As the world becomes increasingly reliant on electronic devices, gadgets and appliances, so do we need to be vigilant about the impact that these devices—from their manufacture to their use and eventual disposal—have on our environment and on our health as human beings.
Measures have already been put in place by certain countries, markets and areas around the world when it comes to the manufacturing and use of electronic devices. This is especially true in the Western world, where countries and economic federations like the European Union are known for their stringent rules on electronic products. Among the most popular and strictly enforced rules and regulations are the RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) and REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals).
The development of motion solutions is one area of the manufacturing industry where compliance standards are taken into consideration heavily.
By themselves, motion solutions are automated equipment and systems composed of various different mechanical parts and components like rotary stages, highly precise linear stages, motor systems, and many more. These parts, along with the entire system as a whole, need to meet the requirements of the standards if they are to be declared fully compliant.
Many companies may mistake RoHS and REACH compliance as being one and the same, but they are quite different. RoHS is basically concerned with the issue of electronic waste piling up in landfills and disposals, that is why it seeks to limit the use or application of certain hazardous substances in the manufacture of electronic products.
- Lead (Pb)
- Mercury (Hg)
- Cadmium (Cd)
- Hexavalent chromium (Cr6+), which is mostly used in chrome plating, chromate coatings and primers
- Polybrominated biphenyls (PBB), a flame retardant used in plastics
- Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE), also a flame retardant in plastics
Cadmium and mercury are limited to maximum levels of 0.01% or 100 ppm by weight, while the rest are limited to 0.1% or 1,000 ppm. Note that by weight, it does not only pertain to the weight of the finished product, but any single part, component or substance that could be separated or derived mechanically. For instance, cable sheaths may be separated or stripped off, and may contain these harmful substances.
Note that RoHS is a directive that gives instruction to manufacturers, but there is no designation body that implements and regulates it. The RoHS directive covers many and almost all types of electronics, from common household appliances to medical devices and even toys.
REACH, meanwhile, is a full-fledged EU regulation. It means that all companies manufacturing or bringing in chemical substances into the EU in quantities exceeding 1 ton per year are required to register these substances. The body overseeing and enforcing this regulation is the European Chemical Agency (ECHA).
Moreover, these companies, as well as their clients or customers, are required to be transparent on information regarding these chemicals along the entire supply chain, so that authorities are aware of the movement of such substances in relation to the safety of finished products that are supplied.
The chemicals that REACH is concerned with are those that have proven ill effects on human health as well as the natural environment. These include carcinogens, mutagens, reproduction toxins, and persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic chemicals.
It is thus a collective responsibility of the manufacturing industry to help governments in addressing and minimizing, if not completely removing the risks associated with certain chemicals and substances used in the production of goods. Responsibility toward proper disposal of electronic waste is also important, and is a concern that involves consumers and end-users as well.