National Semiconductor Sets Sights on Lead-Free

National Semiconductor Sets Sights on Lead-Free

National Semiconductor Corporation has announced it will achieve 100% lead-free production by the end of June 2006. As a result, all of the company's integrated circuits (ICs) will be sold in lead-free packages.

The aggressive initiative is part of an overall effort to make more environmentally neutral electronic components, protect the environment and facilitate recycling. In addition to eliminating lead, National has also significantly reduced bromine and antimony-based flame-retardants from its packaging processes.

In April 2004, National announced its intention to offer lead-free packages for its complete line of ICs, and its product portfolio of 15,000 analog and mixed-signal ICs is currently available in lead-free packages. At the end of June 2006, when National's entire product offering will be sold lead-free (unless deemed exempt), the company will be fully compliant with the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive enacted by the European Parliament. However, National's lead reduction goals are substantially more aggressive than those in countries where the company does business.

Lead was formerly used in the plating finish of copper leadframe-based packages. It was also used in the solder balls of array packages such as Micro SMD, PBGA and FBGA packages. National has replaced the lead in leadframe packages with a matte tin finish, in the solder balls with a tin-silver-copper alloy for micro SMD, and tin-silver for PBGA and FBGA packages. Once this aggressive program is fully implemented, National expects to replace approximately five tons of lead used per year.

"As a leader in lead-free packaging technology, National is extending its effort to make innovative high-performance products that are environmentally friendly and easier to recycle," said Kamal Aggarwal, executive vice president of National's central technology manufacturing group at National.

Packaging is a critical part of the semiconductor manufacturing process. National's advanced package technologies enable its customers to build cell phones, displays, laptop computers, and many other electronic products that are small, thin, lightweight and have long-lasting battery life.

In 2000, National began an intensive multi-step program to reduce and eliminate lead in its semiconductor packages. In addition to lead, National is also eliminating halogen compounds such as bromine and antimony used in flame retardants used in mold compounds and organic substrates.

National produces more than five billion chips per year and packages them in more than 70 different types of packages. The company operates wafer fabrication facilities in Arlington, Texas; Greenock, Scotland and South Portland, Maine. The plants manufacture six- and eight-inch diameter wafers of silicon that contain hundreds or thousands of microchips.

The wafers are shipped to National facilities in Melaka, Malaysia; Singapore and Suzhou, China where they are cut, tested, and assembled in plastic packages and lead-free packages.