Unlike the aforementioned startups, failure analysis companies are unlikely to need to purchase special equipment specifically for the purpose of performing RoHS certification audits; many of the tools used to analyze defective devices can just as easily be applied to sniffing out lead, cadmium, and other harmful elements. Energy dispersive spectroscopy and x-ray fluorescence, for example, are just as readily used to identify the ecologically hazardous elements banned by RoHS requirements as they are for analyzing contaminants that cause devices to break down. Fourier transform spectroscopy can be used to analyze organic compounds, like oils or resins, which may interfere with a device’s operation; it can also be used to detect the PBBs and PBDEs banned by RoHS.
Not only do the tools found in a failure analysis lab adapt easily to performing RoHS audits, but the set of analytical skills possessed by the average FA tech can also be a boon as well. Successful failure analysis requires a meticulous, methodical approach; this attention to minutiae is vital for performing RoHS certification since even the smallest components must be considered as potential sources of undesirable elements. Furthermore, the analyst’s experience with a multitude of different products and processes can provide insight that can guide the course of the audit; for example, an analyst may recognize the sheen of leaded solder on a few parts amongst a handful of relatively dull components, prompting more careful inspection of those devices that stand out.
In the strictest sense, RoHS certification is not failure analysis – after all, it would be somewhat silly to certify the non-working product. However, the tools and skills of the failure analysis lab transition seamlessly into performing RoHS audits, providing a high level of confidence that any given product can meet the stringent requirements put forth by the RoHS directive.