MANILA—Technology firm Lenovo has announced a new patent-pending low temperature solder (LTS) process developed to improve PC manufacturing by conserving energy and increasing reliability.
The company said that since abandoning the use of lead-based solder more than 10 years ago due to environmental concerns, the electronics industry has been searching for a solution to reduce heat, power consumption and carbon emissions by improving the tin-based solder process which replaced the older lead-based process.
The newer tin-based process required extremely high temperatures consuming more energy. With a new LTS process, Lenovo wants to introduce this manufacturing process that is not only applicable to Lenovo products, but can be universally applied to all electronics involving printed circuit boards with no cost or performance impact to customers, according to Lenovo.
”The true innovation is in the science and testing required to develop and validate the new LTS process. Lenovo investigated thousands of combinations of solder paste material composed of a mixture of tin, copper, bismuth nickel and silver, specific compositions of flux material and unique profiles of time and heat temperatures that combine to enable this process,” it said.
Lenovo added that in standard electronics assembly using surface mount technology (SMT), the solder and flux mixture is first printed on the face of the circuit board. The components are then added and heat is applied to melt the solder mixture, securing and connecting the components to the board.
”With the new LTS process, soldering heat is applied at maximum temperatures of 180 degrees Celsius, a reduction of 70 degrees from the previous method. Throughout testing and validation, Lenovo used existing materials to compose the solder paste and existing oven equipment for heating. Thus, the company can implement the new system without increasing production costs,” it noted.
After validating the procedure, Lenovo discovered a significant reduction in carbon emissions as a result of using the new process. The procedure is already in production for its ThinkPad E series and the 5th generation X1 Carbon recently announced at CES.
Meanwhile, Lenovo also intends to implement the new LTS process on eight SMT lines, and estimates savings of up to 35 percent on carbon emissions.
By the end of 2018, Lenovo aims to have 33 SMT lines with two ovens per line using this process, giving an estimated annual saving of 5,956 metric tons of carbon dioxide.
”To put this into perspective, the equivalent reduction in CO2 emissions is equal to the consumption of 670,170 gallons of gasoline per year,” the company said.
Through the new process, Lenovo expects better reliability for its devices due to lower heat stress during the “oven bake” procedure. In the early stages of deployment, Lenovo has observed a 50 percent decrease in printed circuit board warpage and a reduction in defective parts per million during the manufacturing process.
“By implementing the new LTS process, Lenovo continuously shows its commitment to upholding sustainable business practices across its PC business,” said Luis Hernandez, vice president, Lenovo PC and Smart Devices Integrated Development Center.
He continued that Lenovo’s focus on innovation extends beyond research and development (R&D) and product design, to the way its products are manufactured.
“We are dedicated to advancing our business goals while reducing our impact on the environment and we’re proud this process achieves that,” Hernandez stressed.
Lenovo plans to offer the new procedure on an industry-wide basis free of charge.