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Iyonix banned by new EU green law

Published: 1st Aug 2006, 23:03:02 | Permalink | Printable

Will need redesign to meet new requirements

EU flagTough new EU regulations on the hazardous substances used in electronic equipment will halt the manufacture of new Iyonix motherboards, claim insiders.

The so-called RoHS directive came into effect in July, and lays down strict limits on the amounts of chemical nasties, such as lead, cadmium, and mercury, that can be used in new electrical and electronic goods. The new rules include restrictions on the amount of lead that can be used in the solder on PCBs - the electrical glue that links together components on a computer's circuit boards.

In order to be compliant with the new limits, the Iyonix motherboard will require a costly redesign to accommodate the new strict rules. Non-compliant products are now banned from sale in Europe.

According to the RoHS FAQ, "any item of electrical or electronic equipment covered by the RoHS scope that is placed on the EU market from July 1, 2006, will have to comply, regardless of whether it is one of a line of products that existed before that date."

The FAQ also states that companies are prohibited from stockpiling non-compliant kit before the deadline to sell after it has passed.

The technology industry as a whole has known about the July deadline for a number of years - AMD lowered the lead content in its processors last year, but shipments of Palm Treo PDAs were surprisingly laid low by the new directive. The RoHS deadline also caused an electronics mountain to suddenly grow in Europe as companies sought to shed as much non-compliant kit as possible. RoHS enforcers have promised to come down hard on businesses that flout the new regulations.

A well-placed source close to Castle said the Iyonix developers have been pondering a solution to the RoHS problem for the past few months.

Another added: "Further Iyonix motherboard builds will require a PCB redesign as there is one component used on the PCB that is not available lead-free in its package. There are, however, larger pinout versions of that device that are lead-free.

"What this generally seems to be is that the smaller manufacturers are forever chasing their tails trying to keep the EU clean. Larger ones may comply or may just brazen it out."

An engineer experienced with RISC OS hardware, who wished to remain anonymous, said: "RoHS finally became a legal requirement on July 1, after a number of years of hesitation.

"Note that most chips are 'tinned' with solder by the manufacturer and the same restrictions apply. The Iyonix wasn't designed for a lead-free process because there was no suggestion that this would be a requirement at the time.

"It is very unlikely that boards that are not designed for a lead-free process can be used lead-free without modification. Increasing the complexity of boards makes this even less likely.

"The difficulty of modifying an existing design depends mostly on the complexity of the design - for complex boards this probably requires a similar level of skill as that which would be required for the original layout."

Castle declined to comment. It's understood other RISC OS products, such as the A9 range, designed for AdvantageSix by Simtec, are RoHS-compliant.


Castle Iyonix website Punters love green PCs from IT Week

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 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 1/8/06 10:43AM
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More anti-lead :-( Less chance than ever of various disused lead mines ever reopening :-(

Getting slightly more on-topic, if it's going to need a new redesign then it may be good for us - if it's going to be redesigned then Castle may as well use newer components (unless they decide not to bother at all).

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 1/8/06 10:54AM
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hard to believe that castle arent ahead of the game here. i'm sure they are...

 is a RISC OS Usersascott on 1/8/06 12:05PM
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Ouch Caught between a rock and a hard place. Ideally Castle would like to wait until they could provide a significant upgrade from Iyonix. This will somewhat force their hand. Not sure why it needs a new motherboard? Surely its the type of solder used.

 is a RISC OS UserJwoody on 1/8/06 12:41PM
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Indeed. It's not like the RoHS regs are news to anyone in the industry - they're been coming for a while now. And it's not a surprise, either, that they're affecting RISC OS machines. Most old computers wouldn't pass the new regs. That's kind of the point...

 is a RISC OS Userjohnpettigrew on 1/8/06 12:42PM
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Jwoody: "Surely its the type of solder used"

No, the implications are significantly wider than that. Some suppliers have simply EOL'd and replaced existing products, rather than going to the lengths of making them comply.

However, sascott and John are right that this has been widespread news for a long time, so Castle will doubtless have been planning for it.


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 1/8/06 12:50PM
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It isn't just the type of solder used. The RoHS regulations ban six substances - lead, cadmium, mercury, polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs), poly brominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and hexavalent compound of chromium. PBBs and PBDEs are additive flame retardents used in many electronic components. This means that a lot of the components will need to be upgraded to RoHS-compliant versions. Unfortunately, there are a lot of cases where manufacturers are not upgrading older components, or versions in less used pacakges.

Bottom line - the need for an expensive redesign isn't surprising at all. Many companies are going through the same pain, and many have just discontinued vast numbers of older products.

 is a RISC OS Userdms on 1/8/06 12:59PM
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Well it turns out that the CPU is available in an RoHS compliant version (so that's one show stopper out of the way ([link]) - and enter 80321 to get the info).

If the same is true of the other support chips (I suspect it probably is) then all that may be required is to use leadfree solder and (perhaps) use a different substrate in the PCB (assuming that is not currently compliant - and it may well already *be* compliant). No complex re-design may be required at all.

All in all another one of those "Iyonix CPU is going out of production" [Scream sound effect] stories when it's probably more likely a case of "nothing to see here, move along".

Can't personally imagine Castle sitting on their collective backsides and letting themselves go out of business because they didn't read the EU RoHS requirements.... but still if it makes you happy to think that they have - who am I to rain on your parade ;-)

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 1/8/06 1:41PM
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This is going to be another nail in the cofin of EU and in particular rule obeying UK companies, just like with CE testing, while overseas firms get away with shipping in non complient equipment by the tens of millions.

I doubt very much if it would be worth redesigning the Iyonix motherboard just for this, particularly at this time in its life when the peak sales is long past. No doubt there will be a large stock of existing boards to satisfy demand for the forseable future, but after that if there isn't a suitable faster chip to base the Iyonix 2 around, thats likely to be it.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 1/8/06 2:03PM
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The restriction is on "placing on the EU market of new electrical and electronic equipment". Not even importing for own use is allowed. So it's a level playing field - all equipment on the EU market is covered including imported goods. How enforcement will work in practice I don't know.

 is a RISC OS Usercaliston2 on 1/8/06 2:46PM
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Its only a level playing field for those playing by the rules. In CE testing the vast majority of PC's don't pass, various individual components have CE marks but entire systems aren't tested together. However by the time a system is investigated and a notice of non compliance is issued, the PC world is two generations down the line and the failed equipment isn't being sold any more anyway. However manufacturers like Castle who build a system and sell it for 5 years or more, have to make sure it passes, incurring great expense, or they risk being put out of business.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 1/8/06 3:18PM
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"So it's a level playing field - all equipment on the EU market is covered including imported goods."

And, it's not just the EU. Almost every developed country either has existing similar regulations, or is actively working on them. Rightfully so too, since the banned substances are neither nice nor essential.

 is a RISC OS Userdms on 1/8/06 3:18PM
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The obvious two solutions (assuming that Castle have been planning ahead) are:

a) Iyonix 2 is appearing soon.

b) Castle have stockpiled enough motherboards to last for at least a couple of years, since you're allowed to sell things that you already had in stock....

I'd guess that stockpiling to cover the RISC OS desktop market is fairly trivial, these days, but whether it's a viable technique for their STB/embedded markets may be another matter.

 is a RISC OS Userchrisj on 1/8/06 4:05PM
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As I understand it, before lead solder there was tin solder - oxidisation would cause the tin to "whisker", bridging gaps and then shorting out. Lead stops this, but now it's not possible to use it, they're going back to tin - and wondering why it fails after a few years.


 is a RISC OS Usertribbles2 on 1/8/06 4:07PM
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"Castle have stockpiled enough motherboards to last for at least a couple of years, since you're allowed to sell things that you already had in stock...."

Unfortunately, it's not that clear-cut. The ruling states that a non-compliant product may not be "placed on the market" after 1/7/06. The general interpretation of this is that a product is placed on the market when it is in its final form and ready for sell. Therefore, an assembled Iyonix in stock can still be sold, but it would now be illegal to use an existing non-compliant motherboard to build a computer and then sell it. Of course, a creative work-around could be to sell the system components separately and then charge an integration fee to assemble it. This may even be why Castle started selling the motherboards separately.

 is a RISC OS Userdms on 1/8/06 4:20PM
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"This may even be why Castle started selling the motherboards separately."

I must admit to having had thoughts along those lines. One potentially relevant question, however: would the new laws permit dealers to buy Iyonix motherboards and then sell completed machines, or would all Iyonix purchases have to be straight from Castle once dealers sell whatever stock they may have at present?

 is a RISC OS Userchrisj on 1/8/06 5:39PM
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As a small manufacturer based in the UK we have also had our fair share of the CE problems, this situation was not helped because we make transmitters and receivers and electronic equipment under the CE directive are not supposed to interfere with each other which is exactly what a transmitter and receiver are supposed to do?. This caused some confusion for a while :-)


Our manufacturing has now been moved over to lead free although many types of equipment (Telecom equipment and safety based) are exempt because of the tin "whisker problem mentioned earlier. Our sub contractor seems to have the lead free soldering cracked now but we have had to go over to gold plated PCBs to get a better finish.

We have stocks of finished items eg. Pocket Pager receivers these were bought in as complete units and are not lead free, we can sell these units into the market because they are existing stock, I dont know if the Castle mother board would be covered in this way as it is a component rather than a finished item?.

 is a RISC OS Usertel on 1/8/06 7:28PM
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In reply to SimonC: It might mean lead mines having an even smaller chance of re-opening, but it could encourage Cornish tin mines to re-open (well, South Crofty in Camborne).

 is a RISC OS UserGinger2 on 1/8/06 7:56PM
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It's a pity too that RISC OS did not tend to a market expansion outside the EU legislation area.

Seeing the need and having the resources to expand beyond it's current English and part European market is not easy.

Hopefully RISC OS may one day become 'globalised' to cater for numerous other non-english countries & languages.



 is a RISC OS UserSawadee on 1/8/06 9:32PM
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tel: I was mainly pointing out that there was a reason for lead solder (and it still has its advantages).

I've also had to design hardware with the CE in mind - but most of my things ended up being prototypes, so were never sold to people inside the EU (a couple were sold to Malaysia though).

 is a RISC OS Usertribbles2 on 1/8/06 10:17PM
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DMS - the EU is not a "country" though plainly.

If only the likes of Castle and RISC OS Ltd would *think out of the box* like Acorn and instead of blindly absorbing the parochial mindset of the EU they could start organising some proper distributiuon of their products into countries such as Australia and New Zealand.

The stupidity of signing away ability to determine national trade policy in a global economy.

 is a RISC OS UserAW on 2/8/06 12:00AM
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I took a short look at the rhos website and then went to the "Events" and there took a look a the RoHS Master Presentation ([link]).

There on page 10 you'll find the "Transition period" which was from February 2003 until 1 July 2006 - that is quite a time span so that I assume that the manufacturers did look into how to comply.

 is a RISC OS Userhzn on 2/8/06 6:16AM
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I fully agree with you that lead still has its advantages, if the industry had no concerns with the lead free process there would be no exemptions but there are?, also lead is a naturally occuring material and there have been no studies that I have seen to suggest any leakage from PCBs back into the environment, the amount of lead used in many products has also reduced purely because many products are now surface mount therefore are smaller so use less lead?.

Like many of these ideas CE,RoHS they start out to be good ideas and then "experts" get called in for their opinion and they start to build little empires to protect their new found jobs :-)

 is a RISC OS Usertel on 2/8/06 7:47AM
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tel: Absolutely - I had a few calls from people wishing to sell me their CE consultation services in the early days...

 is a RISC OS Usertribbles2 on 2/8/06 9:07AM
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I can see one very positive thing here...The regulations don't affect me. I know of atleast 3 people in New Zealand that would be happy to help Castle out :-)

 is a RISC OS Userknutson on 2/8/06 9:46AM
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Ginger2: Do you have any idea what is happening at South Crofty? I keep hearing rumours that something is going on there, or is going to be going on.

All the mines I know anything about are in a national park, so there's not much chance of them being reopened even if there is demand :-(

Unfortunately I can't think of something on-topic to prevent me from being modded into oblivion...

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 2/8/06 10:36AM
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Certainly makes one think twice about buying any new electronic goods if there is now going to be a question mark over long term reliability. Components is understandable but as been stated with most things these days being surfaced mounted and custom IC, zero lead in the solder seems a bit excessive especially if it comes at a price

 is a RISC OS UserJwoody on 2/8/06 5:58PM
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If the tin solder whisker problem is as serious as hinted above, than what will the evironmental impact be of all the PCBs being thrown away in 2 years time because they're knackered? Far worse than lead based solder I'd bet.

 is a RISC OS Usercmj on 3/8/06 10:15AM
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cmj: I suppose, for PCs, this depends on what the expected useful lifespan is for the machine. If you are going to upgrade and bin the old one after 5 years, the tin solder doesn't need to last too long. If you have a RISC OS machine though you're gonna have to hope that Castle and AdvantageSix start producing new machines more regularly =)

Also, I was interested in seeing the Gooooooogle Ad below stating, "Rohs Testing - Comply with RoHS and WEEE!". I'm sure a few small electronics manufacturers are weeee-ing right now. -- Spriteman

 is a RISC OS UserSpriteman on 4/8/06 1:52PM
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"The ruling states that a non-compliant product may not be "placed on the market" after 1/7/06."

If this is true then there is no problem as the Iyonix was introduced on the market a long time ago, but maybe new models (casings) need a redisigned motherboard.

 is a RISC OS UserJaco on 5/8/06 7:37PM
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To answer myself:

No "the concept of placing on the market refers to each individual product, not to a type of product, and whether it was manufactured as an individual unit or in series."


 is a RISC OS UserJaco on 05/08/06 7:42PM
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