SEMI Fights RoHS Scope

SEMI Fights RoHS Scope

By Heinz Kundert and Carlos Lee, SEMI Europe

SEMI Europe is fighting the new expanded RoHS scope which includes monitoring and control instruments integrated into large-scale industrial tools (LSIT). We coauthored this article for EE Times Europe and it was just published in the Sept 2010 issue. Please let me know if you have feedback or would like to get involved.

computer at computer logo 

Applied Materials' PECVD systems used to manufacture thin-film solar PV panels deposit critical light-absorbing silicon layers on 5.7m2 glass substrates. Monitoring and control instruments (MACI) are integrated into large-scale stationary industrial tools like this one. The proposed RoHS changes include the needed LSIT exclusion, but the exclusion contains an exception for MACI, rendering the LSIT exclusion worthless. This is the worst case scenario for the semiconductor and PV manufacturing supply chains
 

For semiconductor and photovoltaic (PV) equipment manufacturers, the Europe Union Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive's large-scale stationary industrial tool (LSIT) exclusion is a critical issue. The exclusion means that semiconductor and PV equipment manufacturers do not need to follow the RoHS substance restrictions. Currently, the EU is in the process of revising the RoHS directive. This revision process is called a recast, and three primary EU governance authorities – the European Commission (EC), the Council of Ministers, and the European Parliament – must agree on common legislative language for the revision to become legally binding.

For the upcoming vote of the RoHS Recast directive, which will likely occur in the November/December timeframe, the LSIT exclusion is likely to be maintained. However, the semiconductor and PV industries are at risk due to changes in how “Monitoring and Control Instruments” (MACI) will be considered in the proposed RoHS LSIT exclusion. Under the current RoHS, category 9 (monitoring and control instruments) are excluded. Under the new RoHS proposals, category 9 must be RoHS-compliant starting January 2014. A new addition to category 9, industrial monitoring and control instruments, must be RoHS-compliant starting January 2017.

For the upcoming vote of the RoHS Recast directive, which will likely occur in the November/December timeframe, the LSIT exclusion is likely to be maintained. However, the semiconductor and PV industries are at risk due to changes in how “Monitoring and Control Instruments” (MACI) will be considered in the proposed RoHS LSIT exclusion. Under the current RoHS, category 9 (monitoring and control instruments) are excluded. Under the new RoHS proposals, category 9 must be RoHS-compliant starting January 2014. A new addition to category 9, industrial monitoring and control instruments, must be RoHS-compliant starting January 2017.

Worst Case Scenario: Latest Proposals Put LSIT MACI into ROHS Scope

The latest proposals from the Parliament and Council add in an explicit LSIT exclusion, but the exclusion contains an exception for “Monitoring and Control Instruments” (MACI). In other words, LSIT would be excluded, but dedicated instruments that serve a monitoring and control function which are part of LSIT would not be excluded. This LSIT exclusion with MACI exception is the worst case situation. The Parliament and Council, on paper, have granted the semiconductor and PV industries the LSIT exclusion, but the MACI exception renders the exclusion worthless. An analogy: exclude the car from the directive, but bring the engine, the tires, and the steering wheel back into scope.

Without the LSIT exclusion and a logical extension of this exclusion for dedicated instruments within LSIT that serve as monitoring and control functions, the substance restrictions would extend to companies that make semiconductor and photovoltaic manufacturing equipment, which is complex and huge, composed of tens of thousands of parts. Supply chains for this type of manufacturing are extensive, often including thousands of suppliers around the globe. Re-engineering existing product lines and designing future products without these substances would take years or decades to accomplish. In the meantime, semiconductor and photovoltaic manufacturing equipment could not be marketed in the EU with compliance.

SEMI is advocating with the Parliament and Council to ensure that the RoHS Recast objective is met while taking into account the requirements of the semiconductor and photovoltaic manufacturing industries. The SEMI RoHS Working Group, which is composed of SEMI members involved in semiconductor and PV manufacturing, has taken this bold stance: Including semiconductor and PV manufacturing equipment and the instruments they contain (for monitoring and control functions) in the scope of RoHS is not an effective way to further the goals of RoHS. These should remain out of scope!

SEMI Recommendations to the EU

Concerned about the impact of these proposed changes, the SEMI RoHS Working Group has spent several hundred hours developing impact assessment documents and position papers and communicating with the Parliament, Council and Commission— advocating for exclusions for all semiconductor and PV manufacturing equipment as part of a larger LSIT exclusion. In 2008, SEMI answered the public consultation for the RoHS Recast. For two years, SEMI has been involved in the RoHS LSIT issue to represent our members’ interest. SEMI has met with the permanent representation offices of several member states and also talked with other organizations to ensure our positions are supported.

 

Lauren Crane from Applied Materials (USA), Supika Mashiro from Tokyo Electron (Japan) and Carlos Lee, SEMI

In July 2010, SEMI arranged for 15 meetings with other associations, the council (member states representative office in Brussels), and representatives from the European Parliament. These meetings included the Belgian government which holds the EU presidency till end 2010 and is responsible for reaching a compromise. Specifically, SEMI is lobbying for:

  • Removing the exception of monitoring and control instruments from the LSIT exclusion
  • Monitoring and control instruments (MACI) should be defined and include concepts of “stand alone” and “finished product”
  • A scope exclusion explicitly extended to components which are intended to become a permanent part of LSIT and the definition of spare parts adjusted to support this scope exclusion

The Fallacy of the MACI Exception

The exception of MACI in the LSIT exclusion is a real problem for both semiconductor and photovoltaic equipment manufacturers.

One of the European Commission’s stated goals in the RoHS recast was to explicitly bring MACI (so-called Category 9 equipment) into scope. In the EC’s 2006 ERA Technology Ltd. study of Category 8 and 9 equipment, MACI was described as stand-alone equipment placed on the market as a finished product, not as components of another product (e.g., LSIT) that provide control or monitoring functions. The EC proposal refers to MACI as a stand-alone product (i.e., external MACI) and does not refer to MACI used as an integral part (like sub-assemblies that have a monitoring or control function; i.e., a component) of LSIT (i.e., monitoring and controlling built-in components).

Dilemma for Equipment Manufacturing

If dedicated monitoring and control instruments that are part of LSIT are brought into the scope of RoHS, some EU companies would no longer have access to compliant components. This could jeopardize thousands of jobs and impact Europe's economic growth. Employee safety could be endangered as MACI components of such large-scale tools cannot yet be replaced by RoHS compliant alternatives due to potential reliability implications. Another consequence could be that equipment would be delayed in Europe or become more expensive, placing European companies at a competitive disadvantage. It is difficult to quickly influence and control a complex supply chain.

Not a Significant Environmental Risk

Including into the scope of RoHS dedicated components of LSIT that serve a monitoring and control function does nothing to further the environmental goals of RoHS. The LSIT exclusion should not have a MACI exception. LSIT are significantly different from consumer products with a short life span. LSIT equipment is sold in limited quantities, so minimal amounts of restricted substances would be eliminated from landfills. The equipment is designed for a service life of 10 to 20+ years, and it is also resold in a robust secondary equipment market. At “end of life” the equipment retains significant value. For example, semiconductor manufacturing equipment contains as much as 90 percent by weight of steel and aluminum, which are recyclable.

MACI as component parts of LSIT are unlikely to enter waste streams with environmental exposure because they are managed by professional end-users.

Clearly, there is no benefit to placing mandatory substance restrictions on monitoring and control instruments within LSIT. However, there is a considerable cost for substitution and enforcement if some parts of the LSIT are within the scope of RoHS but others (like these embedded components) have substance restrictions. The environmental benefit of including dedicated monitoring and control instruments of LSIT within the scope of RoHS would be insignificant while the industrial and economic impact would be quite serious.

History of the RoHS LSIT Exclusion

In 2006, The EU enacted legislation to restrict the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (EEE). The six restricted substances are lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls and polybrominated diphenyl ethers. The RoHS directive was designed to prevent harmful substances from ending up in landfills or being exported as waste at the end of the life for EEE products. High-volume consumer EEE products, such as cell phones, personal computers and microwave ovens, were the main targets of the regulation.

 

Semiconductor and photovoltaic manufacturing equipment have had no government-mandated substance restrictions based on an exclusion afforded to LSIT. LSIT were considered fundamentally different than high-volume consumer products.

SEMI represents the collective interests of its membership and advocates for the industry on many public policy issues— ranging from competitiveness, R&D public funding, export control and tax policy to environmental regulation issues like RoHS. Our members support us directly working with governments on behalf of the industry in concert with a variety of other international and professional trade organization. Our overall goal is to inform, educate and advocate responsible policies on a variety of industry issues. SEMI pledges to continue working towards responsible and effective RoHS regulations.

SEMI urges members and industry partners, especially those located in Europe, to assist in these advocacy efforts. If you would like to join the efforts of the SEMI RoHS Working Group, please contact Carlos Lee (Brussels office) at clee@semi.orgor Sanjay Baliga (EHS) at sbaliga@semi.org. For more information, please visit www.semi.orgor www.pvgroup.org.

This article was originally printed in EE Times Europe (September 2010 issue).

October 6, 2010