7 May 2017

The Restriction of Hazardous Substances and Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (RoHS/WEEE) directives became legally binding in 2006. Although a number of applications were exempt from the rules, the dates for many of these have expired – with more to follow. This has had tremendous repercussions on hardware design companies whose products are dependent upon what are now, effectively, obsolete semiconductors.

Obsolescence management is a necessary part of firmware development. As electronic technology advances at an ever increasing rate, so do end-of-life (EOL) dates. On average, semiconductors become obsolete within 3 years of being introduced. Once the product is announced as discontinued, customers have at most a year to find a replacement, or redesign their system so it no longer needs that component – though generally, drop-in replacements are available.

However, technological advancement is not the only reason for product change notification. PCN alerts due to pending expiry dates on the RoHS directive exemption list are increasingly of concern. Many aerospace, medical and telecommunication system designs are dependent upon components with a high SnPb (tin-lead) content. Finding alternatives has become a major problem in obsolescence management.

There are many ways around the problem. For example, reverse engineering using non-lead derivatives has enabled companies to find replacements for obsolete semiconductors which don’t contravene RoHS legislation. System redevelopment is another option. The main thing is to be prepared – don’t just wait for the EOL date to arrive.

We at Enventure Technologies can’t change RoHS directives – but we do have obsolescence management tools to ensure they are of minimum risk to your clients.