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ESD Control in Electronics – 7 Mistakes to Avoid

If you’re in the business of electronics, then it’s likely that you’ve heard about Electrostatic Discharge (ESD). What may be less commonly known is how easy it can be to accidentally cause an ESD event. Read on for 7 mistakes to avoid, so your electronic devices remain safe and sound!

ESD Control

What is ESD control?

ESD control pertains to the vital measures that are implemented to ensure that electronic products are protected from damage due to electrostatic discharge. ESD control is crucial in various settings, such as electronics, biotech and aerospace environments, where many devices and components sensitive to ESD are present. Preventing ESD events in these areas is key because ESD sensitive (ESDS) components can be damaged by as little as 10 volts depending on the component. Damage due to static discharge can lead to costly consequences, making it necessary for companies to implement a sound ESD control procedure.

Implementing an ESD Control Program

For an ESD control program to be effective, it must be tailored to an organisation’s needs and requirements. It must also come with a solid training and compliance verification plan.

So what is defined as part of an ESD control program? Essentially, an ESD control program involves procedures and materials that can eliminate the build-up of static electricity. Examples of essential procedures are grounding and ionising. Equipment, on the other hand, ranges from ESD mats, floors, wrist straps and cords to footwear, clothing and gloves. These are made of static dissipative materials to help reduce the generation of static charge.

ESD Control: 7 Mistakes to Avoid

In an environment where ESD control is a must, you must know the proper steps and actions to take, so you can ensure that electronic devices are protected from ESD damage. Consequently, you must also take note of the actions that can lead to an ESD event. Here are some common mistakes to avoid:

1) Not grounding yourself before touching any static sensitive components

This includes anything with a microprocessor or memory chips. At work, you or your staff can use personnel grounding systems. Their function is to prevent static charges from accumulating and direct any charges to the ground. Popular grounding methods include ESD wrist straps and footwear to floor systems. ESD wrist straps are grounded to a common ground point, which ensures that everything in the workplace has the same electrical potential. Meanwhile, ESD footwear to floor systems provides a path to the ground.

2) Touching circuit boards without gloves during assembly or repair

Devices with integrated circuits, transistors, discrete electronic components and printed circuit boards (PCBs) are susceptible to damage from ESD. When handling circuit boards, you should always wear static dissipative gloves because they are more sensitive to static than other surfaces/items. Wearing ESD gloves is one way of how you can prevent electrostatic discharge in computer parts. It ensures the dissipation of static charge. Personnel wearing ESD or anti-static gloves can assemble or repair circuit boards without fear of transferring electrostatic charge to a device and causing irreparable damage. For further protection against ESD, anti-static gloves are paired with ESD-safe wrist straps.

3) Wearing the incorrect type of footwear

Ordinary footwear is typically not designed to provide you with the correct level of static protection that you need in a static controlled area (EPA). Examples of footwear that are not fit for ESD environments are usually the kinds that you buy in shopping centres and shoes with rubber outsoles. Wearing heel grounders and ESD footwear is one way of how you can eliminate electrostatic discharge at work. These work in tandem with appropriate ESD flooring to ensure that the electrical resistance between the person wearing them, the footwear and the floor remains less than 1,0 x 10^(9) Ω.

4) Bringing non-essential, non-ESD items to an EPA

In an ESD protected area (EPA), it’s not only essential that you wear the appropriate garments, footwear and gloves while handling ESDS devices. It’s also imperative that you don’t bring any non-essential insulators inside an EPA.

Accidentally bringing non-essential items inside an EPA can cause them to generate enough static that can damage static sensitive components. Examples of these items are bubble wraps, various items made of expanded polystyrene, cardboard and plastic (cups, Ziploc bags, binders and other office supplies) and packaging items like tape. Personal items such as purses, cosmetic products and jewellery should also be removed before entering an EPA. However, there are times when insulators such as cables and circuit board materials can’t be removed from an EPA. In such instances, you can neutralise the charges of these process-required insulators by ionisation.

5) Using non-ESD solutions for storage and transport

Even the simple act of walking can generate static electricity. This is also true for objects, such as moving carts that are used to transport equipment. Simply rolling the cart along can generate a substantial static charge. With ESD trolleys and carts, you can control the charges generated by the process of grounding and using anti-static solutions. Filing cabinets, storage units for components, shielding bags and shelves that will be used to store and transport ESDS components must also be equipped to eliminate static.

6) Cleaning and maintaining equipment with non-ESD products

ESD-safe equipment, like the everyday equipment that we use, need to be periodically cleaned for optimum performance. However, note that ESD mats and flooring systems should be cleaned and maintained using specialised cleaning products only. Using regular household cleaners for ESD equipment can negatively impact their ability to prevent static build-up.

7) Not implementing regular static compliance checks

Regular testing of ESD equipment and monitoring of ESD control is integral to an effective ESD control program. These are needed to ensure that wrist straps, footwear, cords, workbenches and more have the appropriate electrical resistivity and resistance. Lack of periodic static compliance checks can result in costly consequences in the form of equipment and electronics replacements. To ensure the reliability of ESD equipment and save money down the road, regular static control monitoring and audit checks are necessary.

Ensure Proper Static Control with Bondline

An ESD control program should be implemented properly, from design and execution to monitoring. Bondline offers expert advice and a range of products that can help you ensure the proper static control in the workplace. Contact us today to learn more.

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