Transitioning to lead-free electronics in the Aerospace and Defense (A&D) industry demands careful analysis and research into the performance, costs and availability of these materials. The Aerospace Industries Association sponsored a Joint Government and Industry Executive Forum for Lead-Free Electronics to examine the issues underlying implementation of these materials. The participants concluded a clear roadmap with discrete milestones, funding to accomplish these efforts and dedicated government leadership are key to the A&D industry’s successful transition.
Why is this issue so important? The A&D industry designs and manufactures products that carry more than three billion passengers worldwide on any given day as well as systems which are vital to our national security. Our ability to maintain public safety and assure our warfighters’ mission success cannot be compromised or risked.
In response to the 2003 European Union Directive on the Restriction of Hazardous Substances, the commercial electronics industry transitioned to lead-free (Pb-free) electronics. Although the A&D industry leverages consumer and commercial technologies to provide affordable design solutions, many of the foundational commercial material standards are inadequate when applied to A&D products. Therefore a growing technology gap between the industries has appeared. Investment is needed to bridge this gap, so that A&D systems can preserve access to affordable commercial technology, while continuing to provide the requisite performance and reliability. Based on experience, the A&D industry believes a nationally coordinated approach is the most efficient way to bridge this gap.