement toward lead-free electronics is enormous in scope," Lomax says. "In addition to the European legislation going into effect in July 2006, California has similar laws slated for 2007. Even China is scheduled to implement similar laws."

Suppliers mentioned in this article:
Fischer Technology Inc.

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