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Understanding and dealing with Electrostatic Discharge

You may have read or heard the acronym ESD before and wondered what it was. Well, we are here to tell you! ESD is a term for an electronic phenomenon called Electrostatic Discharge. This Phenomenon can cause serious damage to electronics. It is responsible for many accidental fires in the workplace.

Under certain conditions, the high voltage of a human body can cause damage to sensitive electronic components.

What Is Static Electricity?

This is where our article gets a little technical, and there’s no way we can fully prepare you. However, an analogy is the simplest way to explain what Static Electricity is and how it works. Imagine you are running your hand through very dry sandpaper. As you run your hand across the paper, the sandpaper’s surface dust gets pushed off of the paper by the friction of your hand. This is similar to when you touch any object with some friction.

All items consist of tiny atoms. These atoms are very small, but they’re never still. They are always moving around, even when an object is sitting still. However, they don’t move around as much. But when we introduce friction, these atoms rub against other atoms. This causes the friction we feel. This causes the pushing away of dust on the sandpaper from the object you’re rubbing with your hand.

What is Electrostatic Discharge (ESD)?

Electrostatic discharge is when an electrostatic charge builds upon a conductor. This is due to a difference in voltage potential. When we release this charge, it causes the release of kinetic electrostatic energy. This energy can have destructive effects if it can flow through a conductive medium. Such medium includes air or touches something conductive. As a result, ESD can damage sensitive electronics. This makes it essential to understand and control ESD.

In a typical environment like your home, you will encounter electrostatic energy. They come from rubbing your clothes or your bedsheets against the carpet. This is why you need to store your valuables in a dry place away from carpet, clothing, and upholstery.

Electrostatic charges build upon items that come into contact with one another. This is when moving between points of different potential. If the potential difference is too great, an electrostatic discharge can occur. The electrostatic charge created when this happens can have destructive effects. Some of the most affected include sensitive electronics and even cause fires.

What Causes ESD?

electrostatic discharge prevention

ESD can occur in four ways: physical contact, generation (atmospheric), accumulation, and discharge.

The discharge of static electricity Is a result of physical contact. In most cases, it is from a person or object into another object with a conductive surface.

ESD can occur if you bring an object where electrostatic charges exist. Most likely areas include near-certain work areas or near particularly conductive materials.

Types of ESD Damage

The most common form of ESD damage is the electrical breakdown of air surrounding an object. When charges build upon an object, they cause the air around it to become ionized. A conductive path develops when this happens. Then a discharge will occur, negatively affecting electronics. In addition, bringing equipment into this electrostatic field can create a short circuit. Damaging effects can occur even if the human body only connects with an object’s surface.

Catastrophic damage:

Suppose there is something conductive close to the ESD discharge, as equipment. In that case, the discharge can transfer all its energy into the conductive object. If the object is a person, it could result in death. In addition, it could cause a huge loss of damage to expensive electronics and equipment. Some types of ESD damage are so serious that they can cause fires. Risk areas include computer labs or copy shops with expensive type-in machines.

Latent damage:

ESD can cause slight damage to sensitive electronics. But the damage isn’t immediately obvious. However, the large discharge will destroy the device if moved into another electrostatic field. Therefore, ESD is a real issue for all work areas for health and safety at work, industrial settings, and heavy industry.

ESD occurs due to friction from

  • Human contact
  • Machinery rubbing against other machinery
  • Materials rubbing against each other
  • Conductive material rubbed on conductive materials like vinyl floors or carpets

ESD can be a damaging force for many industries, and it is essential to know about it and how to prevent it. Some of the most common electronic equipment used in heavy industry are ICs. They are very susceptible to ESD.

The most common times for ESD damage are during

Goods input:

As you bring goods into a storage area, ESD damage can occur when you move the material into an ESD field.

Acceptance:

When picking goods from storage, ESD damage can occur when the material comes into contact with another ESD field.

Transfer:

The transfer of goods around a workplace increases the risk of ESD damage. For example, as you move goods from one place to another on forklifts, ESD occurs. For example, more items come into contact with one another and cause electrostatic charges to build up.

Production:

When producing goods, they risk ESD damage, causing potential differences. This means that machines close to each other can generate enough voltage differences. This will cause electrostatic discharges.

Assembly:

Complex electronics, particularly computers and other equipment, that ESD can fail. You should be careful not to assemble them within an ESD zone. It is essential to consider ESD protection when developing machinery or equipment. There are a few different methods to help prevent electrostatic damage from occurring. These include insulation, grounding, air ionization, and shielding.

Insulation:

This involves wrapping the item that could cause a discharge with an insulating material. It helps the material cannot come into contact with something conductive.

Testing:

Testing is an integral part of preventing ESD damage. You need to test your machinery and equipment before using them. This ensures that they are not causing electrostatic discharge. Also, perform tests if the machinery needs to contact something conductive. You can test to see the ESD damage that may result from this type of contact. Each time you move the equipment, one must do the testing.

Storing:

It’s essential to store electrical and electronic materials in an ESD safe area. This means you should not store electronics or other sensitive items on the floor.

Grounding:

You need to ground electronic components and equipment when brought into the building. This helps prevent electrostatic damage from occurring within the facility.

Air ionization:

Air ionization is vital for preventing electrostatic damage within a facility. It creates a conductive layer of air around each object to protect it from electrostatic buildup.

Packing:

Packing can cause electrostatic damage. It occurs if you do not handle the materials within an ESD-safe environment. For example, you should wrap the materials with non-conductive bubble wrap and wrapped in a plastic, non-conductive film. In addition, you should seal the plastic bags that hold cords and computer mice when not used. Packing is vital for ESD prevention because goods get to your facility.

Shipping:

We often ship goods from one facility to another. ESD damage can occur if you do not pack the goods in a way that avoids ESD damage. You must send materials without any conductive material that can generate ESD.

Sorting:

We use sorting machines, especially when delivering goods. Unfortunately, sorting machines have wires that can become charged by ESD. So, you must protect the goods from them.

Maintenance:

Proper maintenance of ESD-safe machinery can help prevent electrostatic damage from occurring. Dust and debris accumulating on sensitive machinery can build up enough static electricity to cause a discharge. Therefore, maintaining ESD-safe machinery is essential for avoiding ESD-damaged equipment.

ESD Is A Huge Problem For Many Industries

ESD damage can happen to any industry that deals with sensitive electronics. This includes chemical plants and storage facilities to industrial factories and assembly lines.

Electrostatic damage is a repeatable problem for many companies. It affects the heavy industry dealing with machinery and electronics, especially computer equipment. ESD damage occurs when friction between two things generates an electrostatic charge. This causes the item with the charge to discharge into another conductive object. It also has an electrostatic charge.

In the electronics industry, ESD damage is a hazard that everyone has experienced. Damage can have devastating effects. The highest risk is where product damage and data loss are often problematic. In addition, many companies are dealing with equipment failures—some lost sales due to the mistakes caused by ESD damage.

Factors contributing to increased ESD

electrostatic discharge damage

1. Use of insulating manufactured fibers and plastics:

Synthetic fibers and plastics are becoming more common in electronic packaging. Examples include Polyethylene, Acrylic, Cellulose, and Nylon. These fibers produce significant electrostatic charges when brushed against or rubbed together.

2. Increasing use of components with built-in electrostatic protection:

Many electronic components now incorporate static protective devices. Examples include chips, integrated circuits (IC), LCD screens, and hard disks (HDD). However, you must remove the anti-static packaging before assembling a product. This can often cause a high electrostatic discharge if not done in the right manner. These protective devices are anti-static bags and ESD protective packaging for safe transportation.

3. Use of multi-layer packaging techniques:

Many companies are packaging their products with multi-layer techniques. This leads to an increase in the use of plastics, foams, and other materials. Unfortunately, they contribute to ESD damage to sensitive equipment.

4. Use of conductive materials in packaging:

Rayming PCB & Assembly use conductive packaging materials to protect their products from ESD damage. However, these materials, such as aluminum or copper foil, can cause electrostatic damage. This is you mingle them together with electrical components.

5. Use of types of seating:

Many companies are using a variety of seating arrangements for their product assembly lines. This increases contact between the product and the ground surface during transportation.

6. Increased use of automated production equipment:

These days, many electronic production lines use automated equipment for product assembly. This requires non-conductive packaging. Therefore, the increased use of such lines to produce products contributes to an increase in ESD damage.

7. Decreasing sensitivity to ESD damage:

Today, many applications and technologies are becoming sensitive to ESD damage. Unfortunately, this leads many to believe that ESD damage is not a significant problem for most companies. However, the increasing use of high-voltage devices has led to a decrease in electrostatic damage.

Why Is Managing ESD Important?

There is a serious risk to products, employees, and customers when ESD damage occurs. Therefore, it is essential to manage ESD. This is because it can cause massive amounts of damage to sensitive electronics.

Components like capacitors, resistors, and integrated circuits fail daily due to ESD damage. This type of damage threatens the integrity of the manufacturing process. It also threatens the corporation and its brand due to the large amounts of money we can lose.

Particularly important is damage done to integrated circuits (IC) in a product. ICs are extremely expensive and are often difficult to replace. Yet, they are crucial for proper functioning in many different types of equipment. The reason ICs are so expensive is the increasingly advanced technology over time. The technology used to make ICs becomes more advanced. So, their sensitivity to ESD damage increases.

These factors all work together to increase IC damage due to ESD. Therefore, a company must manage the potential ESD hazards in its facilities and prevent them from occurring.

Typical Electrostatic Voltages

Different electrostatic voltages will result in different problems. A variety of processes can create common electrostatic voltages. These voltages vary from as low as 20,000 volts per cm to as high as 100 million volts per cm. The voltage and the length of time can cause damage to electronics.

  • 1,500 – 18,000 volts – Chair with urethane foam
  • 1,200 – 20,000 volts – Picking up a standard plastic bag from a bench
  • 250 – 12,000 volts – Walking over an untreated vinyl floor
  • 100 – 6,000 volts – Operator at a bench
  • 1,500 – 35,000 volts – Walking across a carpet

Potential Difference

The difference between two different voltages can cause damage. A typical spark gap can create a potential difference of about 1,000 volts. This happens when you pull the trigger to fire the spark. A spark gap with a voltage of 12,000 volts per cm could potentially create a great deal of damage to electronic equipment if not handled correctly.

Flooring Materials Used as ESD Coatings

Plastics, metals, and PVC coatings can cause damage to non-slip flooring materials. This happens when you brush them against during product assembly. If a building does not have proper ground, you must clean it to protect against electrostatic damage. The dry sand will allow an ESD coating to remain on the floor,

Accelerated Aging

Due to ESD, the aging of capacitors and other components can lead to premature failure. For example, a capacitor that we subject to high levels of ESD could roll off after a short period. This would cause frequent failures in critical components in the manufacturing process.

The Human Body as an ESD Source

Friction from human movement can cause electrostatic voltages on a person’s body to reach 35,000. Therefore, you should wear non-conductive clothing in facilities with sensitive electronic equipment. Also, use clean areas in the product assembly line. This helps to avoid creating an electrostatic charge on a person’s body.

How Can You Prevent ESD?

Managing the ESD hazards in a facility can be as simple as making a few changes to handling different types of equipment. The following are some of the main ways of preventing ESD problems at a facility:

1. Proper grounding:

The main reason electrostatic voltages occur is that there is no proper ground to create the electrostatic charge. However, we prevent significant ESD problems when an environment is properly grounded.

2. Proper ESD control:

The electrostatic charge causes a high potential difference between the two different materials. When we place materials on a common surface, there will be a potential difference between them. The potential difference can cause an ESD problem when two materials contact. The best solution to this potential problem is to create an electrostatic grounded environment. Do this for all areas where we use sensitive electronic equipment and maintenance personnel.

3. ESD training:

Managers and engineers should continue to receive training on proper ESD control. Positive ESD management training is essential. It helps to prevent the potential for costly damage to sensitive electronic equipment.

4. ESD threats:

You need to survey a building for potential ESD hazards. For example, one must check concrete floors, dry sand, and carpeting for any potential problems that could cause problems with ESD. You should then repeat the building survey after fixing problem areas. This ensures that you do not create new problems.

5. ESD control plan:

In addition to looking for all potential ESD hazards, the building should also develop a plan to manage the ESD process. The main part of this plan will be to secure all sensitive equipment. Then, provide training on the proper handling of sensitive materials. Finally, develop an emergency response plan in case of an incident.

Essential EPA Equipment

1. ESD gloves:

The first line of defense against ESD is to use equipment to dissipate static charges. Gloves are the most basic tool used to dissipate static electricity.

Use Thinsulate lined moisture-repellent nylon with conductive tips. Also, the latex-coated copper knit materials provide an excellent non-conductive surface. The insulating material of gloves dissipates electrostatic charges. Conductive tips or copper threads woven into fingertips provide the most protection. They also help prevent the development of electrostatic charge when working on circuit boards. Wear conductive gloves for high ESD areas such as clean rooms and product assembly.

2. ESD garments:

ESD garments can protect any area that needs protection, like the neck, wrists, and ankles. The garments are polyester with a static dissipative layer that you can zip on and off. The main purpose of ESD clothing is to prevent the transfer of static electricity from one surface to another.

3. ESD floor matting:

Mats provide an excellent area for the dissipation or discharge of static electricity. The floor grounds them by conductive polypropylene fibers within the matting. These mats prevent ESD from moving to sensitive electronic equipment from the worker.

4. Heel grounders and ESD shoes:

ESD shoes have rubber soles that wear out when they contact plastic or electrical components. The foam shoe insoles contain conductive fibers to dissipate the electrical charge. Wear clean shoes when working on computers, clean rooms, and areas where you use computer equipment.

5. Grounding straps:

You can use these straps to tie transmitters and transformers to the floor or ground. The grounding strap will even distribute static electricity between circuit boards.

How to Create an Electrostatic Protected Area (EPA)

All electronic and circuit board equipment is sensitive to static electricity. An EPA can protect the electronic equipment from static discharges after a surge when you restart the electricity. The following are the requirements for an ESD protected area:

We can define the boundary using floor tape, rope, or a string. This boundary helps create a safety zone where we store electronic devices.

The humidity prevents excess static electricity from forming in the area. Humidity will not prevent an ESD problem from occurring. It will only increase the probability of one occurring if something else generates it.

The area must contain ground cords, grounding straps, and grounding wires to provide a constant flow of electricity to the area.

Cover the surface with an insulative material. This helps to prevent excess static electricity generated.

The area should have no electrical equipment plugged in, such as a keyboard or computer cord. Ensure that any devices you use while working in the area are off. Prevent an electrostatic incident by creating the following procedures:

Ensure that all containers and bins are non-insulative. In addition, the bins and containers should be conductive materials such as plastic or aluminum.

All containers must be properly grounded. This makes an ESD shock dissipate before reaching the equipment.

One person should be in charge of ESD protection. The other person manually ensures that they ground all equipment.

You should limit this area to only the people trained to work in an ESD-protected area.

No one can be 100% sure that there will not be a static discharge in the area, so it is best to check on all the equipment yearly. Ensure that all sensitive IC devices are properly packaged and thoroughly tested..

Conclusion

In conclusion, ESD is a growing problem that causes an estimated 1 Billion dollars in damage to electronic devices each year. The best way to prevent ESD is to have properly trained employees in ESD control and management. As long as employees know how to handle electronic devices properly and what can cause ESD, there will be fewer incidents of ESD.