Swatch’s metal whisker problem

Watchmaker argues lead-free solder can lead to metal whiskers

Watch maker Swatch Group has experienced problems with metal whiskers growing from lead-free solder, according to a request it submitted to the European Commission in early 2006 with the hopes of getting an exemption on lead restrictions.

Read: "How worried should you be about metal whiskers?"

According to the document, the company attempted to use lead-free solder in the manufacture of the quartz crystal oscillators that keep time in its watches. The company said as much as 30% of the lead-free oscillators had metal whiskers growing from them, and 5% had short-circuited because of the whiskers.

The company's figures are in line with an estimate by metal whisker expert and Uptime Institute Senior Consultant Robert Sullivan, who says 20% to 30% of electroplated sheet metal will grow whiskers.

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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