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A guide to RoHS

clock 7 minutes | 21 Nov 2019

ROHS compliant stamp on brown paper

With new RoHS restrictions coming into force in July 2019, it’s a good idea to refresh yourself with everything you need to know if you’re designing electrical and electronic equipment (EEE).

RoHS stands for Restriction of Hazardous Substances, also known as Directive 2002/95/EC or informally, ‘the lead-free directive’. RoHS restricts the use of specific hazardous materials found in products such as appliances and IT and entertainment equipment. The purpose is to protect people and the environment from the harmful effect of the materials. We’ve bolded the last four to show you the phthalates, which were added in July 2019.

  • Lead (Pb)
  • Mercury (Hg)
  • Cadmium (Cd)
  • Hexavalent chromium (CrVI)
  • Polybrominated biphenyls (PBB)
  • Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE)
  • Bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP)
  • Butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP)
  • Dibutyl phthalate (DBP)
  • Diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP)
Close up of a red circuit board

RoHS is linked to WEEE (Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment), which dictates the treatment, recovery and recycling of e-waste. The product categories affected are below. RoHS also applies to all wire, cables, and associated connectors, both internal and external, but does not apply to batteries.

Category 1: Large household appliances

  • Refrigerators, washers, stoves, air conditioners

Category 2: Small household appliances

  • Vacuum cleaners, hair dryers, coffee makers, irons

Category 3: Computing and communications equipment

  • Computers, printers, copiers, phones, satellite TV, cell tower equipment, antennas

Category 4: Consumer electronics

  • TVs, DVD players, stereos, video cameras

Category 5: Lighting

  • Lamps, lighting fixtures, light bulbs (some fluorescents are exempt)

Category 6: Power tools

  • Drills, saws, nail guns, sprayers, lathes, trimmers, blowers

Category 7: Toys, leisure and sports equipment

  • Videogames, treadmills, talking dolls, Fitbits

Category 8: Medical devices and equipment – compliance deadline for phthalate restriction: July 22, 2021

  • Includes in-vitro diagnostic medical devices (IVDs); (also impacted by GMP regulations - FDA 21 CFR 820)

Category 9: Monitoring and control equipment – compliance deadline for phthalate restriction: July 22, 2021

  • Thermostats, smoke detectors, fire alarms, including industrial applications

Category 10: Automatic dispensers

  • Vending machines, ATMs (cash points)

Category 11: Catch all

  • Products include all other electronic and electrical equipment not covered under the other categories. Included are 2-wheeled vehicles, electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) such as e-cigarettes, cannabis vaporizers and vape pens. Also included are electrical cables that are less than 250V working voltage.

Automotive vehicles are exempt and instead are addressed in the End of Life Vehicles Directive (Directive 2000/53/EC).

Engineer inspecting an industrial door latch ready for installation on a generator

Restrictions: how is RoHS actually applied?

RoHS restricts materials, or substances, by specifying the maximum levels by weight. The permitted concentration is limited to 0.1%, or 1000 parts-per million (ppm). This applies to all substances except for cadmium, which is limited to 0.01% or 100 ppm.

The weight does not apply to the weight of the final product or a component within that product. It applies to the homogenous materials, that is, any substance that can be removed mechanically, such as a sheath on a cable. For instance, consider a washing machine. Its screws and washers might be made of one homogenous material. But other components might require components of its own. The washer has a circuit board, which includes a printed circuit board (PCB), integrated circuits, and a resistor, among other components. Any part, or component, made of a homogenous material must meet the RoHS limit.

Exemptions

The use of lead is approved in certain applications, at least for a few more years. As per RoHS:

Exemption
Application
Category
Deadline
6a Lead up to 0.35% by weight in alloyed steel (for machining) and galvanized steel Categories 8, 9 (except for in-vitro diagnostic medical devices and industrial monitoring & control instruments)

Category 8 in-vitro diagnostic medical devices

Category 9 industrial monitoring & control; Category 11

21 July 2021

21 July 2023

21 July 2024
6a-1 Lead up to 0.35% by weight in alloyed steel (for machining) and up to 0.2% lead by weight in batch hot-dip galvanized steel Categories 1-7 and 10 21 July 2021
6b Lead up to 0.4% lead by weight in aluminium alloys Categories 8, 9 (except for in-vitro diagnostic medical devices and industrial monitoring & control instruments)

Category 8 in-vitro diagnostic medical devices

Category 9 industrial monitoring & control instruments; Category 11
21 July 2021

21 July 2023

21 July 2024
6b-1 Lead up to 0.4% lead by weight in recycled scrap aluminium alloys Categories 1-7 and 10 21 July 2021
6b-11 Lead up to 0.4% lead by weight in aluminium alloys for machining Categories 1-7 and 10 21 July 2021
6c Lead up to 0.4% lead by weight in copper alloys Categories 1-7 and 10


Categories 8, 9 (except for in-vitro diagnostic medical devices and industrial monitoring & control instruments)


Category 8 in-vitro diagnostic medical devices


Category 9 industrial monitoring & control instruments; Category 11
21 July 2021



21 July 2021

21 July 2023



21 July 2024
7a Lead up to 85% by weight in high-temperature solder alloys

Categories 1-7 and 10 (except for Exemption 24 capacitor applications)


Categories 8, 9 (except for in-vitro diagnostic medical devices and industrial monitoring & control instruments)


Category 8 in-vitro diagnostic medical devices


Category 9 industrial monitoring & control instruments; Category 11
21 July 2021



21 July 2021

21 July 2023



21 July 2024
7c-1 Lead in glass or ceramics (including matrix compounds) other than for capacitor dielectrics (such as piezoelectronic devices) Categories 1-7 and 10 (except for Exemption 24 potentiometer applications)


Categories 8 and 9 (except for in-vitro diagnostic medical devices and industrial monitoring & control instruments)


Category 8 in-vitro diagnostic medical devices


Category 9 industrial monitoring & control instruments; Category 11
21 July 2021



21 July 2021

21 July 2023



21 July 2024
24 Lead in solders for machined through-hole discoidal and planar array ceramic multilayer capacitors Categories 1-7 and 10


Categories 8 and 9 (except for in-vitro diagnostic medical devices and industrial monitoring & control instruments)


Category 8 in-vitro diagnostic medical devices


Category 9 industrial monitoring & control instruments; Category 11
21 July 2021



21 July 2021

21 July 2023



21 July 2024
34 Lead in cermet-based trimmer potentiometer elements Categories 1-7 and 10


Categories 8 and 9 (except for in-vitro diagnostic medical devices and industrial monitoring & control instruments)


Category 8 in-vitro diagnostic medical devices


Category 9 industrial monitoring & control instruments; Category 11
21 July 2021



21 July 2021

21 July 2023



21 July 2024
Worker inspecting an electrical panel lock

Start with compliant or exempt components

Of course, design engineers can make life easier for themselves. If you need a cam lock for cabinets, concealed hinges, industrial door latches or push mount cable ties, for example, then select components that comply with RoHS or components with materials that are exempt from the directive.

Your design might need these products, which either contain compliant materials or are exempt:

Fixed Compression Latch Fixed Compression Latch
Adjustable Compression Latch Adjustable Compression Latch
Adhesive Heat Shrink Tubing Adhesive Heat Shrink Tubing
Nylon cable ties Nylon cable ties
Wire cable clamp, screw mount Wire cable clamp, screw mount
Push-in snap rivets Push-in snap rivets

Download free CADs and try before you buy

Free CADs are available for most solutions, which you can download for free. You can also

request free samples to ensure the solutions you’ve chosen are exactly what you need. If

you’re not quite sure which product will work best for your application, or wish to discuss how the RoHS directive affects your end product, our experts are always happy to advise you.

Request your free samples or download free CADs now.

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