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While consumer and automotive electronics have been transitioning to lead-free technologies since 2006, defense and aerospace companies have continued to use lead-containing electronics due to concerns about reliability, lagging behind commercial sectors.
A new initiative will advance the adoption of lead-free electronics in defense systems. The Defense Electronics Consortium (DEC), to be established and managed by the U.S. Partnership for Assured Electronics (USPAE), is designed to address the defense risks created by the contraction of the U.S. electronics manufacturing sector over the last 20 years.
The project’s goal is to foster research and action to accelerate the transition to lead-free electronics in aerospace, defense and other high-performance electronics.
The extra manufacturing steps needed to convert commercial electronics into leaded electronic assemblies required for defense systems costs the DoD tens of millions of dollars a year, the Pb-Free Electronics Risk Management Council estimates.
The uncertainty in how lead-free electronics perform in defense systems has limited the use of advanced electronics with improved system performance, reliability and security. The project is intended to close the gaps.
The COVID-19 pandemic also shined a light on the extent to which the U.S. had outsourced the manufacturing of vitally needed medical equipment with electronic components. As noted in a DoD 2021 Industrial Capabilities report to Congress, defense weapons systems and critical infrastructure could face similar supply-chain challenges if nothing is done to change course.
The new consortium provides a vehicle for the DoD to contract with trusted partners in industry and academia, including small and medium-size innovators that typically do not do business with DoD.
Purdue will be involved not only in co-leading the Project but also in identifying new opportunities for DEC to form industry-university-government teams to address high-priority defense needs, as reported by purdue.edu.
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