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Choosing The Right ESD Matting For Your EPA

Selecting an ESD mat can be quite overwhelming, especially when there are so many types of matting available. Besides the notable considerations of colour and material, there may be specific performance requirements to take into account. You will also need to consider whether you require floor mats or bench matting for your application.

The type of ESD mat you choose plays a critical part in the decision process as this can significantly affect everything as a whole. Once you have determined whether you need an ESD bench mat or floor mat, you must then also consider the types available, their benefits, costs, the provider, installation process, and so on.

To help you determine the best matting solution for you to use in your industrial environment, we have created a full guide that explains everything you need to know about the types of ESD matting, their benefits and more.

Combating ESD

Industrial static control is increasing in demand and many businesses are looking for ways to reduce static damage in their workplaces. Components are vulnerable to severe damage from static electricity. Static electric discharge will potentially short out electrical devices permanently and irreversibly. As components are costly to produce and any damage is devastating to manufacturers. ESD matting is an essential grounding item for many businesses because it reduces the risk of static charge.

We can’t eliminate generation or discharge of static in a working environment; therefore, the best solution is to neutralise the charges when they occur. Proper grounding and use of anti-static mats neutralise the ESD. For full guidance on ESD, see our ESD guidance post.

ESD mats are designed to eliminate static on its surface and any objects / devices placed upon it.  To work properly, an antistatic mat must be able to conduct electricity, and its range of conductivity is important. For a mat to correctly ground an item, the mat must be conductive or dissipative and connected to Earth via a grounding lead. If the material is insulative, items will not allow charge to drain to ground. If the mat’s resistance is too low, static transfers to the mat and a spark is created causing an electrostatic discharge which will in turn damage electronic devices. Or, if the mat’s resistance is too high, static transfers slowly and any items placed on the mat will not lose their charge. When that item is then removed from the mat, the static charge will be capable of discharging to other items. You can read more about electrostatic discharge (ESD) on our ESD guidance post.

ESD Matting In An EPA

ESD working surfaces, such as mats, are typically an integral part of the ESD workstation, particularly in areas where hand assembly occurs. It is important that each bench, or work surface, is covered with the proper ESD material and is properly connected to earth using a system of cords and Earth Bonding Points (EBPs). Most workstations will use pliable ESD matting to cover the bench and be the ESD work-surface on which to handle ESD sensitive (ESDS) items. The mat needs to be grounded and best practice is to use metal grounding hardware snaps and ground cords connecting the work-surface mat to the common point ground. The entire bench-top should be covered by the ESD mat.

An ESD protective work surface is usually dissipative on the surface with a conductive layer either underneath (2-layer matting), or buried between two dissipative layers (3-layer matting). Although conductive materials are the quickest to ground a charge, they can also cause damage by discharging too rapidly.

Walking alone can create static electricity. However, ESD matting can help to disperse this electricity. These mats have electrically conductive carbon fibres throughout. Consequently, the ESD flows at a slower rate across the surface of the mat which in turn neutralises it. There is also matting available which is appropriate to use on workbenches, trolleys and other surfaces.

It’s important to be comfortable whilst you’re working, that’s why you should consider investing in quality, comfortable matting to give you the support and comfort you need. At Bondline, we offer a range of comfortable anti static matting including anti-fatigue matting, anti-fatigue mats and cushion matting.

How Do Anti-Static Mats Work?

ESD or Static matting is designed to drain static discharge from items placed on its surface. It also serves to protect the surface of the ESD sensitive devices from wear and tear (but that’s a secondary benefit). The way it does this is by slowing down the flow of static charge, which neutralises the static electricity and moves the charge into the (grounded) mat, away from the electronic components being worked on.

The performance of ESD matting is based on the material it’s constructed from, as well as its electrical properties and abilities to withstand heat, chemicals and mechanical abrasion.

Generally, anti-static mats have a low electrical resistance of between 0.1 and 1000 MegaOhm (MΩ). The use of anti-static matting prevents the build-up of electrostatic charge in the body by dissipating this charge and thus prevents a sudden discharge between electrically charged objects on contact.

How Are ESD Mats Used?

Many working environments involve risks, which is exactly why ESD mats and accessories for floors or workbenches are indispensable. These products contribute to the efficient control of ESD, especially for the protection of sensitive components and workers.

For a mat to effectively ground an item, the mat must be either conductive or dissipative and be connected to a suitable grounding point. ESD accessories that should be used in conjunction include shoe earthing strapswristbands and coiled cables in order to be effective.

A fantastic little kit you could use for your workstation is our work station kit, which provides you with all the essentials you’ll need to carry out tasks. Great for personal use or for small businesses who are looking for a great value, compact grounding kit.

Common Environments Where ESD Mats Are Used

ESD mats are commonly found in environments where electrostatic sensitive products are present, or where static electricity can potentially cause harm. These often 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.
  • Clean rooms.
  • And more besides.

The use of ESD mats is common in companies where employees regularly come into contact with ESD-sensitive products; however, these mats are also necessary in situations where employees may only occasionally enter ESD-sensitive environments, such as back office staff who sometimes need to enter a clean room or manufacturing space.

Selecting The Right ESD Mat

Types of ESD Mats

Static mats can be made from solid sheets, multiple layers, and single-layer polymer mix, with each offering different levels of electrical performance. Generally, ESD mats are divided into two categories: ESD work surface mats and ESD floor mats.

Bench Mats

ESD work surface mats, also known as table top mats, are typically thinner than floor mats. They are usually available in either smoothly or lightly embossed finishes. Bench mats’ surfaces are generally embossed to help to reduce the surface’s reflective properties, reducing glare and improving operator comfort – aiding workers with complicated electronic assembly tasks. With that in mind, bench mats tend to come in bright, light colours to help workers find smaller components on their surface, and are designed to be used with other ESD controls such as wrist straps and grounding points.

Floor Mats

Underfoot ESD mats, also known as ESD floor mats, are usually larger and thicker than table mats as they need to absorb more wear and tear. They have more durability and, because of their strong formation, they often last longer too. They feature heavier embossing, or sometimes grooves, to prevent workers from slipping. Additionally, many come with anti-fatigue cushioning to improve operator comfort so that long periods of standing at a time is more comfortable and improves the operator’s health. Colour-wise, they typically come in dark colours to hide dirt and scuffs from workers’ shoes. However, the darker colours can make seeing components challenging if they accidentally drop from the worktop onto the floor. ESD floor mats are designed to work as part of a wider ESD protection scheme. When using ESD floor mats, you should always ensure to use ESD footwear in conjunction with the floor matting. This allows full grounding and Earthing so you can be sure you are static-free when moving around the EPA.

 

Anti-Fatigue Matting 3    Vinyl Bench Matting Workstation | Bondline Electronics Ltd

ESD Matting Materials

Before choosing your matting, there are four ESD matting compositions you need to know about first. Each composition offers different levels of static resistance, and every one are typically used for different reasons.

Homogenous (Vinyl and Rubber):

  • Homogenous or solid mats are made of a single layer polymer mix and therefore consist of the same material throughout.
  • These mats provide good mechanical service with electrical performance normally limited to about 109 to 1010 RTG.

Three Layer (Vinyl):

  • Three-layer mats are constructed from a conductive metal/carbon layer between a top surface of the vinyl and a layer of vinyl on the back.
  • The conductive layer improves the electrical properties by acting as a fast track to move the static charge to ground.
  • The foam back layer provides a cushioning effect, making it easier to pick up parts.

Two Layer (Vinyl):

  • This mat combines the foam from the three-layer mat and the dissipative vinyl from solid mats.
  • As it contains no metallised layer it provides average electrical performance.
  • It does, however, provide a more cost-effective option.

Two Layer (Rubber):

  • This option provides a top layer of static dissipative rubber and the back layer of conductive rubber, giving the same electrical performance as the vinyl three-layer mat, but with great tolerance to heat and chemicals.
  • The type of matting, however, does come with a cost premium.

Bench Mat Benefits

The type of matting material you oft for can provide you with different benefits, whether it be a more cost-effective solution or provides better static dissipation. The performance of an ESD mat is based on the material’s constructed form, as well as its electrical properties and abilities to withstand heat, chemicals and mechanical abrasion. ESD matting is generally available in vinyl or rubber material.

ESD work surface mats, also known as table top mats, are typically thinner than floor mats. They are usually available in either smoothly or lightly embossed finishes. Bench mats’ surfaces are generally embossed to help to reduce the surface’s reflective properties, reducing glare and improving operator comfort – aiding workers with complicated electronic assembly tasks. With that in mind, bench mats tend to come in bright, light colours to help workers find smaller components on their surface, and are designed to be used with other ESD controls such as wrist straps and grounding points.

Bondline’s premium, textured bench matting, in particular, comes equipped with many advantages. Generally, rubber mats have high heat resistant properties which ensures they are resistant to hot solder, etc. If your job requires you to use heat and/or chemicals, then you should opt for rubber matting. Vinyl matting, on the other hand, does not have any heat resistant properties which means it can easily melt if you were to carry out a task that used high temperatures. Typically, rubber mats are much more stable since their ESD properties cannot change, whereas other materials aren’t quite as much.

Additionally, rubber mats remain in their same form – even when they are exposed to cold or humid conditions. Vinyl matting cannot and therefore can change and become harder if conditions were to change.

Being more sustainable and environmentally-friendly is significant in every industry. Many people choose to shop with companies who are helping the environment in some way. Due to this, opting for more sustainable options can be the way forward for many businesses. Rubber matting is a great choice for sustainability. Compared to other matting materials, rubber matting is much better for the environment.

As you can see, there are many advantages and benefits of ESD rubber matting. Although this matting comes with a premium price, remember that you are buying into these benefits, a quality, leading supplier and excellent, quick lead times.

How Is ESD Matting Measured?

ESD matting can be measured in three ways:

  • Resistance To Ground (RTG): The main measurement, and the one we’ll focus on most in the examples below. RTG measures the resistance given between the most heavily used part of the ESD mat and the electrical ground.
  • Resistance to Groundable Point (RTGP): This functions like RTG with one difference. It measures the resistance between a single point on the mat’s surface and the grounding point of the work surface.
  • Resistance Point to Point (RTP): Surface resistance from one part of the mat’s surface to another point ten inches apart.

Field Service Work

Field work is perhaps the most risky situation of handling ESD sensitive devices, it is also often the most neglected aspect of ESD damage prevention. The situation is risky as there are usually many potential ESD sources in the environment. If you will be working off-site at a remote location, we recommend that you invest in a Field Service Kit.

How To Maintain An ESD Mat

Since dirt can behave as an insulator, it is important to regularly clean ESD mats before testing and monitoring the resistivity. Cleaning will also ensure optimum electrical performance and, by regularly cleaning, you will maintain the original resistivity of the anti-static mat whilst extending its shelf-life.

To clean ESD mats, we recommend using a mild, multi-purpose neutral cleaner that doesn’t contain any alkali, ammonia or chemicals on RoHS and REACH SvHC. You should also opt for a cleaner that leaves no streaks or film. Generally, any ESD-safe mat cleaner should be safe to use on workstations, table tops and anti-static mats, including rubber and vinyl.

An example of a good ESD-safe mat cleaner is Bondline’s Staticide Mat and Table Top Cleaner. This mat cleaner is a non-flammable cleaner that leaves no film or streaks. It effectively removes flux residues, oily finger-marks, grease, nicotine, dirt, grime and inorganic contaminants. It also removes dirt on chair mats and other antistatic mats without degrading the surface’s antistatic properties.

Matting Supplier

Finding the right manufacturer for your anti static matting can be a daunting task, so we recommend you focus on a few key characteristics such as cost, lead times, customisation and product quality.

Cost. For many, this is the final determining factor. Although investing in high-quality products does not come cheap, it is important that you should not cut back on costs. For manufacturers of highly developed products, sending off inferior final products is costlier due to incurring lost parts during the manufacturing process as compared to saving a few pounds on creating cheaper versions of it.

Lead Times. When determining which manufacturer to partner with, determine whether they can deliver your order on time, check their delivery success rate and what assurances they provide if there are unavoidable problems. If possible, choose a domestic manufacturer because they have a significant advantage over foreign manufacturers when it comes to shipping finished products with tight deadlines and international shipping can add a layer of complexity to delivery times. Working with a domestic partner can also lessen the risk of you receiving low-quality products and not receiving them on time.

Customisation. Finding a manufacturer that can work on your special requirements is an essential factor to consider. A good partner to work with can customise ESD matting into bespoke sizes to fit your very specific needs. The studding can be customised too.

Product Quality. Always go for the highest quality of materials. For instance, a 2-layer static-dissipative and conductive anti static rubber is a good material to choose from. On top of that, make sure that your manufacturing partner has a good track record of creating products that can withstand the harsh elements of your specific facilities.

Here at Bondline, we pride ourselves in being one of the leading UK suppliers and vast stockists of anti static matting. Our matting is stocked on a regular basis to ensure we can support our customer’s needs. Our ESD mats are generally available in vinyl or rubber materials. Please get in touch with us if you have any questions regarding our matting.

Still unsure on which matting is the best for you?

Get in touch with us today to discuss through your ESD matting requirements. We’ll help to guide you on selecting the right matting that is best for your application. Please contact Bondline Electronics on 01793 511000 or sales@bondline.co.uk.

Bondline’s ESD Matting

Bondline’s range of anti-static mats and bench matting is designed to keep you grounded when working with electronic components and devices that are sensitive to electrostatic discharge; integrated and printed circuit boards, computer motherboards, discrete components, hybrid bio-electronic devices and more.

Bondline offer a wide variety of ESD worktop mats and ESD floor mats, including some of the following:

Bondline’s matting comes in a variety of colours, sizes and materials to suit all requirements; we offer bespoke custom sizing for most of our matting products on request.

Contact Us

If you are still looking for a company that can provide high-quality bespoke products, short lead times and competitive rates, get in touch with Bondline Electronics on 01793 511000 or sales@bondline.co.uk today!

Thank you,

The Bondline Team.

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