Tin Whiskers

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A failure mode is re-emerging that has been responsible for the loss of billions of dollars worth of satellites, missiles, and other equipment - electrically conductive tin whiskers. Tin whiskers can develop under typical operating conditions on any product type that uses lead-free pure tin coatings. Driven by the accelerating movement to lead-free products, tin whiskers pose major safety, reliability, and potential liability threats to all makers and users of high reliability electronics, and associated hardware. Existing approaches are not sufficient to control tin whiskering in high-reliability systems. The risk is here now, and unless decisive action is taken soon to fund the development and implementation of a strategic action plan to devise short-term stopgap procedures and medium-term investigation of mitigation alternatives, serious consequences are inevitable.