Our Commitment to RoHS Compliance
Timothy Boyd - Embedded Controls Engineer
Apr 22, 2021
Seeing as today is Earth Day 2021, I wanted to discuss an environmental issue which our industry faces, and WRD's plans to reduce our negative impact on the environment moving forward. As an electronics manufacturer, it can be easy to get tunnel vision for the operation and manufacturing of our products.
What often gets lost in this focus is what happens to our electronic products at the end of their lifetime. As mankind trends to use more and more electronics as the years push on, so too do we create more and more E-waste through electronics which no longer suit our needs. From ewastemonitor.info, "A record 53.6 million metric tonnes (Mt) of electronic waste was generated worldwide in 2019, up 21 per cent in just five years, according to the UN’s Global E-waste Monitor 2020".
As a business, we feel it is our responsibility to determine the ways we contribute to this problem, and find ways to improve our impact, and provide a positive change in the world. While there are many things a business can do to mitigate the environmental impact of their products throughout their lifetime, one common way is through the Reduction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS).
The RoHS directive was initially introduced in the EU in 2003 as a way of curbing the use of chemicals and substances which are harmful to humans, wildlife, and the greater environment as a whole. Since then it has evolved past its initial limitation of 6 harmful chemicals, and has expanded to include a total of 11 substances deemed harmful to humans, wildlife, and the greater environment, defined as RoHS 3 (EU 2015/863).
These chemicals, things like Lead, Mercury, Cadmium, etc. have been proven to cause lasting health problems in people with long-term exposure to them, and cause lasting damage to the environment by polluting soil and water once introduced to landfills. If you'd like to learn more about the specifics of what RoHS is and why it's important, check out this great All About Circuits article on the subject:
As a manufacturer of electronics like WRD, it's important to always be analyzing the way you do things, and the ways in which you can improve your processes for more responsible operation. One of our greatest concerns here has always been ensuring that our products meet a standard for safety and quality that we can be proud of. With that said, I'm happy to announce that WRD will be making a total transition to producing only RoHS compliant controls for new and compatible legacy products.
What does this mean? Well, in order to make a full shift to leadfree controls, an electronics manufacturer such as ourselves must ensure that each of the following steps are observed in the process of manufacturing a device:
Only procure components which are RoHS compliant and have the proper documentation to support this.
Only procure printed circuit boards which have been manufactured using only RoHS compliant chemicals and substances.
Only assemble devices with compliant tools and solder.
Of these items, 2 and 3 are achievable regardless of the components used on a particular design. We've spoken extensively with our PCB manufacturer to ensure that their processes can produce RoHS compliant boards, and plan to eat any additional costs associated with using lead-free solder and materials in this process.
Furthermore, earlier in the year we converted some of our manufacturing stations to RoHS only, fitting it with compliant tools and leadfree solder, meant to be kept isolated from the rest of our leaded designs. By using this station to assemble and rework our leadfree controls, we can ensure that no cross-contamination with leaded products can occur.
At the moment, roughly 40% of the controls that WRD manufactures are produced compliant with RoHS. Over the last year we've analyzed our entire portfolio for RoHS compatibility, assessing the bills of materials and finding as many RoHS compliant replacement components as possible with each of the designs without modifying the specific component choices. In doing so, WRD was able to identify that roughly 80% of our controls (including those already produced compliant) as they stand can be manufactured with RoHS compliant components.
This leaves about 20% of our products which, due to their status as legacy supported products, must be redesigned in order to comply with this directive. This gives WRD room to grow, and while we make efforts to convert the 40% of already compatible controls to RoHS compliance, we're analyzing the legacy products for the easiest method to bring them up to spec.
Overall, our commitment to producing RoHS compliant electronics is really just one step towards making ourselves an environmentally responsible business. As we look to make as many of our current products, and all of our new products RoHS compliant, we're also evaluating our impact in other ways.
From little things like eliminating the use of plastic water bottles in our facility, to making products which help businesses be greener, WRD has already begun to make important steps in the right direction.
WRD is devoted to analyzing our impact on the environment, whether it be direct, or indirect, and making changes to be the kind of business we all can be proud of.
We look forward to you joining us on Earth Day 2022, where we’ll report on all the steps taken over the next year, and work to expand our promises even further.