Making manufacturing Eco-Friendly: Why Reworkability is so Important

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In an increasingly environmentally conscious world, manufacturers are the pioneers of eco-friendliness. Making operations more sustainable is essential to corporate social responsibility models, not to mention success. With nearly half of UK consumers more likely to buy from competitors with a wider range of eco-friendly delivery options, manufacturing sustainability needs to be taken seriously if shoppers are going to stay loyal.

As well as keeping brand loyalty alive, the introduction of new environmental standards such as the IEC 61249-2-21 has put increasing pressure on manufacturers to moderate their chemical usage, employ halogen-free manufacturing processes and use deionized water. And with global e-waste expected to reach round 7 kilograms per capita by 2022, manufacturers need to cut down their contributions by ensuring that product components and new technological solutions across the supply chain are completely reworkable and easy to repair.

Though these terms are often used interchangeably, reworkability and repairability are not the same. Reworkability refers to the process of replacing faulty or damaged components on printed circuit boards at the manufacturing site, usually before they leave the production environment. Repairability is used in a post-sale context, where components are fixed outside of the production environment. And for manufacturing success, it’s essential that products are both easily reworkable and easily repairable.

The sustainability challenge

When it comes to electronics, scrapping and throwing away is no longer a solution. For true manufacturing sustainability, reworking and re-soldering components is the future of device longevity. As such, “right to repair” legislation concerning the reduction of wastage and product life extension is set to change the landscape of electronical usage when introduced by the EU commission in 2021: making spare parts easily accessible and compelling manufacturers to provide any software or manuals needed to complete repairs. Without the threat of voided warranties or the obligation for manufacturers to undertake after-sale repair work, customers can make cost-effective repairs at home – increasing the length of product usability and putting sustainability at the heart of manufacturing.

Of course, the easier a device is to take apart, the easier it is to fix. Recent design trends have often made electronics difficult to open without compromising water resistance or structural integrity. This is due to rigid gaskets and seals, thick conformal coatings or glues. Though these features help to waterproof devices, they can be susceptible to mechanical damage or make repairability impossible by covering connectors.

As repairability becomes more important, these mechanical solutions become increasingly unfit for purpose. Even if it’s technically possible to repair a device with these features, it’s unlikely to be cost effective and the device will likely end up as e-waste. Despite consumer preferences and legislations, reworkability is increasingly becoming part of the manufacturing process in its own right – helping reduce waste, boost sustainability, save manufacturers money on materials and scrappage costs, and achieve better profitability across product lines.

The benefits of nano coating technology

Offering highly water-resistant products on a cost-effective basis is the only way to meet the demands of the changing manufacturing landscape, and the answer to this challenge is nano coating technology. Protecting PCBs and even whole devices from the inside out, nano coating technology eliminates the need for bulky mechanical seals – making devices easier to open and repair, and keeping circuit boards accessible and fully re-workable. With this technology, manufacturers can stay competitive in a market that calls for increasing levels of sustainability – boosting product life length, reducing production costs and prioritising environmental concerns.