February 22, 2012

Advanced Component Testing: XRF Analysis

Over the past few months, my colleagues and I have written a number of blog posts to help educate our OEM and CEM customers about our in-depth quality assurance process. We even produced a video that takes viewers inside one of our inspection facilities. Now I’d like to take a deeper dive into some of the advanced component testing capabilities that Converge is able to perform in-house – specifically, what are these techniques and why are they needed? This three-part series will cover XRF analysis, X-ray testing, and decapsulation.

What Is XRF Analysis?

X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analysis is primarily used to verify Restrictions on Hazardous Substances (RoHS) compliance. This European Union 2003 directive, designed to reduce toxic e-waste, restricts the use of six hazardous substances in electrical and electronic components equipment: Lead (Pb); Mercury (Hg); Cadmium (Cd); Hexavelent Chromium (Cr6+); Polybrominated Biphenyls (PBB); and Polybrominated Diphenyl Ether (PBDE). The maximum permitted concentrations are measured in parts-per-million (ppm) by weight of homogeneous material.

A handheld XRF “gun,” or analyzer, uses X-ray fluorescence to determine the elemental breakdown of a scanned component’s lead material. The analyzer offers material concentration results within seconds, along with a pass/fail result that indicates whether or not the component is RoHS compliant. Everything that can be identified as a homogeneous material must be below the concentration limit of 0.1% (except for Cadmium which is limited to 0.01%). In other words, if one material part of a product exceeds the maximum permitted concentrations, the entire product would fail the requirements of the directive.

This information is essential to global electronics manufacturers who need to ensure that their products meet RoHS requirements. Outside the European Union, other countries and states are developing similar hazardous substance regulations, so proving compliance that meets the strictest global regulations is becoming more critical than ever. No manufacturer wants to be held accountable if a component used in a marketed product later turns out to be noncompliant.

Alternatively, some manufacturers need leaded parts for military or aerospace builds. XRF analysis can likewise verify that the parts are indeed leaded and meet the customer’s requirements.

In either case, Converge engineers can compare our XRF analysis results to the manufacturer’s specifications (when available) or to a known good device. When the elemental breakdown doesn’t match, that’s a red flag. When combined with other advanced testing methods, XRF analysis provides an extra layer of protection in our mission to keep substandard components out of the supply chain.

As an independent electronics distributor, Converge specializes in procuring hard-to-find and obsolete electronic components for customers who desperately need to buy obsolete parts. While we carefully screen all our vendors, this is one more reason that Converge believes XRF analysis is an essential tool for every reputable independent distributor. Has your distributor made the XRF investment?

If you missed Part II-X-ray Imaging and Part III-Decapsulation of our Advanced Component Series, you can read them now.

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