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Why ESD Prevention Is Better Than Cure

How Much Is Damage From Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) Costing Your Business?

Static electricity has been an industrial problem for centuries. Today, electrostatic discharge (ESD) continues to be one of the most serious problems facing the electronics industry, impacting productivity and reliability in nearly every aspect of today’s electronics environment. Many organisations consider all electronic components static sensitive. It is important that all employees are aware of the most static sensitive item being handled in your facility. In this article, we will explore the types of ESD damage, the costly effects of ESD, and how you can minimise ESD to protect your products.

ESD affects:

  • Production yields
  • Manufacturing costs
  • Product quality and reliability

As electronic technology advances, electronic circuitry gets increasingly smaller. As the size of components is reduced, so is the microscopic spacing of insulators and circuits within them, increasing their sensitivity to electrostatic discharge. This is especially the case during storage, transportation, and the manufacturing process itself, since build-up can arise from friction. Therefore, the need for proper ESD protection increases every day.

Types of ESD Device Damage

ESD can change the characteristics if a semi-conductor device, degrading or destroying it. Controlling ESD begins with understanding how electrostatic discharge occurs in the first place. Electrostatic damage to electronic devices can occur at any point from manufacture to field service. Damage results from handling devices in uncontrolled surroundings or when poor ESD control practices are used. Generally, ESD damage is classified as either a catastrophic failure or a latent defect. More information can be found on our article ESD device damage.

Catastrophic failure

When an electronic device is exposed to an ESD event, it may have caused a metal melt, junction failure or oxide breakdown, permanently damaging its circuitry and resulting in failure. Such failure can usually be detected when the device is tested before shipping. If the ESD event occurs after the test, the damage will go undetected until the device fails in operation.

Latent damage

Latent damage, or a latent defect, is much more difficult to identify. An electronic device may be partially degraded yet continue to perform its intended function. However, the operating life of the device may be reduced dramatically. This could cause premature system failure which could prove extremely hazardous and very costly.

Costly Effects of ESD

Electrostatic damage can result in device failures, increased rework costs, reduced reliability, or latent component failures. While the cost of in-house failures can be huge, the cost of a single in-field failure can be colossal.

Catastrophic failures are straight forward. They can be identified and repaired at an early manufacturing stage. This is the least costly type of ESD damage.

Latent defects, on the other hand, are not only difficult to find, but they can also greatly affect the reputation of your company’s product. Latent defects can cause intermittent failures which can be very frustrating. For instance, customers return a product with a problem which the factory fail to detect so it ends up in the customer’s hands again with the problem unresolved.

Figure 1: Total failure of circuit.    Figure 2: Circuit damage.    Figure 3: Malfunction in circuit.

An image showing catastrophic failure. A total failure of an electrical circuit. Image by Bondline Electronics Ltd.  An image showing circuit damage to an electrical device. Image by Bondline Electronics Ltd.  Image showing a short circuit. A malfunction in an electrical circuit. Image by Bondline Electronics Ltd.

The cost of damaged devices ranges from only a few pounds for a simple diode to thousands of pounds for complex integrated circuits. It is unlikely that any company which ignores static control will be able to manufacture and deliver undamaged electronic parts successfully. The cost for repairing latent defects increases as detection of the failure moves through the system.

One study indicated the cost to be:

  • $10 Device
  • $10 Device in board – $100
  • $10 Device in board and in system – $1,000
  • $10 Device and system fails – $10,000

Industry experts have estimated average electronics product losses due to static discharge to range from 8 to 33%. Others estimate the actual cost of electrostatic damage to the electronics industry as running into the billions of pounds annually.

Short circuit damage on printed circuit board. Bondline Electronics Ltd.

Conclusion: How To Minimise ESD Device Damage

ESD is the hidden enemy in the electronics industry. It cannot be felt, seen or necessarily be detected through normal inspection procedures. This is why it is so crucial to be aware of the most static sensitive items in your facility.

Although it is difficult to pinpoint specific failures to electrostatic damage, by taking the time to evaluate current processes, companies can minimise or prevent possible damage and reliability problems by storing, assembling and handling equipment under electrostatic safe conditions.

One of the most crucial safety measures used in electronics manufacturing environments is static protective packaging. Static shielding bags provide Faraday cage protection to ensure the quality and reliability of your products and components. Moisture barrier bags provide protection against both moisture and static damage; an ideal solution for the safe packing of SMDs and Jedec Trays.

Our antistatic packaging solutions include a wide range of storage and transportation solutions such as conductive component boxes, Corstat transit packs, Corstat conductive corrugated board, antistatic foam and Corstat bin tubes. Corstat packaging offers a convenient and safe way to store and transport static sensitive electronic components and devices due to its conductive coating providing Faraday cage protection. Antistatic foam provides ESD-safe cushioning against shock, impact, and vibration to protect the box contents.

How Bondline Can Help You Create An Effective EPA

With the help of our antistatic experts and wide range of static control products, we can assist you in taking the preventative measures needed in order to have an effective and full operating EPA. Speak to one of our antistatic experts today by calling us on +44 (0)1793 511000 or send us an enquiry by filling in the form below or emailing us at sales@bondline.co.uk.

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