No longer is tin subjected to the humble canned foods that stock our supermarket shelves as the metal is given a new lease in life, largely through new technologies. Its use in technology began early in 2000 when US EPA banned the use of lead solders in electronics, sending tin solder up overnight. Tin has seen strong signs of growth, partially due to the consumer thirst for electronics, particularly mobile phones and computers, which have contributed to the drive in demand for tin. Risks associated with the main applications of electronic solders and tinplate suggests new assembly technologies as well as lower coating weights could negate usage. The balancing act remains on the prospects for new applications in tin chemicals and energy related technologies such as lithium ion batteries and steel alloys.
The switch to lead-free soldering around the world has added to the commodity growth as circuit boards used to be contained with 6-63% of tin, currently close to 96-99%. If we make a link to the crazed frenzy for electronics produced by mavens such as Apple, it clearly suggests that tin is a highly desired commodity and opens up the challenge for whether Australia can deliver its supply.
Tin’s progression goes beyond consumer products where its use can be found to help animals with the development of antimicrobial activity in tin that provides healthcare solutions. Healthcare products that are being developed work in preventing and treating skin diseases in bovine (cattle), equine (horses), canine (dogs) and other animal sectors. Tin has become a valuable resource where its purpose is constantly being redefined. While its future remains poised and acknowledging the importance of generating investment in the tin industry, ITRI has moved towards ensuring the industry remains stimulated by funds through creating a members association to assure global tin consumers work is securing long-term tin supplies.
Tin Solder Report, Australia’s Paydirt May 2010
Tin soldering on, Australia’s Paydirt, June 2011