Sonatech Switches to Aqueous Cleaning

Business Oriented Air Quality News September/October 1996

Inside this Issue:

Sonatech Switches to Aqueous CleaningUpcoming WorkshopsRegulatory Costs and Frustration

Index of Topics in Past Issues


Sonatech Switches to Aqueous Cleaning

Sonatech is a small company in Santa Barbara that makes underwater sonar devices for the Navy and the offshore oil industry. These products contain printed circuit boards, which Sonatech manufactures in-house.

For several years, Sonatech used 1,1,1-trichloroethane (TCA) to clean rosin flux, which prevents oxidation and facilitates the flow of solder, from the printed circuit boards. TCA is an ozone depleting compound. With a ban on the production of TCA approaching, Sonatech began searching for an alternative cleaning process and had not found a suitable alternative.

In 1995, the APCD?s Innovative Technologies Group (ITG) arranged for Sonatech to work with the Institute for Research and Technical Assistance (IRTA). IRTA is a non-profit organization that specializes in helping businesses find, test, and use low- and non-polluting solvent alternatives. As part of the Pollution Prevention Initiative, the APCD contributes funding to IRTA?s Santa Monica Pollution Prevention Center.

IRTA recommended that Sonatech test a water cleaning unit with both the rosin flux they were using and a new, water-soluble flux. IRTA put them in contact with other firms that were successfully using water cleaning processes, helped find flux samples for testing, and made suggestions on cleaning agents that contained no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or toxics. Sonatech examined the options in detail, conducted tests, and decided to adopt the water cleaning system. Sonatech tested equipment from two manufacturers and decided to purchase a ?dishwasher? type cleaning system with wash, rinse, and dry cycles from Unit Design. The cost of the new equipment was shared between Sonatech, the APCD, Southern California Edison, and Unit Design. Sonatech installed the machine and has been operating it for about six months. The equipment is designed to allow Sonatech to convert to the water soluble flux in the future.

Sonatech is currently testing a board from every lot cleaned in the system. To date, all of the boards tested have met the cleanliness specifications. The new cleaning operation has allowed Sonatech to eliminate the use of an ozone depleting substance without increasing the use of smog-forming volatile organic compounds. Don Earl, the Sontech process engineer who led the project, is pleased with the new cleaning system and wanted to contribute his story to this article.

?I was tasked by management with finding an effective, low cost, environmentally friendly cleaning system. In the interim, we subcontracted the cleaning process to a local manufacturer. This brought on new problems and led to talk of subcontracting the entire printed circuit board assembly operation. This meant that our staff of assemblers were at risk of losing work.?

?Preliminary system cost estimates were greater than expected and management reluctantly put the washer project on hold. Jeff Carmody and the APCD?s Innovative Technologies Group came through in a big way. Jeff orchestrated the participation of the funding partners and the contract was signed in three months.?

?The APCD not only helped Sonatech purchase the needed equipment, but also saved jobs in the process! Many thanks from Sonatech to IRTA, APCD, SCE and Unit Design for all of the help.?

? Don Earl,Process Engineer, Sonatech

For information on the APCD?s Pollution Prevention Initiative, contact Jeff Carmody, (805) 961-8884.

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Upcoming Workshops

September 21September 25 -27October 8 or 10Water-Borne Wood Coating Demonstration US EPA Lighting Upgrade Commercialization of Defense TechnologyJoin the APCD and representatives of Frazee Paint & Wallcovering and ICI Paint Stores for a hands-on demonstration of low-polluting, water-borne stains, sealants, and top coats for wood products. The demonstration will be September 21 from 8:00 a.m. to 12 noon at UCSB?s residential services facility. Participants will have a chance to apply test coatings on their own products.

For more information, call Tad Bixler, (805) 961-8896, or the APCD?s Business Assistance Line, (805) 961-8868.

Learn how to reap the benefits of improved energy-efficient lighting technologies, software, planning, financing, maintenance, and more. Attend a U.S. EPA Green Lights Lighting Upgrade Workshop. The two and a half day workshops are free and open to the public. Space is limited. The September 25-27 workshop will be held in San Diego and includes the Surveyor Ally examination.

To register or obtain additional workshop dates and locations, call the Green Lights Hotline toll-free at 1-888-STAR-YES.

Sponsored by the Department of Commerce and the Small Business Administration, these conferences are designed to help small and medium sized businesses take advantage of emerging and existing technologies. Each participant will receive a free guide to the technologies available for licensing at US defense labs.

October 8 in San DiegoOctober 10 in Oakland

Call Scott Carter in DOC?s Export Administration, (202) 482-2322 or Bill Truitt in SBA?s Veterans? Affairs (202) 205-7279.

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Regulatory Costs & Frustration

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) recently funded a study to determine whether the cost of California?s air quality regulations is forcing businesses to move out of state. According to the ARB?s Air Quality Regulations and Business Location Decisions, air regulations did not impose significantly higher costs on California businesses compared to other states. Researchers looked at business climate studies, business location research, U.S. Department of Commerce and South Coast Air Quality Management District air pollution control cost data, economic trends, and California business relocation data since 1990. The results showed that nationally, the cost for companies to comply with air quality regulations is 0.26 percent of revenues, while in California it was only slightly higher at 0.29 percent. The study indicates that industry relocation trends were largely unaffected by air pollution regulations and that a decline in real spending far beyond the decline in real income was the principal cause of California job losses during the 1990-93 recession.

According to the report, California businesses decide where to locate based on a variety of factors including worker compensation insurance costs, liability laws, housing costs, building rents, air pollution controls, and water supply. Air quality regulations were not among the top two or three significant reasons cited for business relocations.

Apparently, the frustration businesses feel when trying to obtain permits or get information about regulatory requirements leads to regulatory costs being cited as a problem. The report notes, ?negative attitudes toward environmental regulation are due largely to the frustrations businesses feel in dealing with the process of regulation rather than the actual expenses of compliance.?

The APCD?s Business Assistance Program is designed to eliminate this frustration and help businesses comply with air pollution control laws. A call to our Business Assistance Line connects you to a Business Assistance Representative who will act as your guide to the staff and resources within the APCD. We can answer questions about permits, fees, compliance, and more. For specific technical issues, we can put you in touch with the staff member most qualified to assist you. We also offer information on pollution prevention and will conduct educational site visits.

For more information on our Business Assistance Program, call our Business Assistance Line at 961-8868. We?re here to help!

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