Lead-Free and Lead Solder: What is the Difference

Many electronics use solder as the “glue” to attach components to circuit boards. Whether lead-free or lead solder, the function is the same. Lead-free and lead solder do perform the same function. However, different products and applications will use different solder.

Why Do We Need Lead-Free Solder

When manufacturing specific products, they must use lead-free solder. This is due to new regulations by RoHS.  The main reason for the introduction of these regulations is the need to reduce lead in the landfills, mostly in Europe. However, American industries are now sharing these views.

With the increase of popularity of electronics in every home and businesses the need to reduce lead is becoming more important. On circuit boards, solder attaches components and wires, as previously stated. Solder is also a part of manufacturing wire harnesses. Electrical devices wear out over time and therefore need to be disposed of.  There is an increased amount of lead being removed from landfills and other disposal areas by reducing the amount of lead solder within these electronics.

What Are the Uses of Lead Solder

Most hobby solderers still use lead solder for their projects. Due to these projects not being publicly or commercially used they don’t have strict regulations of RoHS to follow. Hobbyists will often choose lead solder for their projects because of its high melting point and therefore the decreased heat required. Also, with a higher melting point, the cooling time required for the solder is lower and can mean a decreased chance of cold solder joints. A cold solder joint can mean that there is not a good connection of the component to the circuit board. This bad connection can lead to a project failure.

Also, hobbyists do not use the amount of solder that commercial manufacturers do. The decreased use is the main reason why there are not as many regulations on hobby electronics. Due to this decreased use, there is also a decrease in the waste from the lead solder. A hobbyist will not use the amount of solder that a commercial manufacturer will in a year’s time.

Here is a helpful video on soldering from STC (Soldering Training & Certification):

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