Much of today’s post will be reflecting the news from IPC’s Blog. The output of Fern Abrams’ diligent efforts on behalf of the industry is important and useful; you can sign up to be notified of new posts.
First up, Abrams indicates that the Pack 9 “RoHS Exemptions [are] Unlikely to be Published before Fall 2017.” My prediction was “over the next few months”. Wrong. So any exemption phase outs, including expiration, will not occur until 12-18 months later, which put them into late 2018/early 2019. This is shortly before the process will have to start all over again!
Assessment of exemptions included in Pack 9 began on August 21, 2015. That was less than a year before the exemptions themselves were slated to expire – July 21, 2016.
If the treatment of Pack 8 exemptions is any indication, the expiration of exemptions that are extended as a result of the Pack 9 assessment process will generally occur on July 21, 2021 (for all Categories except 8 and 9), five years after the initial exemption expiration date. This means a new exemption extension request process can be expected to begin in 2020. So you won’t have to wait long to go through all of this again.
This is on top of a more general review of the Directive which, per Article 24 paragraph 2, is slated to be completed by July 22, 2021. The version of RoHS which comes out of this review will be considered “RoHS 3”. So again, stay tuned. RoHS will continue to keep you busy.
U.S. Conflict Minerals
As mentioned in my last column, Dodd-Frank in general is under fire. This is now policy. Again, per a link from Fern’s blog, the acting SEC Chairman, Michael S. Piwowar, has expressed concern about the “unintended consequences” of the “misguided” Conflict Minerals rule, specifically “a de facto boycott of minerals from portions of Africa” that is penalizing legitimate mines.
I’ve seen this happen with both clients and their suppliers; to not allow any material from the region is not the correct approach. In fact, I addressed it in a TTI MarketEYE column several years ago. The approach must be less broad and more specific in order to allow the rule to have even a remote chance of working without negative impacts.
I have to agree that a more sensible political, international, and non-industry-focused approach is required in order to resolve this situation in order to end this continuing human tragedy.
The comment period is open through March 16.
REACH Article-Related Reporting and Disclosure
Rather than issuing an update, as I predicted in December, ECHA issued a new draft of version 4.0 of the REACH Guidance on Substances in Articles (SIA) on February 1. It, along with the PEG (Partner Expert Group) comments, can be downloaded on ECHA’s Ongoing guidance consultations page. The PEG is a group consisting of representatives from Member State competent authorities, the European Commission, industry associations and environmental NGOs (non-government organizations). Comments on the previous draft were limited to the PEG, rather than opening it up to the public. Despite that, ECHA received 700 comments.
The examples in the draft have to a significant degree been changed to reflect basic or fundamental situations. Section 2.4 discusses the term “complex object”, which is “any object made up of more than one article” (what we have been calling a “complex article” in industry) and “very complex objects”, which describes most electronic finished goods (as well as most subassemblies or even components comprised of multiple simple articles like electrolytic capacitors). One must assess each fundamental situation in a complex object in order to put together a complete document to meet Article 33 requirements.
Section 3, table 5 discusses a variety of situations that are applicable to more complex “objects”, such as joining two articles using a mixture, and how to treat a candidate list SVHC in the mixture. This particular example may be applicable to the situation of an adhesive containing an SVHC used to attach an SMT capacitor to a PC board before it passes through the wave solder process. The weight of the SVHC is measured against the weight of the part and the assembly the adhesive connects.
However, they have punted on walking through complex situations like a printed circuit board itself, which is made from fiberglass sheets, pre-preg, copper foil, reacted epoxy resin, etc. In the PEG comments, ECHA says “The Guidance focuses on what needs to be done to comply rather than exactly how to do it (put it into practice). It would be more appropriate to provide such implementation approaches by industry associations’ own guidelines, which ECHA could potentially be involved in reviewing.” So manufacturers with questions should consider leaning on industry associations to produce industry sector-specific example guidance. Which means that industry associations need to invest in expertise. I’m available to help.
While there are also sections on Article 7 notification and registration of substances in articles, I must restate that these situations are rare and do not affect the vast majority of article manufacturers. The only time to really worry about Article 7 issues is when you are specifying substances for use in your article-product. And then, only when the use of the substances is unusual. Keep in mind that Article 7(6) excludes notification of a substance in articles if the substance has already been registered for that use. See section 3.3.1 of the draft SIA guidance.
This new draft has been shared with the Enforcement Forum. IPC indicates that the revised guidance now “will not be published until July or August 2017.” This will likely delay the Enforcement Forum’s plans to target substances in articles to 2018 as it will take some time for industry to digest and adopt the revised guidance.