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ESD Control Products: How ESD Mats Contribute to an EPA

There are many different ESD products that work alongside each other to create an electrostatic discharge protected area. Some of the ESD control products used in an EPA include ESD mats, ESD benches, ESD workwear and more. In this article, we will uncover how ESD mats play a role in an EPA and in protecting your manufacturing process through best practice ESD control.

What Is ESD Matting?

Any surfaces on which ESDS are placed must be connected to EPA ground, and have a point-to-point resistance between 104W and 1010W, and resistance-to-ground between 7.5×105W and 109 W.

Also known as anti-static mats, ESD protective matting is an integral part of the ESD workstation; particularly in areas where hand assembly of components occurs. ESD mats are used to help protect static sensitive components and assemblies from potential damage as a result of electrostatic discharge (ESD). They are designed to drain static discharge from items or components placed onto a surface (i.e. a workbench or floor) and maintain them at the same electrical potential as the mat, reducing the risk of discharge events.

There are two types of ESD matting available: ESD bench matting and ESD floor matting. In an Electrostatic Protected Area (EPA), for example, anti-static mats are often affixed to workbenches or placed on the floor and grounded to Earth to prevent static discharges occurring. 

Although anti-static mats are just one of many ESD control products, they are one of the most effective ways to prevent items from succumbing to electrostatic charges. 

Where Are ESD Mats Used?

ESD mats should be used in any area in which personnel regularly come into contact with ESD-sensitive products; such as during manufacturing or packing static sensitive components.  Several common areas where anti-static mats are used include: 

  • Computer server rooms
  • Assembly lines
  • ESD Protected Areas (EPAs)
  • Microchip manufacturing plants
  • Computer repair shops
  • Operating rooms
  • Environments where flammable materials are present
  • Medical and dental offices
  • Electronics manufacturing
  • Cleanrooms (flat panel manufacturing)

While it is important to use ESD mats in areas where components are being assembled, it is just as important for ESD mats to be used in warehouse and storage areas. ESD protective mats are often placed onto storage shelves to add an extra layer of ESD protection generated by the stacking process.

How Do ESD Mats Work?

To effectively prevent static charges from building up or to reduce the static that is present, ESD mats must be connected to Earth via a grounding point. Connecting the mat to Earth can be achieved by attaching a grounding cord to the mat and to the common point ground. This in turn creates a good path to Earth. For best practice, it is recommended that ground connections use firm fitting connecting devices such as banana plugs, snaps or metallic crimps to connect to designated ground points. 

Once the anti-static mat is connected to a grounding point, it can drain static charge from any items or components which are placed on the mat’s surface. If a worker is handling PCBs on an ESD user bench with an anti-static mat, for example, the mat will electrostatically discharge the component and limit the generation of static electricity.

An example of how an anti-static mat works can be seen in the illustration below.

How Does Anti Static Mat Work

What Are ESD Mats Made From?

Anti-static mats are typically made from either vinyl or rubber, although there are various different types of ESD mats available. Single layer mats typically provide limited protection up to approximately 10^(9) to 10^(10) RTG, whereas two or three-layer mats offer enhanced performance.

When deciding whether to opt for vinyl or rubber ESD matting, it’s important to consider what each type of material can offer.

Vinyl is cost-effective and easy to cut which makes it an excellent choice for user benches and workstations. A two-layer vinyl mat is composed of a foam layer and dissipative vinyl and provides average performance, while a three-layer vinyl mat features an extra layer of conductive material to maximise its anti-static performance.

However, rubber mats offer heat and chemical resistance, as well as preventing static discharge. Additionally, rubber mats can be more hardwearing, which is why anti-static floor mats are often made from rubber material. Two-layer rubber matting features one dissipative layer and one conductive layer, effectively providing the same anti-static performance as a three-layer vinyl mat but with additional heat and chemical resistance.

Types of ESD Mats

ESD Workbench Mats

ESD workbench mats are designed to be placed onto the surface of a workbench and used in conjunction with ESD wrist-straps and cords. Compared to floor mats, ESD workbench mats are generally thinner and come in either a smooth or lightly embossed finish. This helps to reduce glare and aid operators with complicated electronic assembly tasks. ESD bench mats are typically supplied in either a roll format or in cut sizes. Depending on the supplier, they can be cut to a bespoke size to meet individual requirements. Bench mats are available in a wide range of bright colours to help operators identify smaller components on the bench’s surface.

anti-static mat - Bondline

ESD Floor Mats

ESD floor mats are designed to work as part of a much wider ESD protection scheme. Like ESD workbench mats, ESD floor mats must also utilise other ESD control equipment. Items such as ESD footwear or ESD heel straps must be used in conjunction with ESD floor mats in order for static to be controlled effectively. ESD floor mats tend to be much thicker and larger than ESD workbench mats. This is because they need to absorb more wear and tear. They have heavier embossing and often grooves to prevent workers from slipping; a non slip mat is a good example. Some ESD floor mats have cushioning or anti-fatigue properties to make periods of long standing more comfortable for the worker. In terms of colour, ESD floor mats tend to be darker in colour to mask scuffs or dirt from the workers’ shoes or equipment such as trolleys. However, this can make it harder to find components if they accidentally fall from the workbench onto the floor.

KSAFSM Anti Fatigue Matting  Anti-Fatigue Matting 3

ESDShelving Mats

ESD shelving mats are typically used in warehouse / storage areas to protect static sensitive components from static generating during the stacking process. While they have similar properties and features as ESD workbench mats, ESD shelving mats are typically black in colour. ESD shelving material from Bondline Electronics Ltd is currently on offer for £375.00 on 1.2m wide rolls.

Choosing ESD Matting

When purchasing ESD matting, your primary objective is to source a product that will improve ESD control. However, it’s important to select the right type of matting to meet your needs.

For example, in the electronics manufacturing industry, it is important to consider the matting’s resistance to ground. According to the ESD Standard IEC-61340-5-1, the recommended resistance to ground (RG) for ESD working surface matting used in electronics manufacturing should be 1 x 10^(4) to less than 1 x 10^(9) ohms. 

Whether you’re looking for an ESD non slip floor mat, anti-fatigue matting or anti-static bench mats, our experienced team can help you find the right ESD control products for your EPA. 

To learn more, explore our range of ESD matting now or contact Bondline on 01793 511000 or at sales@bondline.co.uk today.

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