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Elsevier Editorial System(tm) for Journal of Environmental Management

Manuscript Draft
Manuscript Number: JEMA-D-13-00448R4
Title: Printed circuit boards: a review on the perspective of sustainability
Article Type: Review Article
Keywords: Environmental problem, waste electrical and electronic equipment, printed circuit boards,
solder replacement.
Corresponding Author: Mr. Andr Canal Marques, M.D.
Corresponding Author's Institution: UNISINOS
First Author: Andr Canal Marques, M.D.
Order of Authors: Andr Canal Marques, M.D.; Jos-Mara Cabrera, Dr.; Clia Malfatti , Dra.

Cover Letter

Editor
Journal of Environmental Management

Brazil, March 23st, 2013.


Dear editor,

I kindly ask you to consider our paper entitled Printed circuit boards: a review on the
perspective of sustainability, by Andr Canal Marques; Jos-Mara Cabrera; Clia Malfatti.
Modern life increasingly requires more new equipments and more technology. Printed
circuit boards (PCBs), basis of the electronics industry, are technological waste of difficult
disposal whose recycling is complex and expensive due to the diversity of materials and
components and their difficult separation. The task of designing a sustainable product is
nowadays indispensable for the society.
Currently, PCBs have a fixing problem, which is migrating from traditional Pb-Sn
alloys to Lead-Free alloys. This replacement is an attempt to minimize the problem of
Pb toxicity but it does not change the problem of separation of the components for later reuse
and/or recycling. Several studies are being carried out aiming the reduction or complete
removal of solder in the process of making a printed circuit board.
This paper presents a literature review on printed circuit boards, showing their
structure and materials, the environmental problem related to the board, the different
alternatives for recycling and some solutions that are being studied to reduce and/or replace
the solder, in order to minimize the impact of solder in the PCB.
We think that this review paper about the environmental problem related to the PCB
and different alternatives for minimize the impact of solder in the board is very important to
publish, especially as some review papers for other researchers can improve in this subject.
Programa de Ps-Graduao em Engenharia de Minas, Metalrgica e de Materiais UFRGS - Av. Bento Gonalves 9500 Setor 4 - Prdio 74 - Sala 211 - CEP 91501-970 Porto Alegre RS, - Fone 51 3308-9475 Fax 51 3308-9469
http://www.ufrgs.br/ ppgem

We would be very pleased if you could accept this paper for revision and further
publication in your journal. The paper has been checked by a native tongue speaker with
expertise in the field.
And we are available as a reviewer for at least three other papers for Journal of
Environmental Management during the current year.
We sincerely thank you in advance.
MSc. Andr Canal Marques
Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul,
Metallurgy Department (DEMET)/ PPGE3M,
Campus do Vale, Setor IV Prdio 75, sala 232
Av. Bento Gonalves, 9500, CEP: 91501-970-Porto Alegre-RS-Brasil
Tel: 55 51 3308 9405
E-mail: andrecm@unisinos.br

Programa de Ps-Graduao em Engenharia de Minas, Metalrgica e de Materiais UFRGS - Av. Bento Gonalves 9500 Setor 4 - Prdio 74 - Sala 211 - CEP 91501-970 Porto Alegre RS, - Fone 51 3308-9475 Fax 51 3308-9469
http://www.ufrgs.br/ ppgem

*Detailed Response to Reviewers

Detailed Response to Editor


Reviewers' comments:
Editor comments
Please note that journal names should be abbreviated according to the ISI format.
Volume numbers should be removed as appropriate. There are some
inconsistencies and inaccuracies in punctuation and abbreviations for journal
names in the references section. The authors should very carefully check the
accuracy of the references. For example, Resources, Conservation and Recycling
was not abbreviated.
The references were corrected using examples from other articles of this journal. If there
are other errors please indicate.

Graphical Abstracts (for review)

*Highlights (for review)


Click here to view linked References

Highlights:

This paper presents a literature review on printed circuit boards.

Currently, PCBs are migrating from traditional Pb-Sn alloys to Lead-Free alloys.

The different alternatives for recycling PCBs are shown in the paper.

Some solutions to reduce and/or replace the solder are shown in the paper.

The alternatives of eliminating the solder present initial solutions.

The ways that electronic components are fixed still lack adequate solutions.

*Manuscript
Click here to view linked References

Printed circuit boards: a review on the perspective of sustainability


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Andr Canal Marques a*, Jos-Mara Cabrera b,c, Clia de Fraga Malfatti d
a Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Department of Metallurgy (DEMET)/
PPGE3M, Brazil and Design School UNISINOS, Brazil
b Universitat Politcnica de Catalunya, ETSEIB Department of Materials
Science and Metallurgical Engineering, Barcelona, Spain
c Fundaci CTM Centre Tecnolgic, Materials froming Area, Manresa, Spain
d Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Department of Metallurgy (DEMET)/
PPGE3M, Brazil

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +55 51 84287040; +55 51 35911101.


E-mail address: andrecm@unisinos.br (Andr C. Marques).

ABSTRACT
Modern life increasingly requires newer equipments and more technology. In
addition, the fact that society is highly consumerist makes the amount of discarded
equipment as well as the amount of waste from the manufacture of new products
increase at an alarming rate. Printed circuit boards, which form the basis of the
electronics industry, are technological waste of difficult disposal whose recycling
is complex and expensive due to the diversity of materials and components and
their difficult separation.
Currently, printed circuit boards have a fixing problem, which is migrating from
traditional Pb-Sn alloys to lead-free alloys without definite choice. This replacement is
an attempt to minimize the problem of Pb toxicity, but it does not change the problem
of separation of the components for later reuse and/or recycling and leads to other
problems, such as temperature rise, delamination, flaws, risks of mechanical shocks and
the formation of whiskers. This article presents a literature review on printed circuit
boards, showing their structure and materials, the environmental problem related to the
board, some the different alternatives for recycling, and some solutions that are being
studied to reduce and/or replace the solder, in order to minimize the impact of solder on
the printed circuit boards.
Keywords: Environmental problem, waste electrical and electronic equipment, printed
circuit boards, solder replacement.

1. Introduction
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This paper is a historical review of several publications related with the


environmental problem derived from the manufacture of printed circuit board (PCB).
The article focuses on both the PCB itself, the components attached and the method
used for link them and seeks to be an initial approach about the subject and start early
research on the sustainability study on printed circuit boards focusing in type of fixation
the union type of electronic components.
With increasing innovations, there has been an increase in the production of
goods that ends up generating waste and greatly increasing the volume of the waste in
dumps and landfills. The technological waste is difficult to discard, as its recycling is
complex and expensive. Thus, considering alternatives for the disposal of these
materials in a way that there is no harm to the environment is attracting the attention of
many researchers from different fields.
Besides this, there is also a social pressure for environmentally friendly products
and systems, which, in turn, has driven new environmental legislation, particularly in
Europe.

New

regulations

make

producers

responsible

for

the

costs

of collection, treatment, and recovery of their products. These rules insist that the
products should be designed to reduce their environmental impact, particularly with an
increase in the rates of recycling. Therefore, nowadays, the task of designing a
sustainable product is indispensable for the society.
Among electronic products, one of the main components to which an effective
solution to reuse and recycle has not yet been found is the printed circuit
board (PCB). One of the main difficulties pointed out by several researchers is the
separation of components and materials, due to their diversity, in order to perform the
necessary functions in the appliances. To separate the electronic components and reuse
the materials, it is necessary to remove them from the solder, which is a complex
process, and it often makes the components unusable because of the temperature
applied.
The paper is well structured in three main sections. The first one describes the
materials forming part of the structure of the PCB and its components, as well as four
known linking methods for attaching various components to the PCB highlighting its
advantages and disadvantages. The second section presents the environmental problem
that results from the production of PCB because of the diversity of materials used, the
difficulty of making a good life cycle analysis and discusses some recycling methods

presented by other authors. Finally in the third section summarizes the studies carried
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out by two companies and others patents, as an alternative for PCB manufacturing.
The purpose of this paper is t give an overview of the literature on PCBs
focusing in sustainability applied to type of fixation of electronic components. In this
paper, we present a holistic view of PCB by covering a wide range of published work.
Table 1 shows the cited references organized into appropriate categories.
As can be seen in Table 1, there is an extensive literature about PCB recycling,
but no extensive studies about new kinds of assembly and joining of the components,
given that the majority of studies indicate the environmental problem of lead-tin solder
and lead-free alternatives.
Table 1

2. Printed circuit boards


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2.1. Structure and materials


The

PCBs

are

found

in

practically

all

Electrical

and

Electronic

Equipment (EEE), being the base of the electronics industry. As reported by


Nakahara (2001), printed circuit boards can be classified in many different ways
according to their various attributes; for instance, single-sided boards; double-sided
boards; multi-layer boards; and rigid and flexible boards. The standard IPC-2222 (Ipc,
1998) provides design information for different types of boards. Figure 1 shows an
example of mounting with components on both sides, with SMT (Surface Mounting
Technology) components and through-hole devices.

Fig. 1.

The electronic components form the structure of a circuit; that is, they are the
components which are a part of any electrical or electronic circuit (from the simplest to
the most complex) that is interconnected. The electronic components present
in a board depend on its application, which may include semiconductors (integrated
circuits or chips), transistors, diodes, capacitors, resistors, connectors, and so
on (Bernardes et al., 1997). Various settings are available for integrated circuits;
changing the encapsulation mode results in a change in their assembly.
Different components have a complex composition of materials (Bernardes et
al., 1997; Wilkinson, 2001; Liu et al., 2009), and, therefore, also a rather complex
recycling of PCB. In general, PCBs mounted with components consist of approximately
40%wt% of metals, 30% of plastics, and 30% ceramic (He et al., 2006). For waste PCB
without the mounting of electronic components, material composition comprises about
28wt% of metal (mainly copper) and 72wt% of non-metallic materials (Li et al., 2004).

According to the standard IPC-A-600G (IPC, 2004), there is an acceptable


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degree of imperfection of specific characteristics of printed circuit boards, which can be


determined by the intended final use. For this reason, three general classes were
established based on the functional reliability and performance. Class 1 - general
electronic products such as computers and peripherals; Class 2 - electronic products
dedicated to service, such as communication equipment; and Class 3 - high reliability
electronic products, including equipment and products in which continued performance
or performance on demand is critical.

2.2. Methods of joining components in PCBs


According to Coombs (2007), the electronic components are connected to
printed circuit boards in four ways. Figure 2 shows two ways more populars.
Solder by reflux through surface-mount technology (SMT);
Wave-type solder (to weld components to the extremities, usually PTH (Pin-Through
Hole) components);
Interconnection pressure, a soldering method with less solder that relies on
mechanical strength to force the interconnectedness of the elements together to make
contact;
Press-fit, another mechanical method with less solder.

Fig. 2.

Solders alloys are, by far, the most common interconnection materials and
solders that are used in mounting holes and are, in mass and volume, used more than
solder paste in solder reflow (Barnes, 2010).

2.2.1. Pb-based solders


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According to Nogueira et al. (2007), welding is a process through which


chemically and mechanically two metals are joined at a low melting point. Welding
occurs at a temperature of 40 C above the melting point of the solder alloy, and is valid
for any

type

of

solder,

including electronic

welding. The oldest

and most

common solder is the eutectic 63Sn37Pb solder, being used since the birth of the
electronics industry. It has a relatively low melting point (183 C), good wettability,
good mechanical and electrical properties (high conductivity); the cost of the alloy is
low; and it can be used in the hierarchy solder (Andrae, 2010).

2.2.2. Lead-free solder


As stated by Coombs (2007), legislation promotes new technologies such as
lead-free welding, a new technology, free of lead, which is used because of the need to
ban lead, as it causes damage to both humans and the environment. The eventual
elimination of lead-based solder has major implications for the processing, assembly,
reliability, and electronic packaging cost aspects due to the solder melting
temperature, processing temperature, wettability, mechanical and thermo-mechanical
fatigue, and so on (Guo, 2007). Table 2 shows a few lead-free alloys that are studied
these days.
Table 2

The main impact of the use of lead-free solder, according to Nogueira et al.
(2007), is that the melting temperatures of the new substitute alloys are much higher
than those of the current tinlead (SnPb). For instance, a typical (and widely used) leadfree alloy, such as 96.5Sn/3.5Ag, melts at 221C. Since the melting temperatures of the
new substitute alloys are higher, and they offer a lower wetting of metal surfaces, they

become, therefore, more expensive. According to Guo (2007), at the high temperatures
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that are needed to reflow lead-free alloys (Pb-free), the moisture absorbed in the
encapsulation can result in delamination and flaws. It can also induce risks of
mechanical shocks and the formation of whiskers (Andrae, 2010).

2.2.3 Electrically conductive adhesive (ECA)


These adhesives (ECAs) consist of a polymeric binder matrix (about 50% by
volume or 20% by weight), which is usually a bisphenol-A epoxy resin, and metal
fillers in which the metal is usually Ag, Au, Cu, or Ni. It is also possible to find metal
spheres coated in polymer in the polymeric matrix (Andrae, 2010). Li et al. (2006),
which suggests that the adhesive ECA is generally more environment-friendly than
Pb solders, flux cleaning is eliminated, and less overall processing steps are required. In
addition, lower curing temperatures are planned to offer lower power consumption.
However, ECAs are only used in certain applications as replacements for conventional
solders due to the properties of different materials and reliability problems, such as low
conductivity, unstable contact resistance, low resistance to union, and the migration
of Ag (Andrae, 2010).

2.2.4. Press-fit
After Coombs (2007), the press-fit is a rabbet that is based on the mechanical
deformation of the connecting cable and PTH holes in order to make electrical contact.
It has been used since many years and is a proven and reliable interconnection. Earlier,
they were used only for printed circuit boards with slots in which other cards are
plugged (backplanes). More recently, press-fit connectors have gained popularity and
are commonly incorporated into complex motherboards and auxiliary boards.
Since it is an element that requires very little energy, press-fit minimizes
material (without solder), and does not require any chemical component or reaction for
its application, thus being better for the environment. The press-fit process has a very
large connector that is forcefully placed in the bathed holes in PCBs. Since
the connecting pin is forced to enter the board, there is a slight deformation of the pressfit pin and the edge of the hole. The result is a stable electrical and mechanical contact.

3. Printed circuit boards x environmental problem


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3.1. Environmental problem


As several researchers report (Cui 2003, Murugan, 2008; Guo et al., 2009), the
production of EEE is one of the fastest growing sectors of the manufacturing industry in
the world, expecting an increase of 35% per year. In parallel, there is a falling life
expectancy for electronics, low recycling rates, large variability among Waste Electrical
and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) due to the continuous changes in product design,
and

their

increased

legal

and

illegal

global

trade

(Puckett et al, 2002;

Brigden et al, 2005; Deutsche Umwelthilfe, 2007; Wong et al, 2007; Cobbing, 2008;
Williams at al., 2008; Seplveda et al., 2010).
For Murugan (2008) and Chancerel and Rotter (2009), the rate of generation
of WEEE is high worldwide and continues to increase, being one of the fastest and most
growing waste flows. In 2002, it was estimated that electronics occupied approximately
4% of municipal waste (Emery, 2002) and, in 2005, according to Widmer et al (2005),
these items constituted 8% of municipal solid waste. The proportion of waste printed
circuit boards (WEEE) in electronic waste is about 3% (Basdere and Seliger, 2003;
Bernardes et al., 1997).
Several authors (Richter et al, 1997; Menad et al, 1998; Riess et al, 2000;
Vehlow et al. 2000; Rotter, 2002; Ebert and Bahadir, 2003; Cui and Forssberg, 2003;
Jang and Townsend, 2003; AEA technology, 2004; Wang et al., 2005; Eps
Canada, 2006; Hagelken, 2006; Huang et al., 2007; Owens et al., 2007; Sepulveda,
2010; Schlummer, 2007; Janz et al, 2008; Leung et al., 2008; Vasile et al., 2008; Liu et
al., 2009; Kunnari et al.,2009; Taurino et, al., 2010; Zhou and Qiu, 2010; Tsydenova
and Bengtsson, 2011; Queiruga et al., 2012) comment that WEEE plastics contain
Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs), including polybrominated biphenyls (PBB)
and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), and the combustion of these produces the
formation of highly toxic gases.
According to Guo et al. (2009), in general, the components of PCB waste can be
divided into metal fractions (MFs) and non-metallic fractions (NMFS). The typical
composition of NMFS consists of thermosetting resins (epoxy), fiberglass, plastic,
reinforcement materials, additives, and other BFRs and occupies about 70 wt% of PCB
waste. Thermoset resins cannot be refunded or reshaped because of their net structure;
thus, they are regarded as non-recyclable (Guo et al., 2009).

The metallic fraction consists of copper ~ 16%, tin-lead ~ 4%, iron and ferrite ~
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3%, nickel ~2% , silver ~ 0.05%, gold ~ 0.03%, palladium ~ 0.01%, and so on (Iji,
1997; Richter et al, 1997; Ernst et al, 2000; Vehlow et al, 2000; Veit et al., 2002;
Goosey and Kellner (2003), and even rare elements such as Ta are either covered or
mixed with various types of plastics and ceramics (Hoffmann, 1992). It is clear that
electronic waste varies considerably with age, origin, and manufacturer; so, there is no
composition of scrap, even among the typical values presented as a typical average.

3.2. Legislation
Major

electronics

manufacturers are

eliminating

harmful

elements of

their products to meet a standard of the European Union that came into force on 2006
(Nogueira et al., 2007 and Tseng et al. (2013). The policy restriction on the use of toxic
substances in electronics (RoHS) prohibits the commercialization of electronic
products in Europe that contain heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, mercury, and
chromium,

and of polybrominated biphenyls

flame

retardants

(PBBs) and

polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs).


The Directive 2002/96/EC of the European Commission, in relation to WEEE
(Huisman et al, 2008 and Ravi, 2012), defines a framework of requirements for the
treatment and recycling of EEE. According to the European Communitys Directive on
the limitation of the use of certain materials that are harmful to the environment,
member states were required from 1 July 2006 to ensure that, among other materials,
Pb was not present in solder materials which are used in electrical and electronic
equipment to be sold in the market (European Commission, 2003).
According to Andrae (2010), the ban of Pb by the RoHS was proposed by
legislators, who estimate the environmental risk of Pb in electronics waste as being
high for both humans and the ecosystem. One reason for the legislators concern was
that, in fact, electronics recycling is not happening quickly and sufficiently. However,
several authors have individually and as a group requested exemptions because of the
costs and concerns related to the reliability of Pb-free alternatives. So, for Andrae
(2010), this is a controversial issue, where the electronics industry deals with the shift to
the production of lead-free solder.
Some authors (Murugan, 2008; Chancerel and Rotter, 2009; Cerdan et. al., 2009;
Georgiadis e Besiou, 2008; Costa et al., 2010) have pointed out that it is necessary to
identify schemes that manage and dispose of these wastes in an environmentally safe

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way. Jie et al. (2008) and Ravi (2012) argue that a management system which is
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environmentally correct and economically viable for the end of life (EOL) of the
equipment of EEE is necessary, possessing great significance for sustainable
development. Cost-effective and environmentally effective methods are needed to
manage such wastes (Veit et al., 2002; Zong et al., 2002; Goosey and Kellner, 2003;
Kang and Schoenung, 2005; Sinha-Khetriwala et al., 2005; Eswaraiah et al., 2008).

3.3. LCA (Life-Cycle Analysis) of PCBs


It is usually difficult and often confusing to quantify the environmental
consequences that are associated with materials, processes, and products. Difficulties
are involved in, for example, determining the environmental effects associated with the
objects of comparison, the almost impossible task of comparing different environmental
effects, and the amount of data needed to compare related products. Often, the necessary
data are also scarce or inaccessible; hence, it is difficult to delimit the analysis of the
environmental burden (Andrae, 2010).
According to Andrae (2010), Cerdan et al., 2009, and Ravi (2012), a number of
methods and tools are related to environmental assessment, such as life cycle
assessment (LCA), consequential life cycle analysis (CLCA), and ecological footprint,
all of which are intended to indicate which alternative is better than others.
Schematically, the life cycle consists of three phases: the production, followed by the
use phase, and, finally, the end of life.
The vast and extremely multifaceted electronics industry is characterized by its
long supply chains. Therefore, many indirect environmental impacts are associated with
its products. Microelectronic products used in everyday life seem small and harmless,
but a lot of material and energy are necessary in the production of electronic
components, especially for the integrated circuit (IC) (Andrae, 2010).
Griese et al. (2000) argue that studies have confirmed that Pb is a material with
the greatest polluting potential, and it had to be banned to prevent its uncontrolled
emissions. However, a full LCA would be necessary to discover the environmental
behavior of the new materials that would replace it.
Andrae (2010) says that, depending on the substitute solders, the demand for
bismuth, copper, zinc, silver, and antimony will increase. This author forecasts that
the demand for Pb will decline and that for Sn will increase. In many tests, comparing
the baseline scenario and the scenario without Pb, for several lead-free solders, there is a

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higher score in this type of solder in the evaluation of the life cycle than in conventional
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ones. That is partly because of the high environmental impact due to the depletion of Sn
compared with the depletion of Pb, because all lead-free solders have higher levels
of Sn concentration than the Pb-based ones.
Ekvall and Andrae (2006) conducted a study comparing a typical solder SnPb
alloy (composition 62wt% Sn, 36wt% Pb, and 2wt% Ag) with a Pb-free alloy (95wt%
Sn, 3.8wt% Ag, and 0.7 wt% Cu). The focus of this research was the emission of Pb and
the equivalent emissions of CO2. The results indicated that the life-cycle analysis of Pbfree solder contributed 10% more for the global warming potential than conventional
SnPb soldering alloys. Figure 3a depicts the emission of CO2 to the solders, and 3b
shows the scores of the resulting CO2 emissions.

Fig. 3.

The hypothesis of this research was that there would be a negative overall
environmental impact as a result of the introduction of 95.5Sn3.8Ag0.7Cu solder to
replace the 63Sn37Pb solder. The results indicated that the overall score of LIME (Life
Cycle Impact Assessment Method based on Endpoint Modeling) in JPY (Japanese
yen) would increase considerably, at almost 90% per functional unit (Figure 4a). The
big difference between 63Sn37Pb and 95.5Sn3.8Ag-0.7Cu is the resource
consumption of Sn and Ag (as shown in Figure 4b).

Fig. 4.

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Andrae (2010) argues that the analysis of the environmental impacts of Pb-free
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solders compared with those of the SnPb solders would help in avoiding worse
alternatives. It is an open question, because the lead-free solders have been
widely presented with no cost-benefit analysis, being published as a supplement to
the LCA. The proper analyses of the eco-efficiency of materials have to wait until the
life-cycle costs are estimated. It is worth mentioning that some authors argue that Ag
is the greatest danger to lead-free solders, whereas others have found little evidence of
Ag leaching.
There

is

no

simple

replacement

for

the

traditional existing

solder. Turbini et al. (2003) recommend that the recycling of electronics based on
conventional Pb soldering alloys should be increased instead of introducing the Pbfree solder. The main reason is to recycle Cu in order to reduce environmental problems
that are involved in the primary production of copper and the mining of copper ore.
According to Andrae (2010), the major conclusions about the Pb-free solders
compared with the conventional 63Sn-37Pb are as follows: The perception
of risks related to the end-of-life stage is much higher for 63Sn37Pb, in relation to
methods of environmental assessment, such as EDIP, LIME, EPS, and Eco-indicator
99, to which the resource consumption of Sn and Ag have relatively high weighting
rates; the Pb-free Ag solders, as a rule, have a higher score than the 63Sn37Pb; for
global warming, the use of electricity in the reflux oven is the most important flow,
being then affected by the use of lead-free solders.
The reliability of the Pb-free solder is still in the dark, because there are many
effects (miscibility, whiskers of Sn, etc.) whose causes are not well understood or
predictable. Thus, there are many possible alloys that involve different degrees
of reliability (Huang et al., 2008). In short, it is an open question as to which field
measurements and risk assessments would imply with regard to the environmental costs
that are caused by the change to Pb-free electronic. According to Andrae (2010), the
LCA tool by itself may not be able to quantify the risks and environmental costs
from a global perspective.

3.4. Recycling methods


As reported by Williams and Shu (2001), several studies have been carried out
on methods that are used to recycle printed circuit boards. In the vast majority, only a
portion is recycled, mainly in order to recover valuable metals. Today, in relation to the

13

materials of PCBs, it is possible to recover some materials (Veit et al., 2005 and Xie et.
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al., 2009), including copper, because there is a fair amount of it, and it has considerable
economic value, which is very little considering the amount and variety of existing
materials.
The recycling of PCBs has been difficult due to their multi-component and
multi-layer

construction,

which

also

represent

challenges

for

mechanical

separation (Murugan, 2008) as well as, according to Guo et al. (2009), the special
physical and chemical characteristics of PCBs. In addition, Cui and Forssberg (2003)
affirms that the WEEE is diverse and complex in terms of materials and composition
components, as well as in the processes of manufacture equipment. Therefore,
several operations leading to the separation of different components of the PCB are
being investigated (Iji, 1997; Zhang and Forssberg, 1997 and 1999; Koyanaka, 1997;
Menad et al, 1998; Lee et al. 2000 and 2004; Cui and Forssberg, 2003; Kinoshita et al.,
2003; He et al., 2006; Xie et. al. (2009).
After disassembly of PCBs, a wide range of methods that are used during
the updating and improvement of the recycling chain can be divided into mechanical
methods (or so-called physical) and metallurgical methods (or so called chemical),
depending on the nature of the processes employed. Mechanical recycling of electronic
waste has been extensively reviewed and investigated by several researchers (Iji and
Yokoyoma, 1997; Zhang and Forssberg, 1997 and 1999; Menad et. al, 1998; Cui and
Forssberg, 2003; Veit et al., 2006; Kang and Schoenung, 2006; Mohabuth et al., 2007;
Li et al., 2007; Cui and Zhang, 2008; Li et al., 2008; Jie et al., 2008; Guo et al., 2009). It
is worth mentioning that a lot of energy is involved in the mechanical process.
Several mechanical methods are used, including the separation by shape
(Gngr, 1998), by using templates (jigging) (Schmelzer et al., 1996), magnetic
separation, separation based on electrical conductivity (Eddy currents), separation based
on density (Cui and Forssberg, 2003 and Eswaraiah et al., 2008), and electrostatic
separation by the corona method, which have been well reviewed by many authors
(Ralston, 1961; Kiewiet et al., 1978; Taylor, 1988; Vlad et al., 1998; Descalescu et al.,
1999; Rafiroiu et al., 1999; Cui and Forssberg, 2003; Li et al., 2004, 2007 and 2008;
Bendaoudl et al, 2008; Huang et al., 2008; Wu at al., 2008 and 2009; Jiang et al., 2008;
Liu et al., 2009).
As stated by Chiang et al. (2007) and Jie et al. (2008), the metallurgical (or
thermal)

processing includes

pyrolysis,

gasification,

and

depolymerization

14

using supercritical fluids and hydrogenolic degradation. In metallurgical processes,


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metals are melted (pyrometallurgical processes) or dissolved (hydrometallurgical


processes)

and

are

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systematic,

because

they

make

use

of

their

chemical/metallurgical properties. The pyrometallurgical process of transformation,


particularly casting, has become a traditional method for recovering metals from
electronic waste in the last two decades (Cui and Zhang, 2008).
As pointed out by Cui and Forssberg (2003), the recycling of WEEE is just the
beginning. Innovation and planning of the disassembly process are areas of research that
are currently active. Henstock (1988) highlights that when the recyclability becomes a
deciding factor in design and manufacturing, it will produce appropriate
solutions which are still not achievable these days, because only technical and economic
factors are considered.

4. Alternatives to the traditional process


The goal is to show some of the alternatives that can be placed as catalysts of
future new research.

4.1. Alternative 1
In Germany, a joint effort between the Technische Universitt Dresden and the
company Wrth Elektronik GmbH has been studying techniques to produce printed
circuit boards that can have their materials separated and recycled after the end of their
life cycle (Veit et al., 2005). A few years ago, the company started developing a
PCB with Micro Via technology that used a flexible material called TWINflex . The
sheet of the flexible circuit is mounted on a smooth plastic or metal substrate (Wrth
Elektronik GmbH & Co., 2012). Microvias are not blind holes, and no capillary
forces are emerging. The solder deposit fills the minimum empty space.
The TWINflex separates the mechanical and electrical functions of the
standard circuit board. Expensive materials (such as noble metal) can be efficiently
recovered. Other materials can be easily disassembled and reused without any
preparation. There is a cost reduction at the end of life through the easy separation of
the base material and circuit (Wrth Elektronik GmbH & Co., 2012). This concept is
shown in Figure 5.

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Fig. 5.

4.2. Alternative 2
In 2007, the Verdant Electronics Company (Fjelstad, 2007 and 2008) developed
a process called the OCCAM Process. In the present process, components are placed on
a removable tacky film on a temporary or permanent base. The film and the base
temporarily immobilize them until the structure is encapsulated. The entire array of
tested and burned-in components, therefore, become a monolithic assembly, with each
component now permanently immobilized by every part of it. The bottoms of these
terminations can be exposed either by removing the temporary base and film or by
making holes in a permanent one by means such as mechanical abrasion, water-jet
material removal, or lazer ablation.
The assembly is now ready to be metallized with copper using standard printed
circuit additive (build-up) processing methods, with circuit patterns that are created to
make the required interconnections between the leads of all of the components. In
most cases, more than one layer is needed; therefore, an insulation layer is placed over
it, and the process is repeated until all the necessary interconnections are made. The
final layer of the circuit can be connected to any user interface. Displays and power
connections are necessary for the operation and, afterward, it is coated with a conformal
or rigid protective insulating layer. Figure 6 depicts the board with this concept.

Fig. 6.

16

4.3. Other alternatives


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Other studies are being made to reduce or completely remove the solder in the
process of making a printed circuit board, but using resins to join the components or not
totally eliminating welding. We highlight several patents that have been created for this
purpose (Sathe et al., 2007; Sanchez et al., 2009; Hager et al., 2011). One concerns a
modular electrical interconnection of not using welding as joining element, but uses
encapsulation resin-based epoxy to fill between the base plates.
Another patent describes the process of manufacture of a compression type
connector solderless to attach a chip to a substrate plate using arrangement land grid
array (LGA). The Land Grid Array (LGA) is a type of surface mount bundling of
integrated circuits (ICs) and uses these mechanical elements ("solderless") to the union,
this process is difficult union of each component with each mechanical element.
And another patent showing sets of printed circuit boards that require fixation
and anchoring of certain electrical components, such as heat sinks, working with
specific components with a specific type of attachment, anchorage, thus not being
applied to all components of a board, only the components of large size.
These alternatives presents initial solutions to the problem, not solving the
problem of the separation of components and subsequent reuse and/or recycling of these
components.

5. Conclusions
The paper is a historical review of several publications related with the
environmental problem derived from the manufacture of printed circuit board (PCB).
The article focuses on both the PCB itself, the components attached and the method
used for link them. The following general conclusions can be drawn from our literature
review:
- PCB Structure and materials is dominated by studies on analyze of different recycling
techniques that expose about different kinds of structures and materials.
-

Methods of joining components in PCBs have an increasing popularity among

researchers. Hence, in recent years, there is a significant increase in the number of


studies on Lead-free.
- PCB Environmental problem have an increasing popularity among researchers too.
Research mainly focuses on recycling techniques.

17

- Legislation is dominated by studies in USA, China, Europe and Japan. More studies
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on effects these legislation in other countries is necessary.


- LCA (Life Cycle Analysis) of PCBs is a controversial issue and do not have a lot
attention and popularity among researchers. In order to have a more realistic life
cycle analysis of PCBs, integrated methodologies should be developed. More studies
are needed to improve and analyze these questions.
- PCB Recycling methods are widely studied areas by the researchers. More studies are
needed to increase sustainability recycling techniques.
- Alternatives to the traditional process do not have many attention among researchers
and companies. In order to develop more process, more research is necessary on other
issues such as process, materials, technologies, etc.
The idea of eliminating the solder method is not new, but the methods proposed
earlier (for example, replacing it with conductive adhesive) have not been accepted by
the market, presumably due to the operating difficulties or lack of reliability. The
alternatives presented bring initial solutions to the problem, either decreasing the use of
solder or replacing the solder by another element of joint as the resin, thus not solving
the problem of separation.
Only few works is the basis for the issue on alternatives to the traditional
process, if there aren't many works in the field about environmental impacts, it might be
a good idea to look at other electronics and their impacts and compare different
generations and how those studies can be applied to PCBs.
This review study is fundamental to develop new research seeking to generate
alternatives and test them for specific applications. It is concluded that the forms
through which electronic components are fixed in printed circuit boards nowadays still
lack adequate solutions. Lastly, it is recommended that, as future research suggestion,
this subject should be further investigated in subsequent studies, seeking to study more
about the LCA (Life Cycle Analysis) of PCBs. This would be in order to have a
systemic perspective to understand the complexity to analyze correctly the PCBs.

Acknowledgments
The authors would like to acknowledge the financial support of CAPES (the
Brazilian Government agency for the Development of Human Resources), CNPq (the
Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development), and the
Euro Brazilian Windows II Project (EBW II).

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Fig. 1. Examples of components mounted on both sides of the boar


Click here to download high resolution image

Fig. 2. Two fixation methods for printed circuit boards (PCBs):


Click here to download high resolution image

Fig. 3. (a) Carbon dioxide emissions from solder paste life cycl
Click here to download high resolution image

Fig. 4. (a) Attributional LIME results for 63Sn-37Pb and 95.5SnClick here to download high resolution image

Fig. 5. Traditional printed circuit board and the concept TWINfl


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Fig. 5. Traditional printed circuit board and the concept TWINfl


Click here to download high resolution image

Fig. 6. The side-by-side interconnection can be increased by var


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Fig. 6. The side-by-side interconnection can be increased by var


Click here to download high resolution image

Figure captions

Figure captions

Fig. 1. Examples of components mounted on both sides of the board. Source: ANSI (1998).

Fig. 2. Two fixation methods for printed circuit boards (PCBs): (a) SMT and
(b) PTH. Source: Adapted from Coombs (2007).

Fig. 3. (a) Carbon dioxide emissions from solder paste life cycles. (b) Consequential CO2
results when subtracting CLCA for 95.5Sn3.8Ag-0.7Cu from CLCA of 62Sn36Pb2Ag. Source: Adapted from CLCA Andrae (2010).

Fig. 4. (a) Attributional LIME results for 63Sn37Pb and 95.5Sn3.8Ag0.7Cu. (b)
Consequential LIME results when subtracting CLCA of 63Sn37Pb from the CLCA of
95.5Sn3.8Ag0.7Cu. Source: Adapted from Andrae (2010).
Fig. 5. Traditional printed circuit board and the concept TWINflex. Source: Wrth
Elektronik GmbH & Co. (2010) and Schischke et al. (2010).

Fig. 6. The side-by-side interconnection can be increased by various connecting structures


or flexible circuits. Source: Verdant Electronics (2010).

Table captions

Table captions
Table 1
Previous reviews.
Table 2
Candidate Lead-Free solder alloys. Source: Coombs (2007).

Table Previous reviews.


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Table Candidate Lead-Free solder alloys. Source: Coombs (2007).


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