Green connections

How to manage hazardous substances in electronic components

Smart and connectivity are two of the words that probably best describe our society in the 21st century. Everyone and everything is connected nowadays, or soon will be. Cities, buildings, homes, farms, industrial plants, transportation, appliances, wearables and mobile devices are intrinsically linked to our way of life.

IECQ QC 80000 cover
IECQ QC 080000 helps component manufacturers comply with legislation regarding the use of hazardous substances

No IoT without sensors

This connectivity would not be possible without electronic components, sensors in the first place. Sensors – pressure, temperature, humidity, magnetometer, accelerometer, gyroscope, inertial, image, etc. – make devices smart(er), and have become smart themselves. They form a crucial and integral part of the internet of things (IoT), i.e. “the increasingly prevalent environment in which almost anything imaginable can be outfitted with a unique identifier (UID) and the ability to transmit data over the internet or a similar network”, according to the IoT Agenda. 

Rapid market growth

According to a MarketsandMarkets report, the IoT sensors market is expected to reach USD 38,41 billion by 2022, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 42,08% between 2016 and 2022. As stated by the report, the major factors driving the growth of the IoT sensors market include the development of cheaper, smarter, and smaller sensors, growing market for smart devices and wearables and the need for real-time computing of applications. 

Greener components

The considerable increase in the production of sensors, and electronic components in general, also adds to the pressure on manufacturers to produce components that are not only cheaper and smarter, but also “cleaner”. 

One of the issues associated with electronic components is that some of them may contain hazardous substances (HS) such as lead, cadmium or mercury. These substances may be equally as dangerous to the workers who manufacture the components as to end-users and the community in general. 

An additional problem is faced at the end of the products’ life cycle: dealing with waste. Since the early 2000s, manufacturers have had to comply with legislation that restricts the use of HS in electronic products and components. The pressure is even greater with the proliferation of electronic components and ever shorter life cycles. 

Legislation in place

The European Union (EU) has two directives on restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (RoHS) and on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). WEEE came into effect in February 2003 and RohS in July 2006. Both directives have been revised since: RoHS in July 2011 and WEEE in July 2012. In view of a revision of RoHS, the EU Commission adopted, in January 2017, a legislative proposal to introduce adjustments in the scope of the directive. 

Another EU directive on the registration, evaluation, authorization and restriction of chemicals (REACH), came into force in June 2007. It deals with chemicals and their safe use, so as to improve the protection of human health and the environment through better and earlier identification of the intrinsic properties of chemical substances. 

The EU countries are not the only ones to have limited drastically the use of hazardous substances. Many industrial countries around the world, including Australia, China, Norway, South Korea, Switzerland, Thailand and the United States, have followed suit and established their own legislation. 

Efficient production of hazardous substance-free products

IECQ, the IEC Quality Assessment System for Electronic Components, has the perfect solution for manufacturers and suppliers who want to produce and distribute hazardous substance-free (HSF) electronic components. 

The IECQ Hazardous Substance Process Management (IECQ HSPM) is a technically-based management systems approach to implementing and maintaining hazardous substance-free products and production processes. IECQ HSPM was developed in response to component manufacturers’ need to give suppliers the means of demonstrating, through third-party assessment, that their electrical and electronic components and assemblies meet specific hazardous substance-free local, national and international requirements. Many companies today are working to attain IECQ HSPM Certification to QC 080000. 

Advantages of using IECQQC 80000

The fourth edition of IECQ QC 80000, published in May 2017, clarifies how organizations can use IECQ QC 080000 to manage their hazardous substances other than through the outright removal of restricted substances and avoiding their use in products. 

There are numerous advantages in using the 4th edition of IECQ QC 080000. Among them:

  • adaptation to global increasing hazardous substances legislation. For example, additional controlled substances, change control, product recall, as specified by the REACH regulation, the information communication within the supply chain, and notification to the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) about substances of very high concern (SVHC);
  • enhancement of documented information requirements in response to the applicable statutory and regulatory obligations. For example, requirements in the re-casted RoHS such as compliance assessment, preparation of technical file, preparation of self-declaration, use of markings, etc. can now be managed through IECQ QC 080000. 

The new edition also aligns with ISO 9001:2015, Quality management systems – Requirements, and has adopted ISO Annex SL defining the new high level structure for all ISO management systems standards. 

The processes used to identify, control, quantify, and report the HS content in electrotechnical products, or their components, must be defined and understood in sufficient detail to assure all relevant interested parties of the HSF status of a product. The processes must be appropriately documented and conducted in a controlled and consistent manner to:

  • facilitate verification of compliance to applicable customer requirements and regulations;
  • allow efficient and effective compliance checks;
  • facilitate the consistent deployment across organizations and their supply chain
  • allow harmonization of compliance and enforcement methods 

The whole process helps reduce technical barriers to trade of products around the world.

IECQ QC 80000 is available on the IEC Webstore in English, French, Korean, Russian, simplified Chinese and traditional Chinese.

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