Tag Archives: MTBF

Every electronic item has built in obsolescence

– Thank the EU

There is indeed planned obsolescence in electronics and its not “designed in” by the manufacturer. It’s all due to something called “tin whiskers”.

Solder is used to attach electronics components to circuit boards. If solder is made from pure tin then that solder will, over time, grow those whiskers. They look like exactly what they sound like: a long hair or filament of pure tin grows out of the solder itself.

Clearly and obviously, given the ease with which tin conducts electricity, this isn’t really something you want happening on a motherboard or inside a piece of electronics. For when the whisker grows long enough it will short out that piece of electronics. And yes, this does happen and the mean time before failure (MTBF) of a board built with a pure tin solder is some 3 to 4 years.

Now, we do know how to solve this: we add lead to the tin to make the solder. But what has happened in the past few years? Correct, led by the European Union, who banned the use of lead solders in consumer electronics, the world now uses pure tin solders.

So by deliberate design we’ve had the entire consumer electronics industry building boards and devices with that “planned” obsolescence. There are those of us who did warn about this before the law was passed but sadly we weren’t taken note of. The major reason why consumer electronics now has a shorter working life than it could do is simply that the EU and thus the law says it must be so.

So there is planned obsolescence in consumer electronics not because it’s been planned by the consumer electronics companies. You can thank the EU and especially green and environmentalists activists instead.