TECHNOLOGY BRIEF

European Union Directive 2002/95/EC (RoHS) Requirements and Update

European Union Directive (2002/95/EC), commonly known as RoHS, became effective July 1, 2006. This article provides background information related to RoHS, the requirements, and Quabbin Wire's on-going program for compliance.

Background

RoHS (from Restriction of Hazardous Substances) is a European Directive that mandates legislation restricting the chemical content levels of certain hazardous compounds that may occur in electrical or electronic equipment. It was adopted by the European Parliament and Council on January 27, 2003 and became effective July 1, 2006. This timing provides a transition period for inventories and for the development of alternative materials and equipment affected by the Directive. Since July 1, 2006 all new electrical or electronic apparatus sold into the European Community (EC) must be in compliance. It does not apply to spare parts for, reuse of, or repair of equipment in use prior to July 2006.

The requirement's purpose is the protection of health by promoting environmentally sound recovery and disposal of waste electrical and electronic equipment within the EC. Specifically, it identifies and reduces the content of certain metals and hazardous compounds based on scientific evidence and studies. The Directive also minimizes potential differences between the laws of Member States, creating a uniform economic playing field and a better functioning internal EC market.

Exemptions and Restrictions

The Directive acknowledges that the identified compounds will be difficult to eliminate from certain applications and substitution materials must be developed. It also recognizes that there will be an economic impact and further scientific studies may identify additional risks. Therefore, certain exemptions are currently identified by application, quantity, and are listed in an annex. These are to be reviewed every four years and additional hazardous materials may also be added.

Some of the current exemptions include mercury in various fluorescent and certain other lamps, lead in glass or alloys of steel, lead in solders in network infrastructure equipment, and chromium (for anti-corrosion of steel) in cooling systems of absorption refrigerators. This partial listing gives some idea of the evaluation process that preceded this Directive.

The current hazardous compounds and their limits by weight are shown in the table below.

Hazardous Material

Permitted Level

Lead

0.1%

Mercury

0.1%

Cadmium

0.01%

Hexavlent Chromium

0.1%

Polybrominated Biphenyls (PBBs)

0.1%

Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs)

0.1%

RoHS' Impact

Since RoHS is an EC requirement, it has no direct impact on any electrical or electronic gear installed in North America, however it has a huge indirect effect. Today most North American manufacturers of electronic gear and electronic components sell to a global customer-base. Due to inventory, design, and economy-of-scale considerations, most large OEMs are currently converting their gear to be RoHS compliant. They are also requiring that system components comply, including electronic cable.

Much of Quabbin Wire & Cable's product sales are to North American Distributors who resell to contractors or local installations that do not require compliance. However, a large portion of Quabbin's product goes to value-added assemblers or to OEMs, providing interconnection within the OEM's apparatus. If these systems are sold into the EC, these cables must comply with the Directive.

Quabbin does not want separate, parallel product lines for each market. Therefore, Quabbin Wire & Cable has been evaluating RoHS' requirements and the impact on its product line for over three years.

Developing cost effective, RoHS compliant electronic cable has not been easy. The listed hazardous materials are used in small quantities in many wire and cable components and compounds. These hazardous materials are not present by accident. Each is an important ingredient providing or accenting a specific processing or performance property. Plasticizers, flame-retardants, antioxidants, color additives, fillers, and many other materials proved to be sources of contamination. Alternatives had to be found and developed without compromising performance.

Developing these alternative materials was difficult but just one step toward a RoHS compliant product line. A total plan was developed that combines a time-table or schedule, developing alternative components, independent lab testing, sample production, sample evaluation, UL and CSA re-qualification, sales/marketing education, and inventory phase-in.

The process was expensive and complex, but Quabbin had 90% of the existing product line compliant by July 2005, one year ahead of the deadline. Moreover, Quabbin now has many materials developed that are used today for custom designed cables for OEM requirements. And the process continues as Quabbin converts even more products to be RoHS compliant. As an example, Quabbin's new reduced diameter 600V-Trol product line is fully compliant.

As noted above, RoHS compliance has been determined by testing our materials and compounds using independent laboratories we believe are reliable. Test reports are available, however, because Quabbin did not perform these measurements, all compliance information is provided without expressed or implied warranty.

Again, Quabbin Wire & Cable is proving to be an industry leader, producing electronic cables that exceed worldwide standards. For more information on Quabbin's RoHS compliant products contact our Sales Department.