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What You Need to Know About Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) and Electrostatic Discharge (ESD)

​The printed circuit board is a core component of every electronic system. Because of their importance, printed circuit boards must be stored and handled in static safe environments to avoid damage. ESD is a major concern, and choosing the right solutions for storing PCBs is important. Read on to find out how you can protect your PCBs and why it is important to protect them against ESD.

What Are Printed Circuit Boards?

A detailed close up of a printed circuit board - Bondline

Let’s start with the basics. A Printed Circuit Board (PCB) is a medium used to connect electronic components to one another in a controlled manner. A PCB is a board that uses pads that are connected with lines between them. These lines electrically connect to components and allow signals and power to be routed to these components.

Printed circuit boards are predominantly used in electrical engineering in the communications industry. They are used in companies that produce computer components or in some telecommunications companies.

Some of the industries that may need to use products that contain PCBs:

  • Healthcare Sector application includes some medical devices, image generating devices, and more
  • Any industry that uses LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) such as residential or commercial lighting
  • Consumer electronics such as cellphones, smartwatches, and more
  • Industrial Industry for manufacturing, power, and measuring equipment
  • Automotive Industry for any PCB-based components such as navigation and control systems, and sensors
  • Aerospace Components that use PCBs include those on planes, spacecraft, radio communication systems, and satellites
  • Maritime Industry applications include navigation, radio communications, and control systems
  • Safety and Security industry applications may include security cameras, smoke detectors, and electronic door control
  • Telecommunications Industry for telecom towers, LED displays, and office communications
  • Military and Defence applications include instrumentation, communications, and control systems

As you can see there is a large proportion of the entire business ecosystem that has a need for PCBs and therefore the protection of PCBs from electrostatic damage is important. A simple solution to this is using ESD packaging.

Why Should You Protect Your PCB From ESD?

Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) is damage caused by electrostatic energy released between two physical objects with different voltage potentials. See this blog post for more information about what Electrostatic Discharge is. As printed circuit boards are electrically conductive, the slightest amount of electrostatic discharge can cause irreparable damage. Therefore, protecting your PCBs with ESD protective packaging such as a conductive PCB magazine rack could mean the safety of your production line.

There are several methods and solutions to preventing ESD damage to the manufacturing of your PCBs that include ESD solutions such as ESD matting, ESD benches, and the ESD packaging you choose to use.

Component Spark ESD - Bondline

How To Protect Your PCB From ESD

As mentioned earlier, there are several steps you can take to protect the production of your printed circuit boards or in the production of other products that contain PCBs.

Step 1: The very first step should be to conduct a site ESD audit on your property. This can be done by Bondline, visit this page for more on ESD Audits. An audit will reveal where you need static control products and recommend which ones to purchase to create an EPA (Electrostatic Discharge Protected Area) that is compliant with the requirements of the IEC-61340-1-5 International Standard.

Step 2: Gather the necessary ESD protective flooring, benches, matting, chairs, and other static control products that will ensure your area is protected from potential electrostatic discharge.

Step 3: The employees and the persons who might handle the ESD sensitive components: your PCBs. There are a few options that can be used in conjunction with each other for ESD protection; clothing, footwear, gloves and wrist straps are a few examples.

Step 4: Training. Bondline also offers ESD training that is carried out on-site on your premises. During the program, you and your employees will learn about electrostatic discharge (ESD), how to prevent ESD, and the importance of ESD protection.

Step 5: Packaging, storage, and delivery. This is where you should decide on how you package your products to leave the manufacturing floor and how the delivery of the products are carried out to adhere to ESD protective practices. For example, you could use a PCB anti-static magazine rack to store PCBs.

PCB Board Bondline  Pcb,Printed,Circuit,Board,Kept,In,A,Storage,Rack,For

What Are The Different Types Of Conductive PCB Racks?

The type of PCB magazine rack you might need is usually dependent on the dimensions of your PCB. The conductive PCB magazine racks from Bondline are moulded with black conductive polypropylene. Here is a list of the types of PCB racks you might find at Bondline:

  • PCB Racks: Available in four sizes themselves, these racks are for use internally to transport PCBs between areas. These racks are recommended for the protection of CMOS assembled boards.
  • Large PCB Rack: These racks are predominately used for the transportation of PCBs and fit into shipping containers such as Euro-Stacking Conductive Containers. Parts such as aluminium rails, conductive end walls and frames are available to order separately.
  • Typical Small PCB Rack: A popular storage solution, these are used in the shipping and transportation of PCBs.
  • Dimple Board Rack: These PCB storage racks are useful for storing PCBs up to 2mm thick on the workbench. They can be stacked flat when not in use and can be used in conjunction with other ESD protective products.

PCBL_15Large Conductive Storage Rack - BondlineSmall Conductive Holder - Bondlinebondline | Dimple Board Rack

As you can see there are a variety of different antistatic products that can either be used singularly to transport various static sensitive components or as part of a greater ESD protective process. From the initial setup of the working area to ensure compliance with international standards, to training your personnel and then the apparel that they wear day to day.

Each and every step of the way should be monitored to ensure that there is no electrostatic damage along the way. Once you have your PCBs in your PCB anti static magazine rack and loaded into the shipping containers you can relax and know the PCBs are on their way to their destination safely.

For More Information, Contact Bondline

Bondline is the leader in ESD protective products and packaging. We also offer the highest standard in ESD Audits and Surveys, as well as the best ESD training program that is constantly reviewed for compliance with the IEC-61340-1-5 International Standard. As part of the greater picture, Bondline also offers ESD calibration and certification for your ESD instruments and equipment. As always, we have a whole resource page dedicated to technical ESD advice on our website, simply visit our Free Technical Advice page.

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Chloé Warlow
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