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Intel poisoning Japan with meltable chips

Silver's too hot; Zinc is poor replacement

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Japanese PC manufacturers are being held back by Intel in their bid to remove lead in computer soldering, AsiaBizTech reports.

In the same way that oil companies moved rapidly to lead-free petrol, PC manufacturers wish to cut out the contaminating element by moving to non-lead alternatives.

However, the preferred replacement - Tin-Silver solder - requires components to withstand a temperature of 220ºC, some 40ºC higher than current lead-based solders. Intel doesn't produce parts that can withstand this higher temperature and it isn't too keen on changing either, the manufacturers say.

The only other option is to move to Tin-Zinc solder (working at 200ºC), but then this has associated problems including lower reliability and loss of control when printing circuit boards. The Zinc element in the solder makes fine control of electricity during printing essential.

Under the current JEDEC standards, Intel is not obliged to make components that can withstand the silver solder and so the extra cost associated with the zinc alternative may see PC prices rise.

Japanese manufacturers have vowed to remove lead from their solder by 2003 due to environmental and recycling concerns. JEIDA (Japan Electronic Industry Development Association) is holding a meeting on this very issue on 4 March, where the results of various studies into lead-free solder will be released. ®

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