Intel’s processors go lead-free

Intel has announced that its future processors, beginning with its family of 45nm high-k metal gate (Hi-k) processors, are going 100 per cent lead-free from the second half of 2007.



Lead is used in a variety of micro-electronic packages and the ‘bumps’ that attach a chip to the packages. Package designs include pin grid array, ball grid array and land grid array, and all are 100 per cent lead-free in Intel’s 45nm Hi-k technology generation. In 2008, the company will also transition its 65nm chipset products to 100 per cent lead-free technology.



Due to lead’s potential impact to the environment and public health, Intel has worked alongside suppliers and other electronics manufacturers to develop lead-free solutions. In 2002, Intel produced its first lead-free flash memory products. In 2004, the company began shipping products with 95 per cent less lead than previous microprocessor and chipset packages.



To replace the remaining 5 per cent – about 0.02g – of lead solder historically found in the first-level interconnect in processor packages, Intel will use a tin/silver/copper alloy. Because of the complex interconnect structure of Intel’s silicon technologies, a great deal of engineering work was required to remove the remaining lead in Intel’s processor packages and integrate a new solder alloy system.



Intel engineers developed the assembly manufacturing processes using the new solder alloys, and were able to accomplish this while maintaining levels of performance, quality and reliability.