The electronics industry has recently witnessed a trend toward using lead free solder.
As of 2003, the European Union adopted the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive. Among the many restricted hazardous substances is lead. All electronics sold in the EU must comply with the RoHS.
To date, the RoHS is not required in the United States. There are various advantages and disadvantages to lead free soldering. Both sides of the debate are summarized below. We hope that the information presented will allow for educated decision-making about solder use.
One of the disadvantages of lead free solder is that it is rough and grainy compared to leaded solder. Lead free solder also generally requires tighter temperature regulation on the soldering iron. This might mean investing in a digital adjustable iron, given the narrow working range. Lead free solder requires a lot of added flux, and the flux in lead free solder is much more active than the flux in leaded solder. Lead free flux is more irritating to the eyes and respiratory tract than leaded flux. In addition, leaded flux protects against tin whiskers, which can grow quickly and in large amounts, which can lead to failures in functioning.
On the other hand, lead free solder is more environmentally friendly and can be better for personal safety. Lead poisoning can occur if lead enters the body through inhalation, ingestion, or dermal contact (including direct contact with the mouth, nose, eyes, and skin lesions). Most poisoning cases are from lead buildup over time. When disposed of improperly, lead can also leach into drinking water or watersheds.
If you are interested in learning more about soldering or about lead free soldering techniques, check out Blackfox’s solder training programs. Appropriate for novice and experienced learners, Blackfox is recognized in the electronics manufacturing industry as a premier technical training center with courses designed for hands-on learning. See the course calendar for schedules.
- Greenfield, Steven J. (2015). What are the disadvantages of lead-free vs. lead solder? Quora.
- Rollette, Jason. (2008). How-To: Go Green With Lead Free Solder. Hackday.