People pose the biggest threat to ESD sensitive components. However, when properly trained, operators can become the key weapon in the fight against ESD. Every person coming into contact with ESD sensitive items should be able to prevent ESD related problems before they occur or provide immediate action when they do occur. Today’s blog post will explain in detail the role operators play in ESD Protection and how your company can support them in the fight against ESD.

Introduction
As an employee, the invisible threat of ESD should be of great concern to you. ESD damage can significantly reduce your company’s profitability. This may affect your company’s ability to compete in the marketplace, your profit sharing and even your employment. Everyone likes to take pride in their work, but without proper ESD controls, your best efforts may be destroyed by ElectroStatic discharges that you can neither feel nor see.

motherboard doctors
People are often a major factor in the generation of static charges

Perhaps the most important factor in a successful static control program is developing an awareness of the “unseen” problem. People are often a major factor in the generation of static charges. Studies have shown that personnel in a manufacturing environment frequently develop 5000 volts or more by just walking across the floor. This is “tribocharging” produced by the separation of their shoes and the flooring as they walk.
A technician seated at a non-ESD workbench could easily have a 400-500 volt charge on his or her body caused not only by friction or tribocharging but additionally by the constant change in body capacitance that occurs from natural movements. The simple act of lifting both feet off the floor can raise the measured voltage on a person by as much as 500-1000 volts.
Educating your personnel is therefore an essential basic ingredient in any effective static control program. A high level of static awareness must be created and maintained in and around the ESD protected area. Once personnel understand the potential problem, it might help to reinforce this understanding by hanging up a few static control posters in strategic locations. No technician needs an unprotected person wandering over and touching things on the service bench.

The invisible enemy
The biggest issue with ElectroStatic discharges is that you can neither see nor feel the threat. Daily life has other examples of hidden enemies where careful procedures must be followed to regularly obtain positive results. One example is sterilization which combats germs and contamination in hospitals.
Damage caused by invisible and undetectable events can be understood by comparing ESD damage to medical contamination of the human body by viruses or bacteria. Although invisible, they can cause severe damage. In hospitals, the defense against this invisible threat is extensive contamination control procedures including sterilization.

A medical team performing an operation
Would you consider having surgery in a contaminated operating room?

We are aware of the benefits of sterilization in medicine. We must develop the same attitude towards ESD control and “sterilize” against its contamination. Just as you would never consider having surgery in a contaminated operating room, you should never handle, assemble or repair electronic assemblies without taking adequate measures against ESD. For the hospital to sterilize most of the instruments is not acceptable; actually, it may waste money. Every single instrument needs to be sterilized. Likewise, it is not acceptable to protect the ESD sensitive items most of the time. Effective ESD control must occur at each and every step where ESDS items are manufactured, processed, assembled, installed, packaged, labelled, serviced, tested, inspected, transported or otherwise handled.
Everyone handling sensitive components should:

  • recognize ESD threat
  • know what equipment to use, and how to use it
  • know the correct ESD procedures, and work to them
  • know how to check equipment
  • know which packaging to use
  • take corrective actions when required.” [Source]

It is obvious that ESD training of personnel is a prerequisite for a functioning ESD control program.

Training
ESD training needs to be provided to everyone who handles ESD sensitive devices – that includes managers, supervisors, subcontractors, cleaners and even temporary personnel. Training must be given at the beginning of employment (BEFORE getting anywhere near an ESDS) and in regular intervals thereafter.
Initial and recurrent ESD awareness and prevention training shall be provided to all personnel who handle or otherwise come into contact with any ESDS [ESD sensitive] items. Initial training shall be provided before personnel handle ESDS items. The type and frequency of ESD training for personnel shall be defined in the Training Plan. The Training Plan shall include a requirement for maintaining employee training records and shall document where the records are stored. Training methods and the use of specific techniques are at the Organization’s discretion. The training plan shall include the methods used by the Organization to verify trainee comprehension and training adequacy.” [ANSI/ESD S20.20-2007 section 7.2]

Training
Training is an essential part of an ESD Control Program

ESD training should include:

  • an introduction to ESD – what it is, what it’s caused by and how to control it
  • how to handle sensitive devices and what precautions to take when coming into contact with them
  • how to identify and mark ESD sensitive items
  • an overview of the ESD Standard.

For operators working in assembly, repair or field service, job specific training will be required, too.
If visitors are entering an EPA, they must possess basic ESD awareness and understand how to use their wrist straps and footwear.

Operator’s safety comes first
One final word of warning: while ESD control is important, it is of secondary importance to employee safety. ElectroStatic charges or static electricity can be everywhere; however, conductors can be effectively grounded and charges removed to ground. A fundamental rule in ESD control is to ground all conductors, including people. BUT: Personnel should not be grounded in situations where they could come into contact with voltage over 250 volts AC.

Last time, we discussed the storage requirements of ESD sensitive items. Today we want to focus on the overall selection process for ESD bags: from choosing the correct type of material all the way through to determining the right size for your application. Sounds complicated? Honestly – it’s not and once you have the right tools (you’re welcome!), you’ll be an expert in no time. So, let’s go!

Choose the correct material for your ESD bag
Before you get started, you need to be clear about the purpose of your ESD bag and the environment it’s being used in. Make sure you have the answers to the following questions:

  1. What do you intend to put inside the ESD bag? ESD sensitive items? Non-ESD sensitive items?
  2. Is moisture an issue you need to consider?
  3. Do you need your ESD bags to be self-sealable? Or will you be using ESD tape/labels to close your bags?
  4. Are the items inside your ESD bag sensitive to physical damage?
  5. Are the items you’re storing in your ESD bag particularly sharp which could potentially damage the material?
  6. Will the ESD bags (and obviously the items inside) be stored on a grounded shelf inside an EPA or are they being transported outside of an EPA, as well?

Once you have answers to ALL of the above questions, you can move on to the below selection chart and choose the right material for your application.

ESD sensitive items Moisture protection Self-sealable Physical protection Inside/
Outside EPA
Metal-In x x Both
Metal-Out x x Both
MBB – High Barrier x x x Both
MBB – Low Barrier x x x Both
Bubble Shielding x x Both
Conductive Black Only if used on a grounded surface Inside only if used with ESD sensitive items

A few more details on the different types of materials listed in the above chart:

  1. Metal-In Shielding Bags
    ESD bags which protect ESD sensitive items. The ESD shielding limits energy penetration from electrostatic charges and discharge. The dissipative outer layer dampens any discharge and therefore reduces damaging electrostatic events. They offer good see-through clarity. Available with and without dissipative zipper.

    Metal-In Shielding Bag – more information
  2. Metal-Out Shielding Bags
    Integral antistatic and low tribocharging bags which will not electrostatically charge contents during movement. Bags have a protective coated aluminum metal outer layer of laminated film; this promotes a more rapid discharge of static fields creating the event which the metal layer then attenuates. If RF field sensitivity is an issue, metal-out bags may be unsuitable. The rapid discharge to the highly conductive outer layer can create a higher radiated field which in return can cause issues for objects inside or near the bag. Available with and without dissipative zipper.

    Metal-Out Shielding Bag – more information
  3. Moisture Barrier Bags (MBB) – Low Barrier
    Offers ESD and moisture protection and can be used to pack SMD reels or trays. Available with and without dissipative zipper (except Dri-Shield® 2700).

    Low Barrier Moisture Barrier (MBB) Bag – more information
  4. Moisture Barrier Bags (MBB) – High Barrier
    Offer ESD and moisture protection and are ideal for applications where high moisture protection or conformance to IPC/JEDEC J-STD-033 is required. Available with and without dissipative zipper (except Dri-Shield® 3000).

    High Barrier Moisture Barrier (MBB) Bag – more information
  5. Cushioned Bags
    These bags combine the “Faraday Cage” and mechanical protection. They shield about twice as well as normal shielding bags of equivalent size. Bubble cushion layer provides heavy-duty protection that absorbs impact and prevents product damage.

    Cushioned Bag – more information
  6. Conductive Black Bags
    Black conductive film is made of virgin low density materials with black conductive compound to achieve high toughness and strength. This is commonly used for material handling, shipping and storage.

    Conductive Black Bag – more information

Calculating the correct size for your ESD bag
Once you have selected the correct type of material, it’s time to choose the right size for your ESD bag. There are different ways to determine this based on the type of material you use:

Shielding and Black Conductive Bags:
A. Bag Width = Item’s Thickness + Item’s Width + 25mm
B. Bag Length = Item’s Thickness + Item’s Length + 50mm

Moisture Barrier Bags (MBB):
A. Bag Width = Item’s Thickness + Item’s Width + 25mm
B. Bag Length = Item’s Thickness + Item’s Length + 76mm

Cushioned Bags:
A. Bag Width = Item’s Thickness + Item’s Width + 76mm
B. Bag Length = Item’s Thickness + Item’s Length + 76mm

Bonus Tip: Measuring a bag
It might seem obvious to some of you but given that we do get these types of queries on a regular basis, we thought this would be a good opportunity to include. Imagine you already have ESD bags that you use in your company. Someone has just taken the last one off the shelf and you need to order some more. How do you know what size ESD bag you have in front of you so you can place a new purchase order? No worries – we have the answer:

A. The width is measured from inside seam to inside seam. This is also your opening.
B. The length is measured from the top of the opening to the bottom of the bag.

Bonus Tip 2: Remember your ESDS items
Outside an ESD protected area, the objective of ESD protective packaging is to prevent a direct electrostatic discharge to the ESD sensitive item contained within and allow for dissipation of charge from the exterior surface. In addition, the packaging should minimize charging of the ESD sensitive item in response to an external electrostatic field and triboelectrification. If the user does not know the sensitivity of the items being used, we would always recommend static shielding packaging to be on the safe side.

In our last post, we talked about the ESD protective packaging requirements for ESD sensitive items and provided you with 6 steps to choose the correct type of packaging. We thought today we could go in a little bit more detail and introduce you to some types of packaging and how to use them. If you read our recent post on Tips to Fight ESD, you will remember how important it is to protect your ESD sensitive items when leaving an EPA. Yet, too often we see customers who have the perfect EPA, but when it comes to transporting and storing their precious components, it’s all falling apart.

Packaging required for transporting and storing ESD sensitive items
During storage and transportation outside of an EPA, it is recommended that ESD sensitive components and assemblies are enclosed in packaging that possesses the ESD control property of shielding. See our last post for more details.

Remember:

  • In ‘shielding’ we utilize the fact that electrostatic charges and discharges take the path of least resistance.
  • The charge will be either positive or negative; otherwise the charge will balance out and there will be no charge.
  • Charges repel so electrostatic charges will reside on the outer surface.

The Faraday Cage effect
A Faraday Cage effect can protect ESD sensitive items in a shielding bag or other container with a shielding layer. To complete the enclosure, make sure to place lids on boxes or containers and close shielding bags.

Cover must be in place to create Faraday Cage and shield contents.

Types of shielding packaging
The below list gives a few examples of what types of shielding packaging is available on the market. This list is by no means complete; there are many different options out there – just make sure the specifications state “shielding” properties.

  • Metal-In Shielding Bags
    ESD bags which protect ESD sensitive items. The ESD shielding limits energy penetration from electrostatic charges and discharge. They offer good see-through clarity. Available with and without zipper.

    Example of a Metal-In Shielding Bag – Click here for more information
  • Metal-Out Shielding Bags
    Integral antistatic and low tribocharging bags which will not electrostatically charge contents during movement. Bags have an aluminium metal outer layer of laminated film. Available with and without zipper.

    Example of a Metal-Out Shielding Bag – Click here for more information
  • Moisture Barrier Bags
    Offer ESD and moisture protection and can be used to pack SMD reels or trays.

    Example of a Moisture Barrier Bag – Click here for more information
  • Cushioned Shielding Bags
    These bags combine the “Faraday Cage” and mechanical protection. They shield about twice as well as normal shielding bags of equivalent size.

    Example of a Cushioned Shielding Bag – Click here for more information

Additional options for storing ESD sensitive items
Do you have the following in place?

  • ESD flooring
  • Grounded personnel (using foot grounders)
  • Grounded racking

IF (and this is a BIG IF) the above requirements are fulfilled, you can use conductive bags or containers to store your ESD sensitive items. Conductive materials have a low electrical resistance so electrons flow easily across the surface. Charges will go to ground if bags or containers are handled by a grounded operator or are stored on a grounded surface.

Conductive materials come in many different shapes and forms:

Conductive Black Bags
Tough and puncture resistant bags which are made of linear polyethylene with carbon added. The bags are heat sealable.

Example of a Conductive Black Film – Click here for more information
  • Rigid Conductive Boxes
    Provide good ESD and mechanical protection. Boxes are supplied with or without high density foam for insertion of component leads or low density foam which acts as a cushioning material.
  • PCB Containers
    Are flat based and can be stacked. They are made of injection moulded conductive polypropylene.

Again, there are many more options available on the market so make sure you do your research.

Note: we do not recommend using conductive packaging to transport ESD sensitive devices. Also, pink antistatic and pink antistatic bubble bags are not suited for storing or transporting ESD sensitive components.

Final thoughts
Packaging with holes, tears or gaps should not be used as the contents may be able to extend outside the enclosure and lose their shielding as well as mechanical protection.

Also, do not staple ESD bags shut. The metal staple provides a conductive path from the outside of the ESD bag to the inside. The use of a metal staple would undermine the effectiveness of the ESD bag making a conductive path for charges outside the bag to charge or discharge to ESD sensitive components inside the bag. To close an ESD bag, it is recommended to heat seal or use ESD tape or labels after the opening of the bag has been folded over. Alternatively, you can use ESD bags with a zipper.

If your company has an ESD Control Program per ANSI/ESD S20.20 in place, you need to define ESD protective packaging for ESD sensitive items (ESDs).
The Organization shall prepare an ESD Control Program Plan that addresses each of the requirements of the Program. Those requirements include:
– Training
– Product Qualification
– Compliance Verification
– Grounding / Equipotential Bonding Systems
– Personnel Grounding
– ESD Protected Area (EPA) Requirements
– Packaging Systems
– Marking” [ANSI/ESD S20.20 clause 7.1 ESD Control Program Plan]

But where do you start? Don’t panic – we’re here to help and we’ll be following the guidelines set-out in the ESD Standard.

Definition and Purpose of ESD Protective Packaging
ESD Protective Packaging covers any materials coming into direct contact with ESD sensitive devices during handling, shipping and storage. You don’t need to worry about secondary or exterior packaging unless it’s used for ESD protection purposes.
Packaging for ESD sensitive items is commonly derived by modifying existing packaging to prevent the packaging itself from causing static damage. The packaging generally retains physical and environmental protective qualities. ESD protective packaging has been modified further to prevent other sources of static electricity from damaging a packaged item.“ [ANSI/ESD S541 Foreword]

The fundamentals of ESD control include grounding all conductors in the EPA. ESD packaging will have special material composition to lower the resistance so that when grounded, electrostatic charges will be removed to ground thus protecting your ESD sensitive devices inside.
Transportation of electrostatic sensitive devices requires packaging that provides protection from electrostatic hazards in the transportation or storage system. In the case of an EPA designed with continuous grounding of all conductors and dissipative items (including personnel), packaging may not be necessary.” [ANSI/ESD S541 clause 6. Packaging Application Requirements]

Example of ESD Packaging

Packaging is to be determined for all material movements inside and outside of the ESD Protected Area (EPA). Best practice is to define the required packaging or material handling item on the product’s bill of materials. Remember: the ESD packaging is just as important as a component part.

Customer contract packaging can take precedence, but otherwise “the organization shall define ESD protective packaging requirements, both inside and outside the EPA per ANSI/ESD S541 or in accordance with the contract, purchase order, drawing or other documentation necessary to meet customer requirements.” [ANSI/ESD S20.20 clause 8.4 Packaging]

Choosing your ESD Protective Packaging
Numerous factors need to be taken into consideration when choosing your ESD protective packaging including the “environment and device sensitivity.” [ANSI/ESD S541 Annex A.1 Environment and Device Sensitivity]
It is best recommended to follow these 6 steps:

    1. Understand the product sensitivity
      You can gather information about the ESD sensitivity of an item by either measuring it in-house, contacting the manufacturer of the product or by analyzing published ESD sensitivity data.
    2. Determine the distribution environment for the packaged product
      Knowing the environment in which the product is shipped and how it will be handled is extremely important. Humidity and temperature are the main factors to consider when it comes to choosing the right type of packaging for your ESD sensitive items. If items are susceptible to moisture, a barrier material should be chosen to prevent excessive humidity exposure. On the other hand, condensation may occur inside the packaging if temperatures vary around the dew point of the established interior conditions. In those instances, desiccant should be put inside of the package or the air should be removed from the package before shipment.

A Moisture Barrier Bag – click here for more information

  1. Determine the type of packaging system that is best suited for the intended application
    The first step is to choose low charging or static dissipative materials when in contact with ESD sensitive devices. Many companies also require the packaging to protect the contents from a direct discharge or exposure to electric fields. In addition to these requirements, there are further questions that need to be asked:

    • Returnable or reusable packaging?
    • Disposable or one-time only packaging?
    • Aesthetic requirements for packaging?
  2. Select and test packaging materials
    Test methods are explained in ANSI/ESD S541 and will classify packaging materials as conductive, static dissipative or insulative.
  3. Design a packaging systemOnce the ESD sensitivity and distribution environment have been evaluated and available materials have been selected, the design of the packaging system can begin. Per the ANSI/ESD S541, the following general rules apply:
    • Inside an EPA:
      Packaging used within an EPA (that satisfies the minimum requirements of ANSI/ESD S20.20) shall be:

      • Low charge generation.
      • Dissipative or conductive materials for intimate contact.Items sensitive to < 100 volts human body model may need additional protection depending on application and program  plan requirements.”
        [ANSI/ESD S541 clause 6.1 Inside an EPA]
    • Outside an EPA:
      Transportation of sensitive products outside of an EPA shall require packaging that provides:

      • Low charge generation.
      • Dissipative or conductive materials for intimate contact.
      • A structure that provides electrostatic discharge shielding.
        [ANSI/ESD S541 clause 6.2 Outside an EPA]

    Example of ESD Packaging

    In addition to these guidelines, there may be additional factors that should be considered, e.g.:

    • Cost/value relationship: The cost of the packaging compared to the total value of the contents is important. Some companies choose less expensive packaging for less valuable parts.
    • Handling: If rigorous handling is expected, cushioned packaging may need to be considered.
  4. Test the final packaging design for effectiveness
    It is highly recommended to subject packages to the type of hazards that can be expected during shipments. These tests can, for example, involve the following:

    • High voltage discharges to the exterior of the packaging
    • Simulated over the road vibration
    • Drop tests
    • Environmental exposure

Final thoughts on ESD Protective Packaging
Now that you have an understanding of the factors to consider when choosing your ESD Protective Packaging, you’re ready to implement the above guidelines. ESD packaging comes in all sorts of shapes and forms so bear in mind to not just look at bags when deciding what type of packaging to choose.
Also, remember that ESD packaging should be marked. We’ll cover the specifics in a later post.

Last time we learned the difference between conductors & insulators. We went on to explain what ionizers are and when you need them in your EPA. Haven’t had a chance to read that post yet? Catch-up here!
All up to speed now? Right, let’s move on: as promised, today we’ll be looking at the different types of ionizers available.

What is an Ionizer?
But first a quick recap of what an ionizer is: An ionizer produces positively and negatively charged ions that are moved to the controlled area with fan driven airflow. Ionization can neutralize static charges on an insulator in a matter of seconds, thereby reducing their potential to cause ESD damage.

Types of Ionizers
Electrical ionizers generate air ions by a process known as corona discharge. A high voltage is applied to one or more sharp points and quantities of air ions are created. Fans or blowers may be incorporated in the ionizer to assist the movement of the ions and enhance performance.

  1. AC Ionizers
    AC ionizers use a transformer to multiply the AC power line voltage. AC stands for “Alternating Current” which means that the power cycles from positive to negative sixty times per second. The AC ionizer therefore produces both positive and negative ions from the same points or emitters. The drawback with this approach is that many ions recombine because the cycle frequency is too fast. For this reason, most AC ionizers rely on fans or blowers to be effective.
  2. Pulsed DC Ionizers
    Pulsed DC ionizers utilize separate power supplies to generate positive and negative voltages and usually each power supply has its own dedicated emitters. The power supply alternates between positive and negative, but usually at a lower frequency than AC units. In this way, ion recombination is reduced and performance is increased. Airflow may then be reduced for operator comfort without sacrificing much performance. With pulsed DC, it is important to cycle at least two or three times per second to prevent harmful voltage swings on the object being protected.
  3. Steady-state DC Ionizers
    Steady-state DC ionizers also employ separate power supplies and emitters, but instead of alternating positive and negative, both supplies are on all the time as the name implies. As would be expected, there is some degree of recombination, however, the ion density is still greater because of continuous operation of both supplies. The offset or balance voltage at the output will normally be more consistent than pulse units.

There are also nuclear types of ionizers which are non-electric. They are more frequently used in flammable or explosive environments for applications other than electronics.

Ionizer Configurations

  1. Room Ionization
    This type of configuration will typically have multiple emitters just below ceiling height and will rely on some amount of air movement for moving the ions down to bench level. It used to be considered as the most effective way to protect large areas against ESD hazards. However, these days localized workstation ionization is recommended:

    • Product sensitivity has become much greater and long decay times of room ionization cannot be tolerated.
    • With room ionization, often only a fraction of the ionized area may be ESD sensitive. Localized ionizers bring protection to the areas where it’s needed and performance is often 10 times faster than the ceiling height system.
    • Localized ionization moves with the workstation (or to a new workstation) making it much more flexible with changing production line layouts.
      Advantages Disadvantages
      + Effective for large areas – Long decay times
      – Cannot easily be moved once set-up
  2. Workstation Ionizers
    These come in many shapes and sizes. Probably the best-known type is the benchtop ionizer which is about the size of an iPad mini and about 4 inch deep. They’ve been around for many years and are to this day still in high demand. Over the years, smaller and lighter units were developed. As workstation space is incredibly valuable, many users prefer the smaller units. Some benchtop ionizers can even be suspended above the bench using a flexible mounting arm. Whatever style is chosen, care should be taken to assure that items normally on the bench would not obstruct the flow of ionized air.

    Example of a Benchtop Ionizer – click here for more information

    A real benefit of benchtop ionizers is the fact that they can easily be moved between workstations. So, if you only have a small EPA with a few users and shared workload, you can save money by moving one ionizer between different benches.

    Advantages Disadvantages
    + Compact – Potential obstruction of air flow
    + Lightweight
    + Portable
  3. Overhead Ionizers
    Overhead ionization was established to solve the problem of items on a workbench blocking the flow of ionized air. Overhead Ionizers have a unique hanging capability and are suspended about 17 to 24 inch above the bench – either by hanging from chains or by using mounting brackets attached to a shelf or bench.

    Example of an Overhead Ionizer – click here for more information

    Using this method of ionization makes it very unlikely for items to block the flow of ionized air to the item being protected. In addition, the downward airflow is more consistent over the entire bench. To ensure that adequate air is delivered an overhead ionizer with 2 to 4 fans should be used. Overhead ionization is ideal for areas where bench space is limited.

    Advantages Disadvantages
    + Large & consistent air flow coverage – Heavy
    + Don’t take up valuable workspace
    + Items unlikely to block air flow
  4. Forced Air Ionizers
    Most companies address ElectroStatic Attraction, visual imperfections and contamination issues by dislodging charged dust and debris with compressed air ionizers. They use compressed air or nitrogen to neutralise static charges in localized areas – they are a quick “point-and-shoot” option. They are either hand-held or may be mounted in a fixed location.

    Example of a Forced Air Ionizer – click here for more information

    The main advantage of this type is that the user has the benefit of a strong air blast (20 to 100 P.S.I.) to help dislodge contamination, while the ionization in the air stream eliminates the static attraction of the particles at the same time. Hand-held air nozzle types will usually have a trigger or push-button to activate the air and ion flow, while the stationary-mounted type is frequently remote controlled with a foot pedal, photo sensor or some other switch closure.

    Advantages Disadvantages
    + “Point-and-shoot” operation – Use valuable workstation space
    + Strong air blast

Summary
SCS Ionizers meet ANSI/ESD S20.20 tested per ANSI/ESD STM3.1 and ESD TR53. What type of ionizer you choose depends on a lot of different factors. There is no right or wrong – just different options.

A few things you should consider before making any decisions:

  • Type of operation
    Depending on the work your operators are doing, one type/configuration of ionizer may have more benefits then another. For example, if your workspace is limited, an overhead ionizer might be the answer. On the other hand, if there is an issue with debris & dust in your operation, then a compressed air ionizer would be better suited.
  • Features required
    Does your ionizer need to be made of stainless steel? Does it need to use zero-volt technology? Do you need a cost-effective ionizer with built-in emitter point cleaners? Do activities need to be monitored and recorded with some sort of software? Make a list of what is an absolute must and where you can compromise – see next point.
  • Available budget
    Even though this one is the last one in this list, it by no means is the least important factor. Quite contrary, it’s generally one of the main considerations when investing in an ionizer. However, it kind of goes hand in hand with the previous 2 points. So, you may have to make compromises, e.g. on the features, depending on what monies are available…

Need help choosing? Check out our Ionizer Selection Chart!
Alternatively, why not request an EOS/ESD Assessment? It’s a great way to have an extra set of eyes look at your ESD control plan!

Conclusion
Ionization is one of the best methods of removing charges from insulators and as a result plays an important role in controlling ESD. Remember though: an ionizer is a secondary form of defense and does not eliminate the need for standard ESD control devices such as wrist straps, heel grounders and worksurface mats. It is only one element in an effective ESD program.

Also, ionizers require periodic cleaning of emitter pins and the offset voltage must be kept in balance. Otherwise, instead of neutralizing charges, if it is producing primarily positive or negative ions, the ionizer will place an electrostatic charge on items that are not grounded.

Good morning everyone – how is your Thursday going so far?
Over the next couple of posts, we’ll tackle another important aspect of any ESD Control Program: Ionization. But before we dig into the nitty gritty and explain the different types of ionizers, we’ll have to cover a bit of theory and discuss the different types of materials that can be found in an ESD Protected Area: conductors and insulators. But don’t worry – we’ll keep it brief!

Conductors
Materials that easily transfer electrons (or charge) are called conductors and are said to have “free” electrons. Some examples of conductors are metals, carbon and the human body’s sweat layer. Grounding works effectively to remove electrostatic charges from conductors to ground. However, the item grounded must be conductive.

The other term often used in ESD control is dissipative which is 1 x 104 to less than 1 x 1011 ohms and is sufficiently conductive to remove electrostatic charges when grounded.

When a conductor is charged, the ability to transfer electrons gives it the ability to be grounded.

 

Per ESD Handbook ESD TR20.20-2008 section 2.5 Material Electrical Characteristics – Insulative, Conductive and Static Dissipative: ” A conductive material allows electrons to flow easily across its surface. Conductive materials have low electrical resistance. If the charged conductive material makes contact with another conductive material, the electrons will transfer between the materials quite easily. If the second conductor is a wire lead to an earth grounding point, the electrons will flow to or from ground and the excess charge on the conductor will be “neutralized”. Static dissipative material will allow the transfer of charge to ground or to other conductive objects. The transfer of charge from a static dissipative material will generally take longer than from a conductive material of equivalent size.
There is no correlation between resistance measurements and the ability of a material to be low charging. Static dissipative material shall have a surface resistance of greater than or equal to 1.0 x 10^4 ohms but less than 1.0 x 10^11 ohms. Conductor less than 1.0 x 10^4, and non-Conductor or Insulator 1 x 10^11 ohms or higher.” [ANSI/ESD S541 section 7.2]

Take-away:

  • Electrical current flows easily in conductors.
  • Conductors can be grounded.

Insulators
Materials that do not easily transfer electrons are called insulators and are by definition non-conductors. Some well-known insulators are common plastics and glass. An insulator will hold the charge and cannot be grounded and “conduct” the charge away.

Both conductors and insulators may become charged with static electricity and discharge. Grounding is a very effective ESD control tool; however, only conductors (conductive or dissipative) can be grounded.

Insulators like this plastic cup will hold the charge and
cannot be grounded and “conduct” the charge away.

Per ESD Handbook ESD TR20.20-2008 section 2.5 Material Electrical Characteristics – Insulative, Conductive and Static Dissipative: “Virtually all materials, including water and dirt particles in the air, can be triboelectrically charged. An insulator is a material that prevents or limits the flow of electrons across or through its volume is called an insulator. A considerable amount of charge can be formed on the surface of an insulator.

Take-away:

  • Electrical current does not flow easily in insulators.
  • Insulators cannot be grounded.

Insulators are non-conductors and therefore cannot be grounded. Insulators can only be controlled by doing the following within an EPA:

  • Always keep insulators a minimum of 12 inch from ESDS items or
  • Replace regular insulative items with an ESD protective version or
  • Periodically apply a coat of topical Antistat.

All nonessential insulators such as coffee cups, food wrappers and personal items shall be removed from the workstation or any operation where unprotected ESDS items are handled.” [ANSI/ESD S20.20-2007 section 8.3]

“Process essential” Insulators
When none of the above is possible, the insulator is termed “process essential” and therefore neutralization using an ionizer should become a necessary part of the ESD control program.

Examples of some common process essential insulators are:

  • PC board substrate,
  • insulative test fixtures and
  • product plastic housings.

An example of isolated conductors can be conductive traces or components loaded on a PC board that is not in contact with the ESD worksurface.

Reduction of charges on insulators does occur naturally by a process called neutralization. Ions are charged particles that are normally present in the air and as opposite charges attract, charges will be neutralized over time.

A common example is a balloon rubbed against clothing and “stuck” on a wall by static charge. The balloon will eventually drop. After a day or so natural ions of the opposite charge that are in the air will be attracted to the balloon and will eventually neutralize the charge. An ionizer greatly speeds up this process.

A balloon “stuck” on a wall by static charge.

Ionizers and Neutralization
An ionizer creates great numbers of positively and negatively charged ions. Fans help the ions flow over the work area. Ionization can neutralize static charges on an insulator in a matter of seconds, thereby reducing their potential to cause ESD damage.

An ionizer creates positively and negatively charged ions.

Per ESD Handbook ESD TR20.20-2008 Ionization, section 5.3.6.1 Introduction and Purpose / General Information “The primary method of static charge control is direct connection to ground for conductors, static dissipative materials, and personnel. A complete static control program must also deal with isolated conductors that cannot be grounded, insulating materials (e.g. most common plastics), and moving personnel who cannot use wrist or heel straps or ESD control flooring or footwear. Air ionization is not a replacement for grounding methods. It is one component of a complete static control program. Ionizers are when it is not possible to properly ground everything and as backup to other static control methods.

Note: Ionizers require periodic cleaning of emitter pins and the offset voltage must be kept in balance. Otherwise, instead of neutralizing charges, if it is producing primarily positive or negative ions, the ionizer will place an electrostatic charge on items that are not grounded.

Summary
The 2nd of the three fundamental ESD Control principles is to neutralize process essential insulators with ionizers:
Per ANSI/ESD S20.20-2007 Foreword “The fundamental ESD control principles are:

  • All conductors in the environment, including personnel, must be attached to a known ground
  • Necessary non-conductors in the environment cannot lose their electrostatic charge by attachment to ground. Ionization systems provide neutralization of charges on these necessary non-conductive items (circuit board materials and some device packages are examples of necessary non-conductors).
  • Transportation of ESDS items outside of an ESD Protected Area requires enclosure in static protective materials… Outside an EPA, low charging and static discharge shielding materials are recommended.

In addition, if a conductor is not grounded, it is an isolated conductor, and an ionizer is the only means to neutralize ElectroStatic charges on it.

Now that you know what conductors and insulators are, how to treat them in an EPA and when to use ionization, the next step is to learn about the different types of ionizers available. Stay tuned for next time.

 

As reviewed previously, an Electrostatic Discharge is a rapid, spontaneous transfer of an electrostatic charge induced by a high electrostatic field through a spark between two bodies at different electrostatic potentials as they approach or are separated from one another.

The ESD Association characterizes three models of discharge, Human Body Model (HBM), Charged Device Model (CDM) and Machine Model (MM). Each model is intended to follow specific discharge properties such as the rise and fall times of the discharge current waveform.

Today, we will discuss HBM and CDM.

Human Body Model (HBM) simulates a person becoming charged and discharging from a bare finger to ground through the circuit under test. Humans are considered a primary source of ESD and HBM can be used to describe an ESD event due to the combination of the capacitance of a human body and resistance of skin touching a sensitive component. Typically, you need to pay better attention to personnel grounding to eliminate HBM.

Per ESD Handbook ESD TR20.20-2016 section 3.4.1 Human Body Model (HBM)

HBM has been in use for over 100 years. It was first defined to allow measurement and evaluation of explosion hazards for underground mining operations. There are a few different test standards describing the HBM for military and commercial applications, but the differences are in the application of the test, calibration of the system, and other ancillary items. The waveform, as defined by the human body resistance and capacitance, is virtually identical among all the test standards. The most widely used standard is ANSI/ESDA/JEDEC JS-001. The HBM test standard uses a stressing circuit which charges a 100 pF capacitor to a known voltage and discharges through a 1500-ohm resistor as shown in Figure 3. The simulators are verified by measuring various features of the current waveform, some of which are shown in Figure 4. Full details for tester qualification and waveform verification are described in ANSI/ESDA/JEDEC JS-001.

Charged Device Model (CDM) simulates an integrated circuit becoming charged and discharging to a grounded metal surface. CDM can be used to describe an ESD event due to an integrated circuit that is suspended on a vacuum pick and then placed on a metal surface during assembly.

Manual operation and handling is much less likely these days as operations have become more automated. CDM is the most pragmatic discharge model in automated production today. Anytime a sensitive device is lifted from a tray and transported it is most likely generating a charge.

Per ESD Handbook ESD TR20.20-2016 section 3.4.2 Charged Device Model (CDM)

In principle, there are two variations of CDM. The first considers the situation of a device that is charged (through tribocharging) on its package, lead frame, or other conductive paths followed by a rapid discharge to ground through one pin or connector. The second considers the situation of a device which is placed in an electric field due to the presence of a charged object near the device. The device’s electrostatic potential is increased by this field. This process is sometimes referred to as static induction. The device will discharge if it is grounded while still in the electric field. In both cases, the device will discharge, the failure mode will be the same, and the failure type and location will be the same. The most widely used CDM standards use the static induction approach. In CDM simulators, the device is grounded by a pogo pin contacting one pin or lead of the device. The current through the pogo pin can be measured and recorded which is particularly important as the discharge current determines the ESD threshold, a schematic of this is shown in Figure 5.

Experimental results show that the CDM discharge current is very fast, with rise-times measured often below 100 ps with a “pulse width” (full width half-maximum [FWHM]) of less than 500 ps to1 ns, an example waveform with the key parameters is shown in Figure 6. By comparison, the HBM discharge has a typical rise-time of 2 to 10 ns and durations of hundreds of ns. Until 2014, the most commonly used CDM standards were JEDEC JESD22-C101 or ANSI/ESD STM5.3.1. These have now been superseded by ANSI/ESDA/JEDEC JS-002.

So, why does it matter?
Different types of discharge can affect devices in different ways. HBM is a somewhat slow discharge and ranges from 10 to 30 nanoseconds. CDM is a very fast discharge which in turn means the energy has no time to dissipate. The CDM-type damage threshold is often 10 to 20 times lower than the one for an HBM-type discharge. If an HBM-type discharge causes damage at 2000V, it is not uncommon to have the same component damaged by a 100 to 150V CDM event.

Per ESD Handbook ESD TR20.20-2016 section 3.2.1     Threats in Electronic Production Lines
ESD threats in electronics manufacturing can be classified into three major categories:

  • Charged personnel – When one walks across a floor a static charge accumulates on the body. Simple contact of a finger to a device lead of a sensitive device or assembly which is on a different potential, e.g., grounded, allows the rapid transfer of charge to the device.
  • Charged (floating) conductor – If conductive elements of production equipment are not reliably connected to ground, these elements may be charged due to triboelectric charging or induction. Then these conductive elements may transfer charge to a device or assembly which is at a different potential.
  • Charged device/boards – During handling, devices or boards can acquire a static charge through triboelectric charging or can acquire an elevated electrostatic potential in the field of nearby charged objects. In these conditions, contact with ground or another conducting object at a different electrostatic potential will produce a very fast ESD transient.

This categorization is useful in that each category implies a set of ESD controls to be applied in the workplace. ESD threats from personnel are minimized by grounding personnel through the use of wrist straps and/or footwear/flooring systems. Discharges from conductive objects are avoided by assuring that all conductive parts that might contact devices are adequately and reliably grounded. The occurrence of ESD involving charged devices or boards is minimized by a) preventing charge generation (low-charging materials, ionization) or b) by providing low-current “soft landings” using dissipative materials.

Since these preventive measures are seldom perfectly deployed, the overall threat of ESD failure remains and the risk ultimately depends on how well the controls are maintained and the relative sensitivities of the devices being handled.

Taking Action
SCS recommends reviewing your manufacturing process and determining what model is the most relevant for your facility. Are your components handled directly by hand or by a hand tool such as tweezers or a vacuum pick?

Finding the root cause of ESD events is crucial to solving the problem. SCS technology can identify events in areas like SMT line, soldering, printer and repair stations. SCS has instrumentation to identify component sensitivity and measure ESD events as well as ensure compliance within your facility.

The SCS CTM082 ESD Pro Event Indicator has a special CDM filter switch to filter and reject EMI signals that are not caused by CDM discharges. Make sure to set requirements for static voltage and discharge strength within your production environment based on the most sensitive component in production.

The SCS CTM048-21 EM Eye ESD Event Meter will calculate the event magnitude for HBM and CDM. It also logs the events to a microSD card so they can be downloaded to a PC. Solving ESD problems requires data; a before-and-after analysis of data may now be measured and used to tailor your ESD control program.

The SCS 770063 EM Aware Monitor is ideal for automated equipment and will provide an approximate voltage for the ESD event based on HBM and CDM models. The EM Aware Monitor has Ethernet network connectivity and communicates with our Static Management Program (SMP). All activity is stored into a database for on-going quality control purposes. SMP allows you to pinpoint areas of concern and prevent ESD events. Quantifiable data allows you to see trends, become more proactive and prove the efficiency of your ESD process control system.

There is a lot of confusion out there as to what the difference is between resistivity and resistance. We get asked questions on a regular basis so hopefully this post will put an end to any misunderstanding – we’ll explain the difference between the two and will point out the measurements you really need to worry about when it comes to your ESD Control Program.

The difference between Resistivity and Resistance
“Resistance or resistivity measurements help define the material’s ability to provide electrostatic shielding or charge dissipation.” [Source]
However, resistance and resistivity values are not interchangeable. Let’s get a bit technical here to illustrate the difference between the two:

  1. The resistance expresses the ability of a material to conduct electricity. It is therefore related to current and voltage. In fact, the surface resistance of a material is the ratio of the voltage and current that’s flowing between two pre-defined electrodes.
    With a pure resistive material, where:
    – R is the resistance (expressed in Ohm W),
    – U is the voltage (expressed in Volt) and
    – I is the current (expressed in Amp).The unit of measure for surface resistance is ohms (W). It is important to remember that the surface resistance of a material is dependent on the electrodes used (shape as well as distance). If your company implements an ESD Control Program compliant to the ESD Standard ANSI/ESD S20.20, it is therefore vital to carry out surface resistance measurements as described in the Standard itself.
  2. The surface resistivity of a material describes a general physical property. It is not influenced by the shape of the electrodes used or the distance between them. “Surface resistivity, ρ,  can  be  defined  for electric current flowing across a surface as the ratio of DC voltage drop per unit length to the surface current per unit width.” [Dr. Jaakko Paasi, VTT Industrial Systems: “Surface resistance or surface resistivity?”]
    As Dr. Jaakko Paasi describes in his research note, surface resistivity can be expressed by using a concentric ring probe as
    where:
    – k is the geometrical coefficient of the electrode assembly,
    – rcentre is the outside radius of the centre electrode and
    – router is the inside radius of the outer electrode.For the electrodes recommended by ESD TR53 (Compliance Verification of ESD Protective Equipment and Materials), the coefficient k = 10.The unit of measure for surface resistivity is ohms (W) but in practice you will often see ohms/square (W/square) (which technically is not a physical unit).
    As previously explained, the surface resistivity does not depend on shape or distance of the electrodes used when performing the test. You can compare results freely – no matter what type of electrode was used to get the measurements in the first place.

Converting from Resistivity to Resistance
Values of surface resistance and surface resistivity become comparable if the measured surface resistance value is multiplied by the geometrical coefficient of the used electrode fixture.” [Dr. Jaakko Paasi, VTT Industrial Systems: “Surface resistance or surface resistivity?”]
If you measure surface resistance according to ESD TR53, then the corresponding surface resistivity can be calculated by multiplying the resistance value by the geometrical coefficient factor k = 10. Likewise, surface resistivities can be converted to surface resistances by dividing the surface resistivity value by 10.

Care is needed in interpreting results when measuring non-homogeneous materials such as multilayer mats or conductive-backed synthetic fiber carpeting containing a small amount of conductive fiber. Buried conductive layers can provide shunt paths. Be clear when stating what you have measured!
A few notes in regards to measuring surface resistance and resistivity:

  • On large surfaces, such as worksurface mats, readings will sometimes vary with increasing time of measurement. This is due to the ‘electrification’ of the mat beyond the area measured. It is therefore important to measure properly and to keep the duration of measurement constant. Fifteen seconds is an arbitrary but practical duration for measurement time.
  • Moreover, the materials needing to be checked in an EPA are most of the time, non-conductive polymers that have been made conductive or antistatic by addition of conductive particles or by special treatments during manufacture. The resistivity of such materials may vary from one point to another or they may be direction dependent (anisotropic).
  • ESD TR53 goes some way to specifying the procedures to be followed and test probes to be used, so that the results can be compared, at least roughly.
  • Also, the resistance of some materials may vary with humidity level and temperature. It is therefore good practice to take a note of these two parameters when measuring.

So now that we’ve identified what the difference is between surface resistance and resistivity, there is one more thing we want to cover in today’s post: the different types of surface resistances you will come across when dealing with ESD and how to measure them:

1. Resistance to Ground (Rg)
Resistance to Ground is a measurement that indicates the capability of an item to conduct an electrical charge (current flow) to an attached ground connection. The higher the resistance in the path, the more slowly the charge will move though that defined path.” [Source]
The Resistance to Ground is measured to ensure that surfaces in an EPA are correctly grounded. This is certainly one of the most useful measurements in an EPA.

Resistance-To-Ground
Performing a Resistance to Ground Test

To perform the test:

  • One 5lb cylindrical probe is required for this measurement.
  • Connect the probe to a megohmmeter and place it on the surface to test.
  • Connect the other ohmmeter lead to earth or to an ESD ground point.
  • Measure the resistance at 10V for conductive items and 100V for dissipative items.

2. Resistance Point-To-Point (Rp-p)
A point-to-point measurement used during the qualification process evaluates floor and worksurface materials, garments, chair elements, some packaging items, and many other static-control materials.“ [Source]
Resistance Point-To-Point is used to assess the performance of an item used in an EPA.

To perform the test:

  • Two 5lb cylindrical probes are required for this measurement
  • Connect the probes to a megohmmeter.
  • Place the material to be tested on an insulative surface such as clean glass and place the probes on the material.
  • Measure the resistance at 10V for conductive items and 100V for dissipative items.
  • Move the probes to measure in a cross direction and repeat the test.

Point-to-point measurements are important during the qualification process for proper evaluation of flooring and worksurface materials. After installation, the resistance-to-ground measurement is more applicable since it emulates how the material really behaves in practice.” [Source]

3. Volume Resistance (RV)
Although this is one of the less common measurements when it comes to ESD, it’s still worth to mention the volume resistance here. You would measure the volume resistance when a non-grounded item such as a container is to be placed on a grounded item, such as a mat. The volume resistance will indicate whether the item can be used in the desired manner.

Volume-Resistance
Performing a Volume Resistance Test

To perform the test:

  • Two 5lb cylindrical probes are required for this measurement
  • Connect the probes to a megohm meter.
  • Put the first probe upside down and ‘sandwich’ the test sample between it and the second probe placed on top.
  • Measure the resistance.

 

So hopefully we have put an end to any confusion in regards to surface resistivity and resistance and answered all your questions. If there is anything else you’d like to know, let us know in the comments.

References:

 

Last time we explained how to easily create a compliance verification plan and why it’s important to have one in place. Today’s post will elaborate on the subject of periodic verification and highlight common products in your EPA that should be regularly verified and more importantly how they should be checked.

Why periodic verification
Compliance verification is a requirement of ANSI/ESD S20.20:
The Organization shall prepare an ESD Control Program Plan that addresses each of the requirements of the Program. Those requirements include:
– Training
– Product Qualification
– Compliance Verification
– Grounding / Equipotential Bonding Systems
– Personnel Grounding
– ESD Protected Area (EPA) Requirements
– Packaging Systems
– Marking” [ANSI/ESD S20.20 clause 7.1 ESD Control Program Plan]

Installed ESD Control products must be checked regularly to ensure they meet the required limits per the ESD Standard. “Compliance verification records shall be established and maintained to provide evidence of conformity to the technical requirements. The test equipment selected shall be capable of making the measurements defined in the Compliance Verification Plan.” [ANSI/ESD S20.20 clause 7.3 Compliance Verification Plan]

Below, you will find a list of the most common ESD Control Products in your EPA and how to test them:

Worksurface Matting
The purpose of ESD workbench matting is to ensure that when charged conductors (conductive or dissipative) are placed upon the surface, a controlled discharge occurs and electrostatic charges are removed to ground. However, this only occurs if the ESD worksurface is connected to ground. If the matting is out-of-spec, not grounded at all, or the stud on the mat has become loose or if the ground cord has become disconnected, charges cannot be removed.
Many companies use a daily checklist, which includes the operator having to verify that ground cords are firmly connected.
Remember to regularly clean your workbench matting to maintain proper electrical function. Do not use cleaners with silicone as silicone build-up will create an insulative film on the surface.
The company’s compliance verification plan should include periodic checks of worksurfaces measuring:

  • Resistance Point-to-Point (Rp-p) and
  • Resistance-to-ground (Rg)
Testing a worksurface using SRMETER2

A surface resistance tester can be used to perform these tests in accordance with ANSI/ESD S20.20 and its test method ESD TR53; if these measurements are within acceptable ranges, the worksurface matting and its connections are good.

Wrist Straps
As discharges from people handling ESD sensitive devices cause significant ESD damage, the wrist strap is considered the first line of ESD control.
Before handling ESD sensitive items, you should visually inspect the wrist strap to see if there are any breakages etc. The wrist strap should then be tested while worn using a wrist strap tester. This ensures all three components are checked: the wrist band, the ground cord (including resistor) and the contact with the operator’s skin. Records of each test should be kept. Wiggling the resistor strain relief portion of the coil cord during the test will help identify failures sooner. Analysis and corrective action should take place when a wrist strap tester indicates a failure.

Checking wrist straps using 746

It is recommended that wrist straps are checked at least daily. An even better solution to daily wrist strap checks is the use of continuous monitors. They will alarm if the person or worksurface is not properly grounded.

A note on worksurface matting and wrist straps: if you are using common ground points to ground the operator and/or work surface matting, remember to measure resistance to ground regularly as well (every 6 months for example).

Floor Matting
A flooring / footwear system is an alternative for personnel grounding for standing or mobile workers. Foot grounders quickly and effectively drain the static charges which collect on personnel during normal, everyday activities. Foot grounders should be used in conjunction with floor surfaces which have a surface resistance of less than 1010 ohms.
As ESD floors get dirty, their resistance increases. For optimum electrical performance, floor matting must be cleaned regularly using an ESD mat cleaner. Do not use cleaners with silicone as silicone build-up will create an insulative film on the surface.
Dissipative floor finish can be used to reduce floor resistance. Periodic verification will identify how often the floor finish needs to be applied. As the layer(s) of dissipative floor finish wear, the resistance measurements will increase. So, after some amount of data collection, a cost-effective maintenance schedule can be established.
Floor matting can be checked using a resistance meter. A surface resistance meter is designed to measure resistance point-to-point (Rp-p) or surface to ground (Rg) in accordance with ANSI/ESD S20.20 and its test method ESD TR53.

Footwear
ESD Shoes or foot grounders play an essential part in the flooring/footwear system.
Before handling ESD sensitive devices, visually inspect your ESD footwear for any damage. Just like wrist straps, footwear should be checked while being worn using a wrist strap/footwear tester.

Checking foot grounders using 770750

Records of each test should be kept. Analysis and corrective action should take place when a footwear tester indicates a failure. Footwear needs to be checked daily.

ESD Packaging
Re-using shielding bags is acceptable as long as there is no damage to the shielding layer. Shielding bags with holes, tears or excessive wrinkles should be discarded.

An operator packing an ESD sensitive item into a Shielding Bag
Make sure your ESD shielding bags are un-damaged

It is up to the user to determine if a shielding bag is suitable for re-use or not. The testing of every bag before re-use is not practical. Many companies will discard the shielding bag once used and replace it with a new one. Others will use a system of labels to identify when the bag has gone through five handling cycles:

  • Non-reusable labels are used that require the label be broken to open the bag.
  • The bag is then resealed with a new label.
  • When there are five broken labels, the bag is discarded.

The same principle applies to other ESD packaging, e.g. component shippers.

Ionizers
Ionizers are intended to neutralize static charges on insulators thereby reducing their potential to cause ESD damage. However, poorly maintained ionizers with dirty emitter pins and out-of-balance ionisers can put a charge on ungrounded items.
Remember to clean ionizer emitter pins and filters regularly. You can now even purchase ionizers that will alarm when emitter pins need to be cleaned or the ionizer is out of balance.

Charge plate monitor and static decay measurements using 963E ionized air blower

Static neutralization (the ability to reduce or eliminate a charge on a surface) is an important quality for ionizers. Static decay time is defined as the time interval needed to reduce a defined voltage potential on an object to a defined lower potential by means of applied ionized air. Another important aspect for ionizers is the ability to produce a balanced stream of positive and negative ions. A charged plate monitor or equivalent can be used to accurately measure both of these parameters.
For more detailed information on measuring the performance of ionizers refer to the ESD standard ANSI/EOS/ESD-S3.1 for Protection of Electrostatic Discharge Susceptible Items-Ionization.

Wrist Strap/Footwear and Resistance Testers etc.
So, you check your wrist straps and/or footwear and workbench and/or floor matting regularly. But have you remembered the testers themselves? What good do all the checks do, if the testers you use are out-of-spec and show you incorrect results?
Yearly calibration is recommended – many manufacturers offer a calibration service or alternatively you can purchase calibration units from them and perform the calibration yourself.

There you have it – a list of the most commonly used products in your ESD Protected Area (EPA) that you should check on a regular basis.
Questions for you: Do you have a verification plan in place? If so, how often do you check your ESD protection products?

Every component in an ESD protected area (EPA) plays an important role in the fight against electrostatic discharge (ESD). Just one element not performing correctly could harm your ESD sensitive devices and potentially cost your company a lot of money. The problem with many ESD protection products is that you can’t always see the damage – think wrist straps! By just looking at a coiled cord, you can’t confirm it’s working correctly; even without any visible damage to the insulation, the conductor on the inside could be broken. This is where periodic verification comes into play.

Introduction
When implementing an ESD control program plan, ANSI/ESD S20.20 asks for several requirements to be addressed, one of which is “Compliance Verification”:
The Organization shall prepare an ESD Control Program Plan that addresses each of the requirements of the Program. Those requirements include:

  • Training
  • Product Qualification
  • Compliance Verification
  • Grounding / Equipotential Bonding Systems
  • Personnel Grounding
  • ESD Protected Area (EPA) Requirements
  • Packaging Systems
  • Marking” [ANSI/ESD S20.20 clause 7.1 ESD Control Program Plan]

ESD protected area (EPA) products should be tested:

  • Prior to installation to qualify product for listing in user’s ESD control program.
  • During the initial installation.
  • For periodic checks of installed products as part of TR20.20.

A Compliance Verification Plan shall be established to ensure the Organization’s fulfillment of the technical requirements of the ESD Control Program Plan. Process monitoring (measurements) shall be conducted in accordance with a Compliance Verification Plan that identifies the technical requirements to be verified, the measurement limits and the frequency at which those verifications shall occur. The Compliance Verification Plan shall document the test methods and equipment used for process monitoring and measurements. If the test methods used by the organization differ from any of the standards referenced in this document, then there must be a tailoring statement that is documented as part of the ESD Control Program Plan. Compliance verification records shall be established and maintained to provide evidence of conformity to the technical requirements. The test equipment selected shall be capable of making the measurements defined in the Compliance Verification Plan.” [ANSI/ESD S20.20 clause 7.3 Compliance Verification Plan]

Components of a Verification Plan
Each company’s verification plan needs to contain:

1. A list of items that are used in the EPA and need to be checked on a regular basis
All ESD working surfaces, personnel grounding devices like wrist straps or foot grounders, ionizers etc. need to be included on the list. In summary: every item that is used for ESD Control purposes. It is recommended to create a checklist comprising all ESD control products as this will ensure EPAs are checked consistently at every audit.

2. A schedule specifying what intervals and how each item is checked
The test frequency will depend on several things, e.g.

  • how long the item will last,
  • how often it is used or
  • how important it is to the overall ESD control program.

As an example: wrist straps are chosen by most companies to ground their operators; they are the first line of defence against ESD damage. They are in constant use and are subjected to relentless bending and stretching. Therefore, they are generally checked at the beginning of each shift to ensure they are still working correctly and ESD sensitive items are protected. Ionisers on the other hand are recommended to be checked every 6 months: whilst they are in constant use, they are designed to be; the only actual ‘interaction’ with the user is turning the unit on/off. If, however, the ionizer is used in a critical clean room, the test frequency may need to be increased.

Testing-Wrist-Straps
It is recommended that Wrist Straps are checked before each shift
Testing and monitoring of smock and ground cord assembly

Test frequency limits are not listed in this document, as each user will need to develop their own set of test frequencies based on the critical nature of those ESD sensitive items handled and the risk of failure for the ESD protective equipment and materials.

Examples of how test frequencies are considered:

  • Daily wrist strap checks are sufficient in some applications while in other operations constant wrist strap monitoring may be used for added operator grounding reliability.
  • Packaging checks may depend on the composition of the packaging and its use. Some packaging may have static control properties that deteriorate more quickly with time and use, and some packaging may be humidity dependent and may have limited shelf life.
  • Some materials, such as ESD floor finishes, may require more frequent monitoring because of their lack of permanency. Other materials, such as ESD vinyl floor covering, may require less monitoring. The testing of a floor should also be considered after maintenance on the floor has been performed.” [ESD TR53-01-15 Annex A – Test Frequency]

The industry typically uses 2 types of verification to achieve maximum success: visual and measurement verification. As the name suggests, visual verification is used to ensure ESD working surfaces and operators are grounded, ESD flooring is in good shape or wrist straps are checked before handling ESD sensitive items.

Actual measurements are taken by trained personnel using specially designed equipment to verify proper performance of an ESD control item.

3. The suitable limits for every item used to control ESD damage
ANSI/ESD S20.20 contains recommendations of acceptable limits for every ESD control item. Following these references reduces the likelihood of 100V (HBM) sensitive devices being damaged by an ESD event.

Please bear in mind that there may be situations where the limits need to be adjusted to meet the company’s requirements.

4. The test methods used to ensure each ESD product meets the set limits
Tables 1 to 3 of ANSI/ESD S20.20 list the different test methods a company must follow.

If a company uses other test methods or have developed their own test methods, the ESD control program plan needs to include a statement explaining why referenced standards are not used. The company also needs to show their chosen test methods are suitable and reliable.

It is recommended that written procedures are created for the different test methods. It is the company’s responsibility to ensure anybody performing the tests understands the procedures and follows them accordingly.

5. The equipment used to take measurements specified in the test methods
Every company needs to acquire proper test equipment that complies with the individual test methods specified in Tables 1 to 3 of ANSI/ESD S20.20. Personnel performing measurements need to be trained on how equipment is used. ESD TR53-01-15 lists test procedures and equipment that can be used to verify ESD Control items.

SRMeter2_use
Checking an ESD Worksurface using a Surface Resistance Meter

6. A list of employees who will be performing the audits
Part of the verification plan is the choice of internal auditors. A few suggestions for the selection process:

  • Each individual is required to know the ESD Standard ANSI/ESD S20.20 AND the company’s individual ESD program.
  • It is essential that the selected team member recognizes the role of ESD control in the company’s overall quality management system.
  • It is recommended that each nominated worker has been trained on performing audits.
  • The designated employee should be familiar with the manufacturing process they are inspecting.

7. How to deal with non-compliance situations
Once an audit has been completed, it is important to keep everyone in the loop and report the findings to the management team. This is particularly vital if “out-of-compliance” issues were uncovered during the verification process. It is the responsibility of the ESD coordinator to categorize how severe each non-conformance is; key problems should be dealt with first and management should be notified immediately of significant non-compliance matters.

Results of audits (especially non-compliance findings) are generally presented using charts. Each chart should classify:

  • The total findings of the audit
  • The type of each finding
  • The area that was audited

It is important to note that each company should set targets for a given area and include a trend report. This data can assist in determining if employees follow the outlined ESD control program and if improvements can be seen over time.