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Leaded vs. Lead-Free Solder: Which is Better?

Posted on 1st January, 2022 by EPTAC Staff

Leaded solder has been the preferred material for electronic manufacturing for decades due to its low cost, lower melting point, and ease of use. However, there has been heightened concerns about the health and environment effects of lead solder, particularly when used in electronics. In 2006 the European Union banned certain hazardous substances in electronic products, including lead. In the past two decades, the electronic manufacturing world has experienced a dynamic development of alternative soldering material centered on tin metal with manufacturers switching to lead-free solder alternative in order to eradicate lead from electronic production. But what’s the right choice? Which is better for electronic manufacturing: lead or lead-free-solder?

Lead-Free vs. Leaded Solder
Generally, leaded solder is composed of tin and lead. The advantages of using leaded solder include: easier to bring to working temperature, shock resistant, and fewer internal flaws in the structure after cooled. However, lead material is harmful to the body as it’s readily absorbed.

Lead-free solder has a higher melting point at 217°C compared to 183°C for lead alloys. This makes lead-free solder more challenging to work with. The most common lead-free solder mix is tin-copper, which has a melting point of 217°C and mixes 99.3% tin with 0.7% copper. However, the main reason why manufacturers are shifting to the use of lead-free solder is to eradicate lead from electronic production and waste recycling processes.

Leaded solder is more cost-effective than lead-free solders because lead is much cheaper than alternative alloys. Lead is barely one-tenth the price of tin, making leaded solder easily affordable. Furthermore, some manufacturers replace tin with silver as their lead alternative in lead-free solders, making them even more expensive.

Environmental Concerns
Companies who value environmental conservation state that the main reason for embracing lead-free soldering is because of the poisonous nature of lead. Lead can indeed accumulate in the human body even from small prolonged exposures. Furthermore, lead can quickly enter your body through the skin, mouth, or nose. However, the amount of lead on solders is too insignificant to cause severe health problems.

Which Solder is Better?
Leaded solder is easier to use, has a lower melting point, is low cost, and causes fewer quality problems with the joints than lead-free solder, however; the continued efforts to take lead out of all electronic products in the United States means that leaded solder could be obsolete in the next 10 years in numerous commercial applications. Generally, it is more economical and effective to use lead solder because of its unique properties and benefits. There continues to be some industries that use leaded solders because of these properties and benefits. The primary reason you should opt for lead-free solders, if you are able to, is if your government prohibits lead to be used in products, or if you are working to be an Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) company.

All sectors that use solder in large quantities are likely to shift to lead-free soldering soon if they have not done so yet. The paint and gasoline sectors have both gone lead-free. As manufacturers begin to shift away from leaded solder, make sure you are up to date on your training and learn more about lead-free and leaded soldering from industry experts with EPTAC. With high-level soldering courses, you can get hands-on experience from instructors who know the industry inside and out. Further your soldering education with online training courses from EPTAC.

EPTAC is an internationally recognized leader in solder training and IPC certification, providing professionals with the skills to accelerate their careers, and businesses, the talent to succeed. For over 30 years, EPTAC has been helping corporations increase quality standards, improve productivity, and maximize profits. With nineteen (19) locations in North America, EPTAC continues to expand its offerings and exceptional instructional staff to provide easy access to knowledge and skill-based programs when and where industry demands it. Access our scheduled programs through our website or schedule your own corporate on-site training. For more information call 800.643.7822 or contact us.

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