Consumers love sustainable devices. Stannol launched its Fairtin solder range to enable electronics manufacturers to show that they care. The tin in the new products comes from a production that is not hazardous to man and nature. It started to sell on the SMT Hybrid Packaging fair in Nuremberg in May this year. The solder is of well-proven quality and can be used in existing processes without any technical changes.
Fair selling point
Green IT sells itself already. Energy-efficient products can save money. Due to their lower energy consumption they make economic sense. Professional electronics users who are ready to invest a little extra actually do improve their bottom-line.
But why should manufacturers engineer social sustainability into their products? Why should they embrace a greater effort for planning and possibly higher cost? “Simply because your customers want it“, says Marco Dörr. The managing director of Stannol has in mind the success of Fairtrade International. The certification with its focus on food is able to log double-digit growth rates year after year.
“The electronics industry is moving, not very obviously, but undeniably to the close observer”, Dörr continues. There are smaller initiatives like the ‘fair computer mouse’ or the Fairphone who press forward. Big players also get their huge weight going. Smartphone giant Apple plans to build up a circular economy for the raw materials of its products. Philips starts to buy fair trade gold. And these are only the developments that were made public. A lot more is going on under the surface.
Now that the heavyweights of the industry are starting to move despite their complacency in the past, the smaller, more agile suppliers cannot ignore this trend anymore. Fair solder is a step forward to being a pioneer and expressing one’s social responsibility. Technically, this is not a problem at all. Fairtin continues to be made of high-purity primary tin. The alloys are the same as in the conventional product range. Therefore, the Fairtin versions of the standard solder variants and all the other sustainable solder products can be introduced into existing production processes without a renewed approval.
A positive impact
Today’s consumers do not look at technical specs only. These have become interchangeable between brands. The decision to buy is based more and more on the life-style to which the product’s image is tied. This is also true for its ‘adverse effects’ which a consumer good usually has. Negative headlines can leave ugly scratches on the glossy surface of a company’s reputation. Instead, they are serious risks because a growing number of customers are sensitive to what happens in formerly remote countries.
Buzzwords like ‘Dodd-Frank’ and ‘conflict-free’ have caused purchasing managers some headache already. But this is only part of the story. The reporting requirements of the American Securities and Exchange Commission aim at cutting the financing of armed conflicts through mineral trade. Other severe violations of human rights and local laws, like child labor or contamination of water resources, are not taken into account. However, this is exactly where forward-looking consumers want improvements.
The tin for the Fairtin product range stems from mining with state-of-the-art environmental management and working conditions. The local population benefits from the economic activity in their neighbourhood and from several educational programs. This is a positive exception in the world of tin.
Reality can look very different: In Indonesia a natural paradise is destroyed since mining is more profitable in the short term than tourism or agriculture. Regularly, miners die in makeshift open-pit mines. In Myanmar after becoming a major tin producer in recent years, the human rights situation and the status-quo of the environmental protection is unclear. International monitors and journalists have rarely access to the Burmese mining regions. Working conditions are often sub-human and pay is below poverty level in the Great Lakes Region in central Africa.
Stannol does not want to further disadvantage these producers. They want to show that there is a market for sustainable tin. This real-life example is important to show that mineral trade can achieve more than just avoiding conflict finance. The solder manufacturers requirements for its suppliers are based on demanding mining standards. A comprehensive number of criteria is monitored by means of external certificates.
Apart from that, Stannol is actively looking for more ideas for pushing the borders of sustainable enterprise even further together with its suppliers and clients. The aim is always not only to create better connections between components but also to create better ties to your customers.
Activated flux for solder activists
The precursor for the Fairtin industrial solders was a collaboration with the non-profit initiative FairLötet. This small group of activists had been encouraged by German fair electronics guru Susanne Jordan who wanted fair solder for the production of the fair computer mouse. Alerted by press coverage on the idea, Stannol invited the activist to their headquarters. “From the beginning, we shared a creative spirit and on the way forward we have learned a lot from each other”, Jens Gruse, the solder manufacturer’s application engineer, remembers.
HS10 Fair is the name of the resulting product: a soldering wire for do-it-yourselfers presented in October 2015. It fits well into the market that lately became known as the “maker movement”. Sustainably mined primary tin for it was not available immediately. Stannol improvised with used solder and recycled tin to turn them into their renowned Flowtin+ solder wire. What makes the company especially proud is the fact that Nager-IT uses the tin in its sustainable computer mouse. It helps to make the supply chain of this fair electronics flagship again a little better.
Although HS10 Fair went into a couple of quad-copters and 3D printers by now, Stannol wanted to develop the idea a step further. For their industry clients they wanted to create a socially sustainable product from high-purity primary tin because recycled material still has a bad reputation in the electronics industry. These reservations are not based on scientific research. Nevertheless, production engineers usually do not want to test it in their area of responsibility.
Another advantage of ‘fresh’ tin is that a share of the profit goes to the weakest links in the supply chain: the miners on the ground or – more precisely – below the ground.
Since 1879, Stannol is a name that stands out in the world of solder technology for its quality solders for electronics producers and home users. A medium-sized company with a staff complement of 80 in 3 branches in Germany and the U.S., it produces the whole range of solder products: solder alloys, solder wires, pastes and flux. Stannol shapes its future with constant research activities.
The Fairtin product range is part of a company-wide initiative promoting social responsibility alongside the existing efforts in environmental protection. Stannol’s team is happy to provide more information or receive feedback from people interested in the matter. They can be reached by email at email@example.com or phone at +49-2051-3120-126.