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Reusable PVC clamshells short-circuit waste for Lucent (sidebar)

Bellcore rules: Setting the spec

As Lucent Technologies now recognizes the "price of admission" to bidding for its business probably should have been adherence to what are known as Bellcore specifications. Like Lucent Bellcore is now an independent company that was once part of the Bell companies' conglomerate. Its specialty is developing specifications for the manufacturing and packaging of telecommunications parts. "Bellcore GR1421 is a spec that is basically geared toward the packaging of printed circuit board products for the telecommunications business" says Clay Sheffield of thermoformer Universal Protective Packaging. In essence the Bellcore spec requires: the material must be self-extinguishing; it must provide a range of static-dissipative properties; it requires a 3/8" gap between the top and bottom edges of the package and circuit board to avoid charges arcing into the package; cushioning must withstand drops from 36" without damage to the product; a locking device is required to prevent damage in case of accidental opening and the material must have traceability. The traceability is the "code-date" that each thermoformer engraves into each clamshell. "We require our vendors to mold in the date of manufacture and a recertification date" says Lucent packaging engineer Ken McCrina. "That's because these packs have a limited shelf life. Or if we find some quality problem we can trace any given package back to our production schedule." The "shelf life" is figured at five years because the static-dissipative material does degrade over time. Through inserts in its aluminum molds Universal uses removable plugs to mold the manufacturing date and a "recertification date" that identifies the five-year shelf life Sheffield says. Given the pace of telecommunications technology retesting of packages is unlikely says Lucent's McCrina. Because of design changes circuit boards become outdated in no more than three years he says. "If we can get three years of sales from a specific circuit board it's doing quite well." However Sheffield notes there are other companies that refurbish remanufacture and reuse older equipment so the ESD dates are important to them. "Sometimes a clamshell could sit on shelf and we have to put a surface-resistivity meter on it to measure the dissipative properties."

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