U.S. Congress to Approve Funds for R&D on Lead-Free Electronics and Defense

By Chris Mitchell, vice president, global government relations

In a win for U.S. taxpayers, defense readiness, and the electronics industry supply chain, the U.S. House and Senate are poised this week to approve a defense spending bill that includes $5 million for research and development on the issues surrounding lead-free electronics in mission-critical applications. President Trump is expected to sign the measure within hours after its passage.

IPC and nearly 30 of its members and allies lobbied for these funds, which are “seed money” for a longer-term R&D effort. The need for these funds may be unfamiliar to the general public, but for the aerospace and defense industries, especially, this is a big deal.

Over the last 15 years, the commercial electronics industry has largely phased out its use of lead (Pb) in the manufacture of electronic components and circuit assemblies, due to lead’s harmful effects on human health and the environment. However, the aerospace, defense and high-performance (ADHP) electronics sectors have been reluctant to migrate to lead-free because there is not enough data on the reliability of lead-free components in such applications.

The lead-free gap between commercial and defense electronics will only grow as lead-free becomes more entrenched in cutting-edge commercial technologies, and as governments – especially the European Commission – seek even more stringent rules on the use of lead.

IPC believes a five-year, $40 million investment in a public-private R&D program would yield more than $100 million in U.S. defense savings per year and improve military readiness and overall innovation.

Together with our partners in the Pb-Free Electronics Risk Management (PERM) Council, comprised of experts from government, industry, academia, and other stakeholders, IPC will continue to advocate for a robust, long-term approach to this issue.

Read our April 2019 blog for even more background, and watch this space and IPC.org for updates.

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