A pan-European research project dedicated to encouraging the continued integration of the European electronics sector recently produced a road map that will help firms navigate future challenges. The road map highlights potential pitfalls players may face in coming years and drafts tenable solutions for the European electronics sector, which represents a quarter of total world production. The road map is the culmination of a three-year-long research initiative by the European Lead-free Soldering Network, or ELFNET. The network was designed as a platform to streamline communication and networking amongst stakeholders in the electronics sector to shore up long-term sustainability and ensure, among other things, compliance with strict environmental standards at European level.
The recently published road map, ‘The Future of European Electronics Interconnection’,
synthesises data collected from different markets across Europe to present a
truly pan-European perspective on the future of the sector. It details how key
factors such as lead-free soldering, sustainability and miniaturisation are impacting
the interconnection supply chain, materials and processes critical to the market.
It highlights 50 specific challenges players can expect face in the coming years
that will need to be addressed through dedicated R&D. ELFNET suggests which direction
researchers in the sector should take to help navigate a future market characterised
by increased competition and regulatory challenges.
|Lead-free solder wire represents a significant shift in industry priorities.
Dr Jeremy Pearce, ELFNET coordinator, commented on the need for a concerted effort on the part of the research community to address such challenges. “The ELFNET roadmap is a major deliverable from the ELFNET project. It is an important step forward in focussing European research on investment towards collectively agreed high priority topics,” he said. “With this tool, ELFNET has met its key objective, addressing the challenges of fragmentation, disjointed funding mechanisms and poor communication in the European research environment.”
Two European Directives, European Union Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE) and Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS), are designed to secure the EU’s position at the forefront of sustainable and environmentally sound production practices. As a result, industry is forced to adapt through innovative research programmes, and ELFNET has come together to help business through the radical shift to lead-free soldering, which promises to drastically reduce the use of lead in the electronics industry.
“It is clear from the roadmap that there is a vast amount of work needed to address current business drivers, environmental and consumer pressures,” Dr Pearce says. “From the perspective of lead-free soldering, there remain major unsolved issues. Urgent concerns over a lack of knowledge in reliability issues have to be addressed and are a focus for high reliability applications, such as aerospace and defence.”
The ELFNET project wrapped up at the end of March, and project participants remain confident that similar research work will continue through the current Framework Programme, FP7.