Decagon Devices Changes to Lead-Free Soldering to meet RoHS Standards
Decagon Devices is a manufacturer of environmental instrumentation located in Pullman, Washington. They have been in business for over 20 years and currently employ 80 people. Decagon is a market and industry leader in this product niche and manufactures devices for three sectors: food, environmental research and commercial agriculture.
Around 50 percent of Decagon’s business is international. Prior to this project, Decagon was using traditional lead-based soldering for manufacturing circuit boards. Anticipating the expiration of their current exemption of lead-bearing exports to the European Union (EU) countries, Decagon took a proactive course to eliminate leaded products.
Decagon and Impact Washington partnered on Lean and environment efforts to work toward productivity improvements and to eliminate lead in their products. The focus on lead was important to meet the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS) Standards and Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive of the EU and minimizing hazardous waste and other environmental impacts of using lead. The focus on other Lean efforts helped Decagon achieve productivity goals as well.
Impact Washington brought in a certified trainer to help Decagon begin the transition to lead-free solder. Because the Washington State Department of Ecology has a focus on eliminating the use of lead (a toxic element and an important environmental priority), the state agreed to provide supplemental funding to support the transition to lead-free solder training. (These funds were made available from a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant to Ecology for Lean and environment work.)
Impact Washington brought in a specialized trainer to train and certify staff to an international certification standard for lead-free soldering, rework and inspection soldering methods. This certification of in-house staff allows those certified in the processes to train new staff in the methods. This training provided the information and skills for Decagon to begin the transition to meet the WEEE and RoHS standards and continue supplying international markets.
Through past Lean efforts with Impact Washington, significant investment of about $300,000 in new equipment and the lead-free soldering certification training, the following results were realized:
- Decagon planned to eliminate the use of lead consumption by 105 pounds per year by January 1, 2011. This also eliminated the generation of any associated lead-bearing hazardous wastes at the company and end-of-life, lead-bearing products disposed of by customers.
- The change to lead-free soldering has allowed Decagon to maintain and improve markets, particularly international markets.
- They have improved efficiency, quality and reduced environmental impacts and risks.