Materials & Ageing

1. Ageing 

The re-use of ICs (integrated circuits) and standardised component units will become important for future re-use/ recycling concepts. Traditional repair methods do not work in modern technologies such as SMD (surface-mounted devices), flip chip, wire-on-foil, etc. Therefore, the repair concepts of the future predict dismounting of equipment components, testing of functional units and mounting of " new" customer exchange set-ups with used and tested components. Furthermore, dismounting of boards and re-use of ICs and small PCBs (printed circuit boards) - processor modules, SIMM units - in low-end (toys, for example) and high-end (spare parts) applications, has already become significant in the recycling/re-use industry.


Quality assurance requires measurable information and criteria for lifetime forecasts. Electrical measurement and characterization on representative IC technologies will be carried out in order to develop non-destructive electrical indicators for ageing/ remaining lifetime evaluation. For small PCBs (SPCBs) existing ageing models will be considerably improved and completed. Approximately 70% of the ageing part of the project will be carried out in SWITZERLAND (investigations on IC's) and the remaining 30% (investigations on the board level) in GERMANY. 



2. Materials Recycling 

The subject of the "Materials Recycling" subproject is the development of a tool to support environmental design in the electronic industry, which should cover both the needs in the conceptual phase and the design phase. One additional goal of the Swiss project is to install an "information forum" at the SWISS FEDERAL INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY for the benefit of the industrial partners. 




Electronic devices present a problem a) for the manufacturing industry b) during their lifetime, and c) in the disposal industry due to varying toxicity and steadily increasing numbers. In addition to a continual improvement of the properties of new products, the re-use of components has to be increased in order to avoid damage to nature and superfluous waste in general. During product conception and design, all disposal routes have to be investigated, whether they are politically wanted or not. A thorough reduction of (hazardous) materials and energy use a) in the production process, and b) in the product itself is likely to be beneficial to the environment. Large sections of the electronics industry are now engaged in environmental product improvement, as in many cases, overall cost savings could be achieved with their activities.


As seen from a different perspective, environmental issues can be marketing factors where competitive advantages can secure market shares. With new laws (e.g. the German law for closed loop economics and waste (Kreislaufwirtschafts und Abfallgesetz), which went into effect in October, 1996), legal frameworks for ecological product responsibility and impact reduction by elimination and controlled recycling has been defined. These new legal situations need a new kind of coordination process among the manufacturers of electronic equipment, recycling companies and material/ecological researchers. 



Research Aims 

The impact assessment of current and emerging technologies in the electronics sector is a complex and taxing research field. The tasks are a) improvement of analysis and assessment methods, b) integration of such tools into the design and decision flow, c) application to industrial products for both the standard and expert user, d) definition and coordination of congruent data sets for the assessment of complex electronics. In general the ecological assessment for electronic products has to be comparable and transparent.


Existing methods have to be modified for greater usability with electronics. The assessment tools must be a practically oriented extension of current design methods. These tools then can be applied both for the assessment of existing products and for the prediction of possible recycling impact in the future. Several material databases, which already exist, will be bound into the assessment process. New repair and re-use strategies will be discussed and developed with the industrial partners. A special work package will deal with in-process material re-use. Approximately 80% of this part of the project is to be carried out in GERMANY and the remaining 20% in SWITZERLAND.



Technological Development Envisaged 

Ageing: * Development of electrical indicators for ageing mechanisms on representative IC technologies for estimation of remaining lifetime. * Evaluation of screening procedures without artificial ageing of the components (both chip and board). * Understanding of ageing mechanisms within chip structures. * Achieving technical and QA (quality assurance) related foundations for chip and small PCBs.

Materials Recycling: 1. Material evaluation and environmental assessment methods for electronic equipment and components. 2. Development of repair and re-use strategies for modern equipment. 3. Assessment and improvement of material recycling processes. 4. Design of environmentally-compatible PCBs. (a) Basics of design for environment (b) Development of easy but reliable measurement processes for an ecological assessment of PCBs (c) Collection of material compositions of components and board materials/integration in a database (d) Analysis of material compositions of components and boards in addition to (c) (e) Ecological assessment of the collected data 5. Design of environmentally-compatible electronic devices (f) Extension of the existing assessment tool (b), integration of: - recycling (cost and environmental impact) - environmental impact of production processes for PCBs (energy consumption, toxic materials) - environmental impact of use (g) Introducing the idea of ecological benchmarking into the PCB production process (h) Extension of the database (c) to the whole set (i) Putting together design rules for environmentally- compatible electronic devices.



Market Application and Exploitation 

The results of project Part I (Ageing) will provide important support to companies engaged in handling (disconnection, cleaning, refurbishing, testing) and selling re-used ICs, especially for improving considerably their quality assurance capabilities. We believe there is an important potential market for re-used ICs, even in developed western countries. The fact that such companies like COVER TRONIC (GERMANY) or KRUEGER CO. (USA) exist only on the basis of the handling and selling of dismounted ICs (IC re-use) is a strong argument in favour of that belief. The chances to develop capacious markets for re-used small PCB's are certainly even better in the majority of the so- called "threshold countries" in Eastern Europe, RUSSIA, CHINA, INDIA and a host of others in Asia and Latin America. Meeting environmental goals, both for products and their production processes, is becoming increasingly more important for the electronic industry.


Multinational companies especially are now engaged in environmental product improvement. Their experience shows that in many cases overall cost savings could be achieved with these activities and, seen from a different perspective, environmental issues can be marketing factors where competitive advantages can secure market shares. With the German law for closed loop economics and waste (Kreislaufwirtschafts und Abfallgesetz) which came into effect in October 1996, a legal framework for ecological product responsibility and for impact reduction by elimination and controlled recycling has been defined. The experiences of multinational companies and the coming into effect of this law will lead to a stronger engagement in environmental product and process improvements by the electronics industry. The results of the subprojects on materials recycling will be exploited to a varying extent by all industrial participants somewhere at the end of 1998. A project prolongation being probable, the exploitation shall develop continuously over many years.





1.8.1995 – 1.1.2001



Swiss Federal Laboratories For Materials Testing And Research (Empa) (CH)



Fraunhofer-Institut F. Zuverlaessigkeit Und Mikrointegration (DE), Ethz - Electrical Engineering - Reliability Laboratory Eidgenoessische Technische Hochschule Zuerich (CH), Staefa Control (CH), Siemens Building Technologies AG (CH), Elcoteq AG (CH), Dec Digital Equipment Corporation AG (CH), Schindler Electronics Ltd. (CH), Alcatel Str AG (CH), Tea Technologie & Engineering & Application AG (CH), Immark AG (CH), Mettler Toledo AG (CH), Exact Working Group (Associated To Cerberus AG) (CH).