Not long ago, directives issued by governmental bodies outside the United States were often safely ignored by manufacturers in this country. Today, U.S. companies have to pay attention to laws and regulations coming from other countries because non-compliance may keep products made here out of key emerging markets. It is also increasingly likely that similar regulations will be enacted by Japan and other countries, including our own.
Two recent directives from the European Parliament are good examples. Both pieces of legislation go into effect in 2006. Each has implications for how U.S. manufacturers should approach certain manufacturing processes, especially in plating or finishing. The End of Life Vehicle (ELV) directive mandates a reduction in the amount of heavy metals contained in automobiles and requires that manufacturers provide for the recyclability of automotive components. The Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive restricts the use of certain hazardous materials in electrical and electronic equipment.
One area that these directives will impact is the protective coating that manufacturers can consider for the parts they produce. Manufacturers may want to consider processes that do not use chemicals banned by these directives or introduce hazardous substances into the components. One such process is low-temperature black oxide finishing. The Tru Temp process from Birchwood Casey (Eden Prairie, Minnesota), for example, is said to use a non-toxic iron oxide compound. In many cases, manufacturers will find that switching processes not only helps put them in compliance with environmental directives, but also helps them find other efficiencies and benefits.