ESD lab coats are an important part of any electrostatic discharge (ESD) protected area (EPA). They provide a barrier between the wearer and any potential static charges, helping to keep the environment free of static charge accumulations. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the role of ESD lab coats in EPAs and discuss some of the key features that you should consider when shopping for one.
An ESD lab coat is a protective garment that prevents the build-up of static charge. It is typically worn by those in the electronics, biotech, automotive, food processing and pharmaceutical industries. It is used to control static charge and minimise the likelihood of ESD events occurring on static sensitive devices.
If ESD occurs in electronics assembly, labs or cleanrooms, this can be damaging to the static sensitive electronics being handled. By using an ESD smock, the wearer can obtain electrostatic protection, making ESD smocks essential in EPAs.
ESD lab coats are the most visible indicator of ESD protection and any facility that mandates ESD lab coats demonstrates a commitment in ESD protection. Although lab coats are not necessarily required as part of the Standard, they are recommended to use as part of a complete Quality Control Program. There are industries that do require ESD lab coats to be worn at all times. For instance, anti-static garments should be equipped when working in high risk industries such as microelectronics. ESD lab coats should be paired with other grounding products such as ESD wrist straps and grounding cords to provide effective protection against static and a static controlled environment.
When worn inside an electrostatic protected area (EPA), an ESD lab coat effectively shields the clothes of the wearer. Everyday clothes made of insulative materials, or those that can generate high amounts of static, are restricted in protected areas. ESD lab coats, on the other hand, are specifically designed to keep high levels of static from being generated by the wearer and the clothes they are wearing. This effectively creates a Faraday Cage effect, protecting workers and components alike.
Here are some of the essential features to look for in an ESD lab coat:
When it comes to the material of an ESD lab coat, you will want to consider operator comfort and ESD performance. ESD lab coats are typically made from materials that are static dissipative to protect against the effects of ESD. They usually consist of a mix of polyester and cotton and are embedded with carbon fibre – this will vary depending on the manufacturer. Carbon fibre is an essential component in ESD lab coats. This conductive yarn provides consistent static dissipation to prevent ESD damage to static sensitive electronics. Synthetic fibres like polyester, compared to natural ones like wool, are lighter and more durable. Thus, a polyester lab coat can provide its wearer with a comfortable experience while working, helping to increase productivity and morale. For cooler climates, a cotton polyester blend is a good choice to opt for. Commonly, you will find that the materials are described with a percentage next to them. For example, our ESD lab coats are composed of 65% polyester, 32% cotton and 3% conductive yarn. The amount of carbon / conductive yarn is an important factor to consider when choosing an ESD lab coat. Ideally, you would want to choose a lab coat that contains a higher percentage of carbon fibre (around 3-5%) as this will give a better anti-static performance. A lower cost ESD lab coat may not be as effective due to its low carbon content.
The coats you choose will most likely depend on style preference but the anti-static properties should be the first priority to ensure the coats will protect against ESD as intended. The best ESD smock should offer you sufficient static protection to make it suitable to wear in your working environment. It should feature ESD control characteristics—dissipative, low-charging, ground-able and shielding properties—to ensure the safety of the wearer and nearby static sensitive components. Dissipative properties allow for the continuous dissipation of charges to ground. Low-charging or anti-static jackets minimise the build-up of static. Ground-able refers to the ease at which a coat or jacket can be connected to ground. Lastly, shielding pertains to how the garment creates a Faraday Effect. Your ESD lab coat should meet or exceed the ANSI S20.20 ESD standards for resistance values. Moreover, it should conform to the IEC-61340-1-5 International Standard and comply with RoHS and REACH standards.
ESD lab coats come in various sizes and lengths, depending on the manufacturer. Typically you will find that most manufacturers are accommodating in size and length. Most lab coats range from small to 4X large in size and are usually full length. The length is an important factor to consider when it comes to the sensitivity of the application and the comfort of the wearer. Full length lab coats offer the best coverage as they reach the knees. It’s crucial you choose the right size and length for your lab coat, so you can wear it comfortably even during working hours. When purchasing one, it’s best to check the manufacturer’s sizing guide first to get an accurate measurement. Coats with the perfect fit do not restrict movement, allowing you to handle electronics and move from room to room with ease.
Lab coats also come in an assortment of styles in terms of collars and cuffs. The most common type of collar for lab coats is the lapel style. Due to its design, the lapel collar easily covers more surface area, giving better coverage and less exposure to the environment. In contrast, V-neck collars have a more open design, making them the most exposed. A V-neck collar is often opted for in warmer climates as they can be cooler to wear. Military collars are best for full coverage, however they may be more uncomfortable to wear. As the lapel style is between the two, it is often chosen by most industries. The type of collar you choose is dependant on the wearer’s sensitivity and comfort of the application. When it comes to cuffs, they either come with snap-fasteners or as knit cuffs. Snap cuffs are typically cheaper out the two and are often paired with an ESD wrist strap. They have three snaps that can be adjusted for a proper, snug fit. A wrist strap can be snapped to the lab coat’s sleeve and a cord is attached at the hip pocket to ground both the person and the coat. Meanwhile, knit type cuffs feature tighter cuffs, similar to the cuffs of a sweatshirt, and form a contact path around both of the operator’s wrists. These type of cuffs allow for hands free grounding. The lab coat and operator can be grounded by attaching a ground cord to the 4mm stainless steel snaps on the hip pocket.
For extra functionality, you should choose lab coats with more than one pocket. Lab coat pockets can conveniently hold small items, such as ESD pens and tapes. When purchasing your lab coat, make sure that the pockets are roomy enough for adequate storage.
If you prefer bespoke ESD lab coats and jackets, you have numerous options. For instance, you can request different collar types. If you’re looking for a more close-fitting collar that covers a wider expanse of your clothes, you can opt for a standing collar. You also have the option to select coats with a knit waist for a more comfortable fit. It’s also possible to order lab coats in different colours to match your company’s branding colour or colour code your employees. The typical colours for lab coats are white and blue, but they can also be customised in other colours like black, yellow, orange or dark grey. For a unified, corporate look, you can consider having your brand logo embroidered on the lab coats’ breast pockets.
Wearing ESD smocks properly is key to effective ESD control. When using one, you should make sure that all the snaps are fastened securely so that your clothing is covered well. Pay close attention to the conductive cuffs and whether they’re touching your skin. If they are not, adjust the sleeves properly until the cuffs are making contact with your skin.
Once you’ve got the lab coat on and your clothes are already well-covered, the next step is grounding the ESD lab coat. Common grounding techniques for lab coats are wearing an ESD wrist strap or using a grounding cord attached to the lab coat’s waist area.
For great static protection and comfortable wear, choose Bondline as your ESD smock supplier today. Bondline’s ESD smocks are offered in a wide range of unisex sizes and customisation options, so you can be sure to find the right lab coat you need. For superior comfort and materials, see their premium ESD lab coats range.
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