UL’s Reclassification of FR-4 Ballot Results

The reclassification of FR-4 has been a work-in-progress for decades. IPC has stimulated much dialogue and debate on this subject at IPC/UL sponsored industry advisory meetings over the past few years. But in March of this year, a strategic inflection point occurred with the ballot on UL 746E, Polymeric Materials – Industrial Laminates, Filament Wound Tubing, Vulcanized Fibre, and Materials Used In Printed-Wiring Boards.

The UL proposal to reclassify FR-4 from one grouping of materials to six groupings, based on chemistry and performance of laminates, did not pass, failing by a single vote. More details are available in this letter from UL from October 2011 to members of UL’s Standards Technical Panel for Printed Wiring Boards, STP 796.

With no material grouping, each and every individual material is now subject to testing.  IPC had lobbied for the passage of the ballot to avoid this consequence. According to UL, moving forward, nontraditional FR-4 materials are required to be recognized as non-ANSI materials based upon requirements in UL 746E. In addition, the printed board metal-clad industrial laminate MCIL/CCIL and solder resist abbreviated test programs which do not apply to non-ANSI materials, will no longer apply to nontraditional FR-4 materials for use in UL’s PCB recognition program.

The result of this ballot will significantly impact some of the new laminates that address higher temperature considerations for lead-free technology as well as some of the new laminates that use non-halogen based flame retardants. With no CCIL, new materials will face an additional hurdle in that it will be more difficult to displace established materials since there is a built-in barrier of additional testing required.

IPC is continuing to work with our members and other industry associations to raise awareness of critical issues and concerns.  We understand from UL that June 30, 2014 will be the effective date for non-ANSI materials.  We will ensure that information about it is disseminated throughout the industry and provide you with updates. If you would like more information, contact IPC’s liaison to UL’s Standards Technical Panel, Tom Newton, IPC director of standards & technology.

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