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How Does An Anti Static Wristband Work?

Anti static wristbands have been used to protect electronics from static build-up for over 50 years. The technology dates back to the 1960s when it was first developed as a way of preventing damage caused by static electricity in static sensitive electronic components. Electrostatic discharge has been a constant concern for individuals who work in the electronics manufacturing industry. They have been used ever since in almost every industry that manufactures electronic devices, particularly in the semiconductor sector, where high levels of static are especially hazardous.

Since its inception, more modern designs have emerged, including those made from conductive fabric or steel materials, which are both lightweight and comfortable to wear. Today, these wristbands are widely used by engineers, technicians and other personnel who work with static sensitive electronic equipment to ensure that ESD is safely discharged before any damage can be done.

In this article, we will cover everything you need to know on anti static wristbands, including: what an anti static wristband is, the materials used, how they work and the best practices of using an anti static wristband.

What is Electrostatic Discharge?

Electrostatic discharge (ESD) is an uncontrolled surge of ‘static’ between objects with different voltage potentials.”

Static electricity has been an industrial problem for centuries. As early as the 1400’s, European forts were using static control procedures and devices to prevent electrostatic discharge igniting gun powders and other explosives. Within today’s electronics industry, it is widely accepted that Electro-Static Discharge (ESD) events are a significant cause of device failure and that implementing static control measures is not only desirable but essential.

Damage to this industry has been estimated at billions of dollars annually. However, while the costs of static control measures can be high, the return on investment certainly does justify the implementation of such measures.

ESD problems have magnified during the past 3 decades because of 2 reasons:

1) The increased use of insulating man-made fibres and plastics for clothing, furnishing, flooring etc.
2) The ever-increasing sensitivity of integrated circuits due to smaller and smaller conductors and components within the circuitry.

Electrostatic damage to electronic devices can occur at any point from manufacture to field service. Damage results from handing the devices in uncontrolled surroundings or when poor ESD control practices are used. Generally damage is classified as either a catastrophic failure or a latent defect.

Often static damage is not noticed and it can take a while – even months – until the problem is actually identified. Static damage can cause a loss of performance, immediate damage or a future failure which can be frustrating and dangerous. This is why it is important that you prevent static charges in the beginning so that no damage can be caused and ultimately saving precious time, money and resources.

What is an Anti-Static Wristband?

ESD wrist straps are the first line of defence against ESD, the most common personnel grounding device used, and are required to be used if the operator is sitting. Wrist straps help to disperse static electricity generated from a person safely to ground. They are a requirement of the IEC-61340-5-1 International Standard and should be used in an ESD preventative program (EPA).

Wrist straps are typically made in a bright colour in order to allow the straps to be easily seen by others. They are designed to be worn in close contact to the skin to establish a grounding path. They discharge the static being generated on the body to ground instantly. Wrist-bands must be worn while sitting, even when E.S.D footwear is being used. Each wrist-strap has a comforting material which have silver conductive woven fibres for maximum conductivity and minimum skin irritation.

Straps should be clean, snug and comfortable. If your strap is loose and/or dirty, you run the risk of having an intermittent contact to ground. The outer surface of the wrist-strap should be insulative for operator safety.

Wearing An Anti-Static Wrist Strap - Bondline

Materials Used in Anti-Static Wristbands

To effectively prevent static electricity build-up and shock, certain materials must be used to make an ESD control wrist strap.

The main material found in most anti-static wristbands is rubber or plastic. This acts as a conductor between the user’s skin and the surface of the item being worked on. Another common material used is metal or metal-coated fabric.

Main Components of an Anti-Static Wristband

An ESD strap is small and unassuming, but it plays an essential role in protecting static sensitive electronic devices and components from the damaging effects of electrostatic discharge. These wristbands are made up of several components, each with a specific function in preventing static build-up and discharge. Let’s take a closer look at the main components of an anti-static strap.

Conductive material

The conductive material is responsible for grounding any static electricity that builds up on the person wearing the wristband. The conductive material is typically made of metal, such as stainless steel or copper, woven into the wristband fabric. When the ESD wristband is worn, the conductive material creates a direct path for static electricity to flow from the body to the ground.

Snap connector

This is the mechanism that connects the ESD strap to various grounding points. The snap connector is also an essential safety feature, as it allows the wristband to be easily removed in case of emergency.

Insulative material

The insulative material is responsible for preventing current from flowing where it shouldn’t. The insulative material is typically made of rubber, polyurethane-based polymers or other non-conductive materials.

How do ESD Wristbands Work?

ESD wrist straps come in a variety of materials, but the general concept for each is the same; to provide a path for electrostatic ground.

For an ESD control wrist strap to work, it is either connected to Earth bonding points fitted into workstations, typically via 10 mm press studs, or come with a removable coiled cord and crocodile clip for mobile applications.

The strap is fastened around your wrist using an adjustable band. The wristband should be worn snug to the skin with its coil cord connected to a common point ground which is connected to ground, preferably equipment ground. Typically, the alligator clip is attached to the computer or sensitive electronic device being worked on.

An anti static strap must be connected to a grounding source like a bonding plug in conjunction with a ground lead in order for them to be effective.

Once an ESD wrist strap has been secured to the wrist and connected to the Earth bonding point or sensitive piece of equipment, you are safe to work without fear of ESD occurring. This allows you and your workforce to go about your daily tasks freely and drastically reduces the chances of static electricity building up.

Operative inserting ESD grounding cord into an underbench bonding point - Bondline

Why use an Anti Static Wristband?

The goal of using ESD wrist straps is to safely provide a way for static electricity to dissipate without causing electrostatic damage. The less ESD events that occur the better. An ESD protected work environment will enhance safety which helps to increase efficiency and production. While ESD wrist straps are highly effective pieces of equipment, it’s always best to support safety initiatives with the addition of ESD mats and other essential supplies. Short-term investments in high-quality ESD gear will pay off in the long-term.

Operators should use an anti static wristband to ensure any static discharge has a way to go from themselves to the ground safely. Without wearing a wristband whilst working on a static sensitive device/component you could effectively transfer static discharge onto the item and cause significant damage. This can be very costly to replace and time-consuming.

By wearing a wrist strap, you are not only taking an important step to prevent ESD from inflicting damage but you are also setting an example to your peers and managers.

Types of ESD Wrist Straps

Work environments that deal with the pressures of ESD risk on a daily basis should be equipped with either fabric adjustable, metal adjustable, or hypoallergenic ESD wrist straps. Disposable wrist straps are best for short-term projects and field work that necessitate the need to handle static sensitive electronic equipment.

The colour of the ESD wristband doesn’t indicate any level of protection. A brightly colored wrist strap allows for a quick visual that the person is wearing their ESD/anti static equipment. They also stand out on a workbench or table making it easier to find and put on. Wristbands are available in a variety of colours to suit your preference: blue, black and navy as standard. Bondline can customise the colour of their ESD wrist straps.

Here are several types of anti-static wristbands from Bondline:

HCA10 | BondlineAnti Allergy Adjustable Wrist-StrapDisposible Wrist StrapAdjustable Stainless Steel Wrist-Strap

Best Practices for Using Anti-Static Wristbands

  • When using an anti-static wristband, ensure that it’s making good contact with your skin.
  • The elastic strap should be snug but not too tight, as a loose or overly tight fit may hinder the effectiveness of the wristband.
  • Which wrist you decide to wear your anti static wrist strap on is often a matter of personal preference. If you have the grounding point for the wrist strap cord on your left you may find wearing the wrist strap on your left makes the most sense. That way the cord will not drag across your work.
  • You can clean the wristband with a mild soap and water solution. Dry it thoroughly before use.
  • Inspect the snap connector regularly to ensure it’s making a secure connection and there’s no damage or corrosion.
  • Like other ESD control products, anti-static wristbands will wear out over time and need to be replaced. A guideline is usually established by companies regarding when they need to be replaced, whether it’s annually, semi-annually or quarterly. However, generally speaking, you should check your wrist strap’s condition, wear and cleanliness and replace it immediately if you notice any damage to the wristband or snap connector, such as cracks or corrosion.
  • When not in use, store your anti-static wristband properly to prevent damage or contamination.
  • If you’re working in a professional setting with multiple employees, it’s essential to train them on the proper use and maintenance of anti-static wristbands. This can help ensure that everyone is using them correctly and that they’re being properly maintained.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using Anti-Static Wristbands

Not using them at all: One of the most common mistakes is not using an anti-static wristband at all. Electrostatic discharge can cause irreversible damage to electronic components, and using an anti-static wristband is an easy and affordable way to prevent it.

Improper connection to ground: To be effective, the anti-static wristband must be properly connected to a ground point. Simply wrapping the band around your wrist is insufficient to protect your electronics. Ensure that the snap connector is properly connected to a grounded surface.

Wearing them incorrectly: Wearing the wristband improperly can also hinder its effectiveness. Ensure that the conductive material is in direct contact with your skin and that the elastic strap is snug but not too tight.

Touching non-grounded surfaces: Touching non-grounded surfaces can cause static electricity to build up on your body, defeating the purpose of the wristband.

Improper maintenance: Proper maintenance of anti-static wristbands is essential for ensuring their effectiveness. Not cleaning the conductive material or inspecting the snap connector for damage can result in reduced conductivity and protection.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you can ensure that your anti-static wristband provides maximum protection for your electronic devices. Remember to use them consistently, maintain them properly and wear them correctly for the best results. With proper use, anti-static wristbands can prevent the costly damage caused by electrostatic discharge and extend the lifespan of your electronics.

How Often Should an Anti Static Wrist Strap be Replaced?

There is no specific rule on a lifespan of a wrist strap.  Any company policies should be followed on replacements but a good general rule of thumb is to look at the overall use, possible wear and cleanliness of your individual wrist strap.

Often companies determine a guideline on replacing them annually, semi-annually or quarterly. This small change can often feel good for those that use a wrist strap daily and especially those who share a wrist strap at a common workbench or workstation.

It can be a small investment in employee satisfaction to have an upgrade to the tools and equipment on a regular basis.  Replacing a wrist strap can be a small but strong signal from management that the company cares about proper ESD procedures.

Find out how an Anti-Static Wristband from Bondline can Help You

All in all, anti static wristbands are an essential piece of equipment to wear when working with static sensitive items. They are easy-to-use, cost-effective, comfortable to wear and, most importantly, ground any static charge from the operator to the ground to prevent ESD damage.

If you would like more information on anti-static wrist straps please contact us using the form below or contact us on +44 (0)1793 511000 or sales@bondline.co.uk.

Man with Antistatic Wrist Straps repairing LCD Monitor

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