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Written by Mike Buetow   
Wednesday, 07 July 2010 16:29

iNEMI’s new leader is charging far and wide to further the consortium’s green plans.

It’s been a whirlwind debut for Bill Bader. Named last fall as the second chief executive in the 15-year history of iNEMI (inemi.org), he came from Intel with an impressive background in packaging, assembly and experience overseeing hundreds of employees. Since then, he’s traveled the globe, meeting with members and project leaders and absorbing the 70-member consortium’s somewhat divergent views on the industry. He spoke with CIRCUITS ASSEMBLY’s Mike Buetow in a pair of interviews in April and May.

CA: How have you been spending your time of late?
BB: At the end of 2009, 75 to 80% was programming, and 20% member updates. In November we held an environmental meeting in Europe and were invited to present at a ChemSec meeting on RoHS in Brussels. [Ed.: The International Chemical Secretariat, or ChemSec, is a nonprofit organization whose goal is a toxic-free environment.] Sixty-two people attended, about 10 from non-government organizations. It covered halogens, materials, eco-design, sustainability and recycling.

CA: In your opinion, how up to speed are the NGOs on the impact of large-scale materials transitions?
BB: Several, including ChemSec are on top of the materials, very well informed. Some of the others know what’s going on, but the methodologies are sometimes questionable.

CA: What was iNEMI’s role at that conference?
BB: The game plan was to inform the community about the technical issues when you rapidly transition materials content for PCBs, cables, connectors and what we are doing on that.

Likewise, we participated in a packaging workshop in Japan. Fifty people attended. This was to stimulate discussion on key technical issues in the packaging field. Japanese companies classically like to do their own R&D. They did agree, however, to collaborate on warpage issues. There is some real work to be done on this, including developing appropriate standards and specifications.

CA: Is this an area where iNEMI would actually write its own standard?
BB: By definition of our bylaws, we are not allowed to write standards. 

CA: What are some of the other key programs right now?
BB: We have task forces on alternative energies and medical electronics. Both have serious needs for standards to drive technologies and cost efficiencies. This fits our competencies. What iNEMI does well is the engineering work required to define best approaches and methods, and subsequent standards and specs.

CA: You’ve been on the job about nine months. What do you think so far?
BB: I like it. [Smiles.] The people you interact with are great. So are the opportunities to make a difference. We have great things started in packaging and miniaturization. For example, we’re working on four new initiatives to address gaps in organic substrate technologies: warpage factors, warpage qualification and modeling, wiring density and holistic modeling. For the last one, we want to develop a design tool to optimize package design in terms of electrical, mechanical and thermal performance. We are working to engage globally in key research priorities with technical organizations like the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany and Peking University in China. We established leadership committees to help us identify the next focus areas of interest and need. When we get all these efforts running smoothly and efficiently, we will really grow our value for our members. All of these efforts are making excellent progress.

CA: What are the problems you did not foresee?
BB: When critical leaders of projects get pulled away. We have to keep the communication lines open.

CA: How does iNEMI set its goals and priorities?
BB: We put together a Leadership Steering Committee made up of some of the highest level companies in the environmental area that could identify the priorities and identify methodologies to affect the speed of execution of those priorities. That team was put into place shortly thereafter. We held some meetings in April to set out priorities and objectives for the future, including where we are going to engage. On that committee, there are eight member companies: six OEMs, one academic institution and one supplier that’s an environmental leader in its industry. OEMs tend to lead in this area, and suppliers tend to take their lead. That’s one example of how goals are set. There is also strong interaction with our board.

CA: Characterize iNEMI’s priorities in the environmental arena.
BB: One key focus area is halogen-free. [iNEMI defines halogen-free as less than 1000 ppm]. We are doing all the necessary engineering work to qualify mechanically and electrically acceptable alternatives to halogenated circuit boards that have the necessary mechanical characteristics from a mechanical standpoint – rigidity, flexibility, solderability – and, electrically, meet the signal buss speeds of the future as necessary to support high-end computer products. We call this our HFR-Free PCB Materials Project. The objective is to get alternative materials qualified and ready to design into new projects by late 2011. There just are not drop-in replacements for high-speed, high-performance products. There’s a lot of engineering work to be done. What we are looking at from our HFR-Free team are eight to 10 alternatives for PCBs. To do the design of experiments, test sample sizes on eight to 10 different materials on a worst-case (most demanding) design situation; that amount of work is very significant. What an OEM gets as an advantage is its research load is probably 1/20th of what would be involved by itself. It’s a shared workload opportunity. The other reason there’s good collaboration environmentally is many of our key OEM members are looking for a level playing field. If in fact all companies are required to deliver halogen-free PCBs with truly better engineering, they are fine with that. That’s not where [OEMs] see their marketing advantage.  If we can affect how legislation such as RoHS happens as a function of having an industry-wide backed position, that’s great.

Another focus area is Product Carbon Footprint. We published a position statement on this on March 1, to articulate the membership position on how product carbon footprint methodologies and capabilities should be pursued from an industry standpoint. There is a tremendous opportunity for industry to affect the carbon footprint in the world.

With that release, we are supporting two projects to get the effective tools and methodologies in place. An internal development is the Eco-Impact Evaluator, which is a method for developing an information database using a building block approach. It’s creating a library and database of info where any designer of an ICT product could take information out of the database and define what their project will look like. The database will have a list of environmentally friendly materials. It’s being led by Cisco and Alcatel-Lucent.

A second project we support, one being led by MIT, is a lifecycle analysis toolset. This is for laptops initially, but will expand to other computers. It is similar to the Eco-Impact Evaluator, but much more specific in the short term. So for carbon footprint, we’re working on defining how it should be measured and used and developing tools to support it.

Another project in place is the PVC-free material alternatives for power cords for computers. We’re doing the engineering and evaluation work for a number of material options for resin and plasticized compounds that meet UL 94V0.

CA: How are you presenting all this to the outside world?
BB: We’re taking a number of approaches. We hold workshops for engaging people outside iNEMI, such as NGOs or legislative groups. We have a workshop scheduled in July at Purdue University centered around defining environmental priorities and projects that would be worked on by a university research center, which Purdue has defined in a grant. There are global aspects to that too; others that are interested are Catholic University in Belgium and several universities in the Far East.

There’s PINFA (the Phosphorus, Inorganic and Nitrogen Flame Retardants Association), a consortium of chemical suppliers doing cooperative research on alternatives for flame retardants. We’ve created an in-kind membership.

The next one may or may not happen. I’m going to Europe in June for a workshop meeting, and have made a request to meet with Greenpeace in an open, transparent mode to share what we are doing. And I haven’t decided what title to put on this, but it’s a working session by invitation only for industry stakeholders, including customers, legislators, and NGOs to critique best methods for effective environmental improvement. We will invite industry leaders from parallel industries as well.

Those are things we have done and are in process. We are committed to doing an environmental update newsletter on a quarterly basis to foster transparency and open the communication channel.

CA: What do you do about the maelstrom of paperwork?
BB: We are trying to stay on top of it. It is very, very challenging. One way is through an in-kind agreement with a database company called Compliance and Risks. Based in Ireland, they created a search system based on a real-time, up-to-date database that stays on top of all the regulatory actions in the world. They are funded by an impressive set of member companies. They put in their database all the information from the reports that occur in the EU, China or the US, new laws that come out from the state of California, etc., so you have in one place a searchable database of all info that is published in the world at large. We are a data partner, so we provide them with information and have access to the full database.

The second way is through the regular review of the projects we are running, where we ask, What’s new in the world, and are we working on the things we need to do, or are they changing? It never stops and the lights never go out.

Last Updated on Thursday, 08 July 2010 17:53
 

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