Aerco reacts to solve delivery problems caused by RoHS

20 November 2007

Aerco has implemented a new initiative to help customers affected by a serious component supply problem caused by, albeit indirectly, the RoHS directive.

Aerco stock to overcome tin whiskers
Aerco stock to overcome tin whiskers

Introduced by the EU in July 2006, the RoHS directive banned the sale of new electrical and electronic equipment containing more than agreed levels of lead and other elements. This resulted in component manufacturers concentrating on supplying components with pure tin contacts and has presented real problems for companies working in certain markets such as the aerospace industry. Although the military and aerospace industries are exempt from the directive, the companies working in these sectors are not immune to the market changes that the legislation has produced.

With component manufacturers primarily driven by the commercial advantages of meeting high demands, many of the previously popular components that contained a combination of tin/lead plating are now in short supply and on very long delivery times or are being made obsolete.

The problem within the aerospace and similar industries is that pure tin is subject to a phenomenon known as ‘tin whiskers’, electrically conductive, crystalline structures of tin that sometimes grow from surfaces where 100% pure tin is used as a final finish. This is not a new phenomenon and was recognised as a problem back in the 1940s and since then numerous electronic system failures have been attributed to short circuits caused by tin whiskers that bridge closely-spaced circuit elements maintained at different electrical potentials. This is a crucial issue in aerospace vehicles and satellites that are controlled over a long period by complex, closely packed electronic systems that, if pure tin is present, is prone to tin whiskers.

Recognising this situation Aerco has increased stock holding of these difficult to source components and is also helping its customers to source alternatives such as gold. Aerco managing director, Rob Laughton, said: ‘It is important that we recognise changes in the supply process early and we owe it to our customers to react quickly to provide a service that minimises the possible adverse effects of these changes. We have already helped major customers such as Ratheon and Astrium and we now supply, when required, these and other companies with components that are guaranteed to be free of pure tin.’

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