You may be surprised that Technology as a stand alone item is not one of them.

Our future is not about shinier flying saucers.
We will master  and implement whatever technologies are developed.
But our future is being impacted by these 7 items  today:

  1. Loss of experienced workers taking tribal and craftsman knowledge out of our shops.
  2. Lower average wages as experienced workers with seniority leave and younger workers start at trainee wages, making it difficult to attract talent with facts about “increasing wages”- even though they are.
  3. Training growing in percent of spend as many shops are unable to purchase new technology to quote new work because they do not have trained workforce.
  4. More and more jobs being quoted out of more challenging, non free machining materials;
  5. A bit of relief from new regulations, but more uncertainty as Washington turns to trade issues which can impact availability and cost of imported materials, and tooling,  as well as impact the exports of finished goods that contain our parts.
  6. Increasing demands for certification of production to a wide variety of customer demanded requirements regardless of legal obligations- Conflict Minerals, REACH, RoHS, Animal- Free; Ca. Prop 65. Etc.
  7. Possibility of an “Association Healthcare Insurance solution” in 2019 or beyond.

What do you see as the trends shaping our company and industry future?
Please don’t say technology- as Humans, we’ve been successfully implementing new technologies for quite some time.

Flying cars
Todd Rundgren Future

The current exemptions for Lead in work piece materials for our shops will remain in effect and will not expire until the EU Commission completes the current ongoing review of the applications.

They can fly the flags, but getting regulatory decisions on time is not something the EU commission does very well.
They can run the flags up the flagpoles on schedule, but getting regulatory decisions on time is not something the EU Commission does very well.

According to Electronics Industry Portal I-Connect007,  the EU is unlikely to publish  the RoHS exemptions any time soon. Apparently the EU Commission only got around to reviewing the requests last month.  December 15, 2016. December 2016!
And they are only now in the process of preparing draft legislation to be sent to the member states for consideration later this year.
Later this year!
Bottom Line for your precision machining shop and your customers:

  • A decision on the RoHS exemptions of interest to the precision machining industry is unlikely to be made until Fall of 2017.
  • The current exemptions for Lead as an alloying element in steel, Lead as an alloying element in aluminum, Lead as an alloying element in copper will remain in effect and will not expire until the EU Commission completes the current ongoing review of the applications.

Here’s the full statement from I-Connect007
“The EU Commission and Member States continue to meet to discuss the disposition of RoHS exemption renewal requests submitted by industry in January 2015.  During their December 15, 2016 meeting in Brussels, the experts reviewed requests on: Lead as an alloying element in steel (Annex III exemption 6a); Lead as an alloying element in aluminum (Annex III exemption 6b); Lead as an alloying element in copper (Annex III exemption 6c); Lead in high melting temperature type solders (Annex III exemption 7a); Lead in a glass or ceramic other than dielectric ceramic in capacitors (Annex III exemption 7c-I), jointly with exemption request 2015-1; Lead as activator in the fluorescent powder (Annex III exemption 18b), jointly with exemption request 2015-3; Lead in solders for the soldering to machined through hole discoidal and planar array ceramic multilayer capacitors (Annex III exemption 24); and Lead in cermet-based trimmer potentiometer elements (Annex III exemption 34).
“The Commission is currently working on preparing the draft legislative proposals for these and other exemptions) which will be sent to Member States for written consultation.  The drafts will likely be published in the spring; final legislative acts could be published in the Official Journal of the EU (OJEU) in the fall at the earliest. Under the EU RoHS2, all existing exemptions were set to expire by July 21, 2016. However, all exemptions for which industry submitted a renewal application will not expire until the EU Commission completes the current ongoing review of the applications.”
(PS. Interesting footnote, I searched for an image of the European Union Commission and found the one above-on a blog about the EU Commissions delay to decide on a VISA issue– last April. Not an isolated case of Bureaucratic delay!)
Photo credit: Pulse Blog

The EU decision on the  RoHS 2011 recast appeals for exemptions for leaded materials for machining is almost a year late- the decisions were due  from the commission January 21, 2016.
January 21, 2016!
PMPA has reviewed the findings of the study group assigned to review and report on the appeals regarding Lead for machining purposes in Steels, Aluminum, and Copper alloys.
If you are a PMPA member, you can get our summary  providing the latest status of the RoHS exemptions that affect our shops. The EU is almost a year late with their decision on the exemption appeals for leaded materials for machining under the latest (2011) RoHS recast.
PMPA has posted a summary of the consultants’ findings  and their potential impacts on our machining companies for our members information on the PMPA website here.
We have really been challenged by the EU to stay up to date on these exemptions, being almost a year late with the decision certainly keeps the uncertainty high for manufacturers.
I wonder if the European Commission is as  lenient with the deadlines on the regulated communities as they are for their own?
If you are a PMPA member, you can get the latest Status of the RoHS exemptions that affect our shops here : January 2017 RoHS Exemption Summary Report
If you are not a PMPA member, where do you go to stay up to date on regulatory issues that affect your business?

Lead is NOT banned by the European Union’s End of Life Vehicles Regulations for machining purposes in steel, aluminum and brass.

Not banned in every application...

Lead is NOT banned by the European Unions Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive.
The exemption for “Lead as an alloying element in Steel containing up to 0.35% lead by weight, aluminum containing up to 0.4% lead by weight, and as a copper alloy containing up to 4% by weight.” This exemption is located in article 4.2 and Annex, line 6.
UK link to RoHS exemptions
If even the European Union recognizes that additions of Lead in materials for machining is worthy of exemption, Lead must provide some significant benefits…

  • “Boosts machinability 25% at lower cost”- Pat Wannell, La Salle Steel April 1994, quoted in Modern Metals Magazine
  • “Cutting Speeds can normally be increased from 15-25% above those employed for the standard grade”- Monarch  Turning Manual
  • “Lead, found mainly enveloping manganese sulfide inclusions, promotes machinability in two ways, possibly three. By forming a layer of liquid lubricant at the tool chip interface, it reduces the stress required to overcome friction. By acting as an initiator of microcracks and, possibly, by causing some liquid metal embrittlement, it reduces the deformation stress.” American Machinist Special Report 790.
  • In our experience we have found leaded steels to  lower cutting temperatures and reduce wear rates on tools, resulting in greater up time. Surface finish on leaded materials  is superior to those on non leaded equivalents.

Increasing speeds and production, reducing power needed (and thus greenhouse gas emissions), and improving surface finish are some powerful advantages that are provided by the addition of lead to materials for precision machining.
What’s the down side?

In this photo lead is visible as tails (pointed out by arrows.)

1) Lead is not soluble in iron.  It is therefore a separate phase in the steel, usually visible enveloping the manganese sulfides as tails, though sometimes appearing as small particles.
2) Lead has a greater density than iron. This means that it will tend to segregate given enough time while the metal is liquid.
3) Lead has a relatively low melting point (liquidus) compared to steel. This can mean that at processing temperatures for heat treatment, leaded steel parts can ‘exude’ lead
These three factors mean that if you ABSOLUTELY MUST HAVE parts that are free from possible segregation, parts that will not have potential hollows or porosity after being exposed to high temperatures, and absolutely no visible indications of a separate phase in the steel (ie. what the shop guys call  “lead stringers,” you probably ought to forego the leaded grade.
And forego  the 25-30 % savings that it gives you on the piece part machining cost…
You want highest machinability or highest product integrity?

Take your pick.
Photo of Lead on Manganese sulfides from L.E. Samuels Optical Microscopy of Steels.
Coin Flip