The Influence of Clean Air on the Value-Added Chain in Electronics Production


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The Value-Added Chain—What Is It?

“The idea of the value chain is based on the process view of organizations, the idea of seeing a manufacturing (or service) organization as a system, made up of subsystems each with inputs, transformation processes and outputs”1. The definition of a value-added chain by Michael E. Porter is one of many that can be found in reference books, works and on websites. In principle, it involves a sequence of activities, executed by a manufacturing company to develop, produce, sell, ship and maintain products or services.

Three main parameters essentially influence a value-added chain: 

  • Direct activities: research, development, production, shipment, etc.
  • Indirect activities: maintenance, operation, occupational safety, environment, etc.
  • Quality assurance: monitoring, test/inspection; quality management, etc.

In particular, indirect activities and quality assurance generate a greater part of the costs in product manufacturing. This article principally focuses on the indirect activities.

The indirect activities within a value-added chain comprises of three subdivisions: 

  • Maintenance: production resources and rooms as well as the entirety of all systems and plants
  • Product quality: precision of manufacture, accuracy, functionality and cleanliness
  • Occupational safety: work clothing, ESD protection, injury potential and clean air

All three issues have one common factor: They depend on clean air in the production rooms. How is this the case?

In modern electronics production, there is a multitude of different processes: from connection and separation technologies, surface processing such as marking, drilling, sintering and milling, the utilisation of fluxes, up to production processes such as 3D printing or rapid prototyping by means of laser, soldering, welding and gluing; all these processes generate harmful substances that might have extreme health impacts.

The Impacts of Airborne Contaminants

Briefly, all airborne pollutants have negative effects on employee health but also on production plants and products.

In principle, airborne pollutants are classified due to particle sizes. This classification primarily focuses on the influence of emissions on the human body. In addition to the possibilities of brain damages, neurotoxic effects or airway injuries, they are differentiated in terms of being inhaling (E fraction) or alveolar (A fraction).

The capture of contaminants is regulated by law in various countries. These regulations determine categories of danger for specific hazardous substances, e.g., in terms of fire and explosion risks, or in types of health damaging effects (cancerogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction).

Airborne contaminants may additionally have negative impact on production systems and products. Depending on technology (laser, soldering, welding, etc.), they consist of various inorganic and organic substances, which might have partly dramatic effects based on chemical reactions.

Soldering fume, for instance, mainly consists of fluxes, soldering material and detergent residues, which often join up to adhesive aerosols. They also compromise machinery and products—and finally product quality—as they create firmly attached dirt layers.

Contamination of electronic assemblies with tacky dusts may lead to conductor track corrosion, which can lead to partly or complete functional failure. Product quality suffers from the impact of hazardous emissions in the long term.

To read this entire article, which appeared in the January 2017 issue of SMT Magazine, click here.

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