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Yellow Light - Caution

IPC-1752: Where's The Beef?

The long awaited IPC Materials Declaration Standard, IPC-1752, is in the ballot phase. Task force members are required to vote by 23 October, and any other interested party may vote as well. After a year of watching and helping, it is with a heavy heart that I plan to vote no on the ballot.

I had great hopes for this standard. Much excellent work went into the definition of the material content data to exchange between manufacturers. Many hours of thoughtful discussion laid the foundation for a potentially great standard. So what happened?

First you need to know what IPC-1752 is at this point in time. You can download the IPC-1752 documents for yourself and see. Basically, it is a pair of PDF forms, a user's guide and an explanatory document covering the entire standard and supporting technology. The forms can be used by manufacturers to request material content data and RoHS or JIG compliance statements. Suppliers can use the forms to respond to requests or to post public declarations.

My objections to the standard are essentially two-fold, with lots of little variants underneath. Firstly, it isn't ready. Secondly, it isn't practical for small to medium sized businesses.

Like many projects, this one has become rushed at the end. The user's guide does a great job explaining how to fill out the forms, and says nothing about how to use them in practice. In a couple of hours of testing, I found three defects I consider to be quite serious: the button for submitting a response to a requester fails, it is unclear how to import response data into a request without deleting request information, and the file size of a blank form expands by 6 to 30 times when less than 1 KB of data is added. The standard includes no operational information about the underlying XML schema - without this, it would be virtually impossible to develop any type of automation for data exchange.

The form solution is inherently slow and inefficient. Each part requires a single form, though a part family could be described by one form. Even if you went to the trouble of writing code to translate your parts database into XML (you would have to guess at the schema), you would still have to open a form, scroll to the import button on the second page, click it, save the form and give it a unique name, all manually. The standard includes no information whatsoever about how to automate this process.

I find the file size of this solution to be particularly irksome. The blank form is 219 KB. Add at most a few hundred bytes of information to make a request and the file size jumps to 1.3 MB. A few more hundred bytes of response data grows the form to 6 MB. So to exchange about 1 KB of data, we must email 7.3 MB worth of PDF forms. That is 99.9% overhead. And we must repeat this exchange for every single component, for every customer and every supplier. This is an atrocious waste of bandwidth.

But maybe all is not lost. There is still a chance that all the hard work that went into 1752 could be put to use, by providing additional information. Here are the additions I would like to see.

The way to make these changes happen is to comment during the ballot period. Download the standard yourself. Try it out. Form your own opinion. Use the comment forms to identify specific changes you would like to see. Be proactive. The forms are not for questions or just criticism. The format is simple: propose a change and give a reason. All comments will be reviewed and addressed at a meeting at IPCWorks, October 24th and 25th. Full comment and ballot instructions are below.

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The documents and comment forms can be downloaded through the following links:

After you have reviewed the document, please access the following link to submit your ballot:

Please return comment forms to with "IPC-1752 Ballot" in the subject line.

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