A solder ball, also known as solder bump, is a globe or sphere of solder that provides a contact between the chip package and the printed circuit board. It is used to facilitate the soldering process. The ball is placed by an automated equipment or manually over the flux. This helps the ball to be held in place. The alloy is used to join two metal surfaces through melting so that it forms a thin layer between the surfaces. Solder balls are used in the soldering process to increase contact reliability in packaging. Solder balls or spheres are employed in various applications, ranging from electronics to automotive. They are used in the manufacture of semiconductors for computers, smartphones, automotive parts, and other products. The semiconductor industry has been significantly impacted by globalization. Rise in population, development of nations, and growth in standard of living have augmented the demand for electronics. This, in turn, has propelled the demand for semiconductors and solder balls. Demand for technologically developed products that deliver high level of performance has been rising.
Based on product type, solder balls market can be segmented into lead solder balls and lead-free solder balls. Lead solder balls are solder balls that contain lead based alloy, while lead-free solder balls do not contain lead alloy. Examples of lead-free alloys include tin-silver-copper alloy and tin-silver-copper-nickel alloy. Currently, demand for lead-free solder balls is increasing across the globe due to the various side-effects caused by lead solder balls. Lead is a basic constituent in the traditional solder process. It is generally used to lower the melting point of the solder. Lead based solder balls offer high reliability due to their strong mechanical properties. They are used to assemble printed circuit boards in electronics equipment. Lead based products are more economical compared to other alloy types. They also offer high efficiency. However, of late, lead solder balls have been causing environmental issues such as environmental pollution and threat to human health. Thus, its usage has been restricted in electronic products. Lead can cause adverse effects in blood, kidneys, and nervous, immune, and cardiovascular systems in human beings. It is also regarded as a probable human carcinogen. Lead used in solder is included among the hazardous substances by the European Union. RoHS, which originated in the European Union, restricts the usage of hazardous materials in electrical and electronic products. This is estimated to adversely affect the demand for lead based solder balls. Therefore, manufacturers are shifting toward lead-free solder balls.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a life-cycle assessment of the environmental impacts of lead-free solder balls used in electronic products. This assessment allows the industry to redirect efforts toward products and processes that reduce solders’ environmental footprint, including energy consumption; release of toxic chemicals; and potential risks to human health and the environment.
Asia Pacific is one of the prominent regions of the global lead-free solder balls market. It held the major share of the global market in 2016. The lead-free solder balls market in Asia Pacific is anticipated to expand at a fast pace during the forecast period owing to the rise in automation, improvement in standard of living, and growth in population in the region. North America and Europe follow Asia Pacific. The lead-free solder balls market in Middle East & Africa and Latin America accounted for lower share in 2016. The lead-free solder balls market in these regions is estimated to expand at a sluggish pace during the forecast period.
Key players operating in lead-free solder balls market include Indium Corporation, Matsuo Handa Co. Ltd., Senju Metal Industry Co. Ltd., and Duksan Hi-Metal Co. Ltd.