As most companies start the slow transition to lead free solder over older methods of lead solder it is helpful to learn a thing or two about this relatively new technology. Though there have been many products made specifically for lead free solder applications, it was not until recently that many started to see the benefits of a fully lead free solder.
Though most larger companies have opted for lead free options as a measure to both cut costs and help the environment, most at home soldering is still lead based simply because it is still widely available. There are some additional advantages to lead free solder such as overall tensile strength. Though initial products that were made for lead free applications lacked strength that lead solder had, there have been great advances in the overall strength of lead free solder materials. For starters, SAC305 contains 96.5% tin, 3% silver, and 0.5% copper making for a very strong solder when it is used. Another popular lead free alloy is of course SN100, this contains 99.3% tin, 0.6% copper, and a small amount of silver and nickel. Both of these present great options for those that are looking to make the transition to fully lead free solder.
Another helpful tid bit about lead free solder is that is it far less likely to cause you and the environment harm with long term use. Of course, if you are only using solder once or twice a month or less, you are not going to be exposed too much lead. However, if you solder very often it may be beneficial for you and your health to use a lead free alternative. There have been many regulations passed that are geared toward reducing the amount of harmful substances like lead and others from widespread use.
Temperatures and Solder Mixing
It is important to keep in mind when using lead free solder that it is at its strongest when it is pure. This means that you should never mix lead free and leaded solder together because it can potentially weaken your joints. Lead free solder is easy to use and does not require any special soldering irons either which is a great help to those that simply want to switch their solder material. It is important however that you pay close attention to the melting point of your lead free solder as it will differ from traditional solders. For example, SAC305 melts at 217°C while SN100 melts at 228°C. If you pay attention to the specific elements of your solder it should be simple enough to get your solder in tip top shape in no time.