New initiatives for halogen-free printed wiring board materials in the USA

In the USA, there is an increasing interest in alternatives to the currently used brominated flame retardant systems in electronics, and particularly in printed wiring boards (PWBs). Besides the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has started a Design for Environment project to look at environmental and health properties of alternatives to TBBPA, a major industry association, the International Electronics Manufacturing Initiative (iNEMI) has started a halogen-free initiative beginning of this year. iNEMI is an industry-led consortium of approximately 70 electronics manufacturers, suppliers and related organizations with its headquarters in Herndon, Virginia, USA.

 As part of their technology roadmap activities, iNEMI has begun a technical feasibility study of halogen-free electronics. The background is the introduction of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) and the Restriction on the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directives in the European Union, requiring the separation of waste containing brominated flame retardants (WEEE) and the restriction on the use of the flame retardants polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). Although PBBs and PBDEs are not used in PWB materials, stakeholders are beginning to urge the electronics industry to look at halogen-free alternatives to brominated epoxies for circuit board applications.

The objective of the feasibility study is to promote standards development by establishing materials, manufacturing, assembly, and test guidelines for halogen-free PWBs based on market segment requirements and technical, commercial, and functional viability. The study consists of three phases: 

- Phase I:  Design
Will review prior work and make recommendations for testing needed. Investigation will take into account needs of electronic product sectors.
- Phase II:  Test
Will develop, manage, and execute performance testing.

- Phase III:  Results
Will compile results, assess significance, make recommendations, and publish a report with a public release foreseen for 2008.

Details, see