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NYS Governor's Awards for Pollution Prevention - IBM - Endicott Plant

IBM - Endicott Plant, Endicott, New York


At its plant located in Endicott, New York, IBM develops and manufactures sophisticated electronic circuit boards and chip carriers for its own needs and for sale to other technology companies. This IBM Microelectronics Division facility consists of four million square feet of building space housing process development, manufacturing and other operations. The facility employs around 5,000 people.

Methodologies and Procedures

Chip carrier and circuit board production is based on photolithography and requires a complex series of chemical, mechanical and electronic processes. Raw materials include copper and epoxy, various chemical solutions for plating, etching and stripping of metals and photosensitive films, water for rinsing, and energy to provide process heating, cooling and ventilation. The entire process generates significant amounts of wastewater and hazardous waste.

Photoimaging is used to create electronic circuit lines. A photosensitive film (photoresist) is applied over a metal clad epoxy core. A desired circuit pattern is exposed on the film using UV light. A chemical solution then "develops" the film to expose portions of the metal. Metal etching and/or plating is performed, followed by "stripping" of remaining film with a chemical solution. The sequence is repeated for each circuit layer.

Historically, chlorinated-solvent based photoresists were used to create printed circuit board products. The trend since the late 1980s has been to migrate to aqueous-based photoresists and less hazardous solvents. However, aqueous photoresists did not work for the more complex products, such as the Ultra Fine Pitch (UFP) Wire Bond Chip Carrier that have very narrow circuit lines (below 0.002 inches) and spaces. UFP was developed and qualified in 1998 using various solvents. Increased production of UFP product in years 2000 and beyond was projected to result in significant increases in the plant's solvent use, with resulting increases in both emissions and waste generation.

To avoid the projected increases in environmental discharges, IBM set out to find a better way. The improvement implemented at IBM's Endicott plant involved converting UFP production from the existing chlorinated solvent-based process to one that was aqueous-based. This was accomplished by improving imaging artwork and etching tolerances to enable the use of thinner aqueous-based photoresists on an existing aqueous printed wiring board line. Qualification of the more environmentally friendly aqueous process was achieved by second quarter 2000.


Conversion of UFP chip carriers to an aqueous production process resulted in many benefits, including manufacturing efficiency, reduced environmental impact, improvements in the workplace environment, energy savings, and space savings. Previously used solvents required dedicated equipment and costly environmental treatment. The new aqueous process results in waste streams that are more easily and economically treated. The following benefits and savings have been realized, for a total cost savings of approximately $ 5 million per year:

Aqueous solutions of sodium carbonate and sodium hydroxide replaced several hazardous chemicals, including the following five solvents which were reportable under the EPA Toxic Release Inventory:
Ethyl benzene

This process eliminated the chemical purchases of 5.2 million pounds per year, avoiding chemical deliveries and saving approximately $2 million.

The conversion to aqueous photoresist enabled the production of UFP to be consolidated onto an existing aqueous printed wiring board production line. This provided manufacturing efficiencies that save approximately $2 million per year.

The solvent-based production line previously planned for UFP production will be decommissioned. This will free up 64,000 square feet of manufacturing space and provide energy savings.

Off-site disposal of waste was avoided, of which 2.9 million would be reportable as off-site transfers under the Toxic Release Inventory. Approximately $1 million in disposal costs was saved.

Approximately 59,000 pounds of air emissions reportable under EPA's Toxic Release Inventory were eliminated. This enables the shutdown of carbon adsorbers previously needed to abate solvent emissions.

The changes improved the employee work environment by eliminating several compounds that had very low odor thresholds.

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This page was last modified September 25, 2002

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