A Trusted UK Supplier Of ESD Control Products Since 1986

What Is ESD Matting and Why Do You Need It?

Static sensitive components are threatened by static electricity in many industries including those of flat panel manufacturing and electronic assembly. Electrostatic discharges (ESDs) can generate stray sparks that can cause irreversible damage to static sensitive components such as printed circuit boards. It is therefore imperative to use the right ESD safety equipment.

Several methods are available to prevent static electricity from damaging your electronic components. To eliminate electrical buildup, it is a good idea to start from the ground up. To ensure ESD safety, all ESD safety plans must include ESD mats. ESD mats are the core assets of an ESD Control Plan.

What are ESD Mats?

Simple ESD mats are just like ordinary placemats – they are used on flat surfaces like desks and tables. They are a typical 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. It is possible that without this ground, the mat would protect the item being worked on initially, but it would then transfer the ESD to the following item, the person holding it, or even back to the item it was originally intended to protect.

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.

If you need a large workspace or a dedicated ESD workstation, you should consider purchasing rolls of ESD matting or getting custom-sized mats. You should ensure that all mats, no matter their size or quantity, are properly grounded.

Furthermore, ESD mats can increase worker safety as well as provide further neutralisation of potential electrostatic discharge as well as cushioning, easing fatigue for the standing worker while working on electronic devices. An ESD flooring mat also reduces the risk of slipping on slippery floors.

It is important to remember that not all ESD mats are tested equally.  Ideally, the mats you are buying should be IEC certified for your company’s protection, so you are sure you are getting the protection you need.

How Do ESD Mats Function?

Antistatic mats help to protect static sensitive components from electrostatic discharge. They are engineered to drain static discharge from items placed on their surface. A secondary benefit of ESD mats is that they serve to protect the surface of the ESD sensitive devices from wear and tear. They do this 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 with, as well as its electrical properties and ability 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. A wide variety of sizes are available for these mats, which are typically placed on the floor or a desk surface.

ESD mats can be manufactured to fit any of the following:

  • Desks or workbenches
  • The amount of floor space in the work area
  • Large open rooms or sections
  • Flooring or tiles designed specifically for ESD use in manufacturing areas

As with other forms of static safety equipment, ESD mats serve two purposes. First, they disperse static electricity of individuals and objects, and second, they prevent the buildup of static electricity in the workplace. Their use, together with grounding wristbands, antistatic clothing, antistatic tools, and antistatic packaging, helps reduce the possibility of an electrostatic discharge.

Types of ESD Mats

The purpose of an ESD protective working surface is to prevent damage from electrostatic discharge to components and assemblies that are ESD sensitive.

There are two ways in which an ESD protective working surface protects:

  • Antistatic surfaces limit the generation of static electricity below potentially damaging levels by providing low-charging (antistatic) working surfaces.
  • Electrostatically discharging objects that have been placed on the surface of the workpiece.

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 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.

Various types of ESD work surfaces

Work surfaces for ESD protection can be categorised as conductive or dissipative.

According to most standards, a conductive working surface is one with a surface resistance of less than 1 x 10^(4) ohms. Those materials that conduct electricity ground a charge the fastest, however, too much discharge can harm them.

Those materials are classified as dissipative if they have a resistance of 1 x 10^(4) or less, but not more than 1 x 10^(9) ohms. Using dissipative materials is recommended when handling electronic components, as they dissipate charges more slowly. Surfaces used for benchtop working are most often made with dissipative materials.

The topmost important part of an ESD Control Program is personnel grounding. However, most people think that working surfaces are important too.

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.
  • The type of matting material you opt for can provide you with different benefits, whether it be a more cost-effective solution or provides better static dissipation.

Vinyl Mat Advantages:

  • Generally, vinyl mats are most widely used for tabletop or work surface applications.
  • Vinyl mats are cost-effective, easy to cut to shape and provide excellent static dissipation.
  • Vinyl floor matting is suitable to use for electronics manufacturing applications that require the use of ESD footwear.

Rubber Mat Advantages:

  • Rubber mats are heat resistant (resistant of hot solder; whereas Vinyl material will melt).
  • Rubber mats are used where high resistance to heat and chemicals is required.
  • Rubber mats remain in its same form. Whereas vinyl mats can change and become harder in cold conditions.
  • Rubber mats are said to be better for the environment.
  • Rubber mats are stable; ESD properties cannot change.
  • Rubber mats are generally cheaper to manufacture – cost-effective savings.

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.

Use of ESD Mats in Common Environments

In environments that are electrostatically sensitive or where static electricity is a risk, ESD mats are frequently found. This includes:

  • Cleanrooms (flat panel manufacturing, etc)
  • Manufacturing plants for microchips and autos
  • Buildings where electronic equipment is assembled
  • Service centres for computers
  • Rooms where operations take place
  • Inflammable materials are present in flammable environments
  • Shops that repair automobiles
  • Offices of medicine and dentistry
  • Rooms dedicated to computer servers

ESD mats are commonly used in companies where employees frequently interact with ESD-sensitive products; they are also necessary for employees who occasionally need to interact with these environments, such as back-office staff who sometimes need to access a cleanroom or manufacturing facility.

In cases where extended periods of standing are required, some ESD mats may incorporate “anti-fatigue” features, such as extra foam, to provide a more comfortable work environment.

How to Set Up an ESD Table Mat?

1) The ESD Table Mat should be placed on your workbench when assembling general electronics. For workers who are doing electrical work or handling chemicals, ESD rubber mats are a good option. Static electricity is dissipated by the mat, which provides a route to the ground for static electricity buildup.

2) A ground snap is attached to your table mat to connect your ESD ground cord.  Make sure the ring terminal of your ground cord is connected to a grounding receptacle nearby.  You can accomplish this task by placing the outlet cover plate screw through the ring terminal.

3) Install your ESD wristband and insert the banana plug coil cord into the receptacle of the common point ground. The coil cord connects the wristband to the user. Wristbands are attached to the Ground Wire over the Coil Cord. With the coils, the wristbands can be easily moved.

4) Lay your floor mat before your workbench to prevent the buildup of static electricity. Static electricity builds up in the mat, which allows it to be discharged to the ground.

5) Connect the ground snap of your floor mat to the ground snap of your Low Profile ESD Ground Cord.  The ring terminal must be connected to the grounding receptacle as described in step 2. To keep the shoes connected to the floor mat, wear ESD Heel Straps when standing on the ESD mat. If safety shoes are worn, the ESD heel straps need not be worn.

Invest in Bondline’s ESD Matting

Bondline are a leading UK supplier of ESD products since 1986. They specialise in providing the highest quality ESD consumables at competitive prices, including ESD matting.

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

  • Premium Textured Bench Matting
  • Mid-Range Textured Matting
  • Smooth Matting
  • Anti-Fatigue Matting
  • Heavy Duty Conductive Rubber Matting
  • ESD Rubber Floor Material
  • Tack Contamination Control Mat
  • Full Work Station Kit
  • Cushion Matting
  • Vinyl Bench Matting

If you are finding that you still require more guidance around ESD matting, we’d be happy to help you. Please get in touch with our expert sales team via the contact form below.

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