ROHS Compliant


Concerns about protecting the environment have led to more stringent global regulations regarding the use of certain materials in various manufacturing processes such as electroplating. One example is the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive 2002/95/EC, also known as RoHS.

First instituted in the European Union in 2006, RoHS places restrictions on the use of certain hazardous materials that traditionally have been found in electronics. Any products that include these materials must meet specific compliance requirements.

A follow-up to the original RoHS directive was implemented in 2013. Known as the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive 2011/65/EU, RoHS 2 pertains to the original materials included in RoHS 1, but with enhanced regulatory conditions and greater legal clarity. RoHS 2 also stipulates the automatic expiration of exemptions that have been placed on restrictions if they are not renewed.

The six materials covered by RoHS, including the maximum permissible amount and the common products that typically contain each substance, are:

  • Lead: (< 1000 parts per million) - Batteries, integrated circuits and microchip-printed circuit board finishes, and paints
  • Mercury: (< 100 ppm) - Automotive switches and lighting applications
  • Cadmium: (< 100 ppm) - Nickel-cadmium batteries and CdS photocells
  • Hexavalent chromium: (< 1000 ppm) - Used to prevent corrosion on metal finishes
  • Polybrominated biphenyls (PBB): (< 1000 ppm) - Flame retardants
  • Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE): (< 1000 ppm) - Also used as a flame retardant on various electronics products

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Several nations outside the EU have implemented variations of the RoHS guidelines or at least mandated lead-free manufacturing processes in some way, including China, Japan, Turkey and South Korea. In the United States, California passed the Electronic Wastes Recycling Act (EWRA) of 2003, which prohibits the sale of products that do not comply with RoHS, as well as some additional items. In 2010, California followed up the EWRA by implementing the California Lighting Efficiency and Toxics Reduction Act, which applies the RoHS guidelines to indoor electrical lighting products.

Other states are considering instituting their own RoHS-compliant regulations. Many already have bans on mercury and PBDE in place.

RoHS-Compliant Metal Finishing Alternatives

The implementation of RoHS has forced companies that do business in the EU to find viable alternatives to the non-compliant materials in their plating processes. Common examples include:

  • Zinc-nickel: Zinc-nickel plating can serve as an acceptable substitute for cadmium. It provides excellent corrosion protection and is more environmentally friendly than cadmium. It also offers excellent adhesion and surface coverage. Zinc-nickel is amenable to both rack and barrel plating methods.
  • Tin and tin alloys: Pure tin can replace tin-lead to meet a manufacturer's lead-free requirements. It is possible to formulate tin to provide finishes ranging from matte to bright. A common technique in many electrical manufacturing applications is to apply a pure matte tin coating over a nickel underplate, which can minimize the development of "whiskers," those sharp, microscopic protrusions that can be problematic when plating with tin. Alloying tin with cobalt can increase the hardness of the deposit.
  • Nickel-palladium-gold: A nickel-palladium-gold alloy also can prevent whisker growth and is often used as a finish in lead frame applications. In addition, this versatile alloy is a good choice for applications requiring high solderability. One drawback to using nickel-palladium-gold is the price - the inclusion of gold may make the alloy impractical from a cost perspective for some manufacturers.


As part of our ongoing effort to be an environmentally friendly plating company, SPC has incorporated RoHS-compliant plating practices into our metal finishing services. We've eliminated the use of tin-lead for plating circuit boards and other electronic parts and components. We've also gone to great lengths to ensure our facility is RoHS-compliant.

Contact us to learn more about the steps we've taken to meet the stringent RoHS plating specifications in all of our electroplating and other metal finishing processes for the electronics industry. We'll also be happy to provide a no-obligation price quote for our RoHS plating services.


"I would like to thank you for the help you have provided us in developing an electroless nickel plating technique on an unusual substrate. The sample platings you provided show that we should be able to reach our goals. I especially appreciate your willingness to take on an unusual job, with the uncertainties that that entails...We are looking forward to working with you in the future on our plating needs."

– Robert K.