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Printed Wiring Board Partnership

About This Project | Findings & Accomplishments | Publications | Partners

What Is a PWB?

PWBs, or printed circuit boards (PCBs), provide the physical structure for mounting and holding electronic components, as well as providing the electrical interconnection between the components. PWBs are the foundation for virtually all of the world's electronics.

Printed Wiring Board Project Icon

The DfE Printed Wiring Board (PWB) Partnership encouraged the use of technologies that improve both environmental performance and competitiveness of the PWB industry. Traditional methods for manufacturing PWBs:

  • Use toxic chemicals, such as formaldehyde, that pose potential health and environmental risks.
  • Use substantial amounts of water and energy.
  • Generate large volumes of hazardous waste.

The DfE Program partners, including the national PWB trade association, have examined alternative technologies that reduce or eliminate these impacts.

Making Holes Conductive

In its first major study, the project evaluated the health and environmental risks, performance, and cost of the electroless copper process and six promising alternative technologies that use direct metalization. The results showed that the alternatives perform as well as or better than the baseline technology, are more efficient, and may pose less risk to workers and the environment. Refer to Making Holes Conductive Cleaner Technologies Substitutes Assessment for further discussion of results.

Surface Finishes

The project partners also conducted a second CTSA to evaluate lead-free surface finish alternatives to the standard hot air solder leveling (HASL) process. The results indicate that the alternative finishes perform as well as or better than HASL, and some of the alternatives appear to pose fewer occupational risks, use less water and energy, and cost less.

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