May 2018

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Are your static and moisture sensitive components protected by your packaging? Learn how to minimize potential product failures by protecting your products from Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) and moisture during the manufacture, transportation, and storage process.

Why are Moisture Barrier Bags important?

Moisture Barrier Bags (MBB) shield ESD sensitive devices from 2 potential risks:

  1. The Faraday Cage created when using these bags protects contents from ESD Damage.
  2. Specialized layers of film controlling the Moisture Vapor Transfer Rate (MVTR) also protect contents from moisture.
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Moisture Barrier Bags – more information

“Desiccant” and “humidity indicator cards” must be used for proper moisture protection.

But what exactly are “desiccant” and “humidity indicator cards” and how are they used? These are the questions we will clarify in today’s blog post.

What is desiccant?

Desiccant is a drying agent that absorbs moisture from its surrounding area. Desiccant will stay dry to the touch even when it is fully saturated with moisture.

In a Moisture Barrier Bag it is used to ‘soak up’ moisture from the air inside the bag AFTER it has been sealed. Any moisture that gets through the bag from the outside will also be absorbed.

How is desiccant purchased?

Desiccant is available as a “unit” or fractional “unit”. A unit of desiccant absorbs a specific amount of moisture. One unit of desiccant weighs about 28g.

How is desiccant packaged?

Desiccant is packed in small sealed pouches made from a white plastic called “Tyvek” or brown “Kraft” paper. Tyvek pouches are very clean and Sulphur free. Kraft pouches are economical.

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A desiccant pouch – more information

Pouches of desiccant are placed into metal pails – this ensures the desiccant is kept dry during transport and storage.

How much desiccant do you need?

There are 2 different methods you can use:

  1. Method 1 per MIL-P-116
    Formula: Unit = 0.011 x bag area in square inches
    What you need: Bag area (2 times the surface area of your bag as there are 2 sides to a bag)
    Example: 10” x 20” MBB bag
    Apply formula: 0.011 x (10” x 20” x 2) = 4.4 rounded up to 4.5 units of desiccant
  2. Method 2 per EIA 583 (allows you to tailor desiccant to your specific needs)
    Formula: Unit = 0.231 x Bag Area x Bag MVTR x Months divided by Moisture Capacity
    What you need: Bag area, Bag MVTR, Months of Storage, Maximum Interior Humidity (MIH), Moisture capacity table below:
10% MIH 3.0 g/unit
20% MIH 4.8 g/unit
30% MIH 5.8 g/unit
40% MIH 6.2 g/unit

Example: 10” x 20” bag with a 0.02 MVTR, a 12 month storage time and a MIH of 20%
Apply formula: 0.231 x (10″ x 20″ x 2) x (0.02) x (12/4.8) = 4.62 rounded down to 4.5 units of desiccant

What is a humidity indicator card?

A humidity indicator card allows for quick visual inspection of the relative humidity levels within its surrounding area. They are printed with moisture sensitive spots which respond to various levels of humidity with a visible color change from blue to pink.

In a Moisture Barrier Bag they provide a low-cost method of verifying the effectiveness of the moisture barrier packaging. If you are using Moisture Barrier Bags, moisture will be an issue in your application so you’re obviously aiming for as little moisture as possible. However, if you happen to open your MBB and the humidity indicator card shows a relative humidity of 60%, you’ll know that the contents of your bag have been exposed to moisture and may not be safe for use anymore.

How are humidity indicator cards purchased?

Humidity indicator cards come in many shapes and forms. Some will show relative humidity from 10% – 60%; others from 5% to 15%. Depending on the sensitivity of your application to moisture, the correct type of card should be chosen.

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A humidity indicator card – more information

Bear in mind that not all humidity indicator cards are reversible. Some cards will measure the relative humidity only once and then halt at that reading. These types of humidity indicator cards are NOT re-usable. This is important to know so make sure you check before purchasing!

How are humidity indicator cards packaged?

Humidity indicator cards are sold in containers. It is recommended that cards are stored in their original un-opened canister in a dry, well ventilated room with a reasonably consistent temperature of 20°C. Humidity indicator cards should not be stored in ultraviolet sunlight, moisture or heat.

How many humidity indicator cards do you need?

One humidity indicator card per MBB is needed for proper verification of relative humidity.

Conclusion

Moisture Barrier Bags, desiccant and humidity indicator cards all play a very unique and important role when protecting ESD sensitive devices from moisture.

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Protect your static and moisture sensitive components with proper packaging

They should always be used together to ensure maximum protection. However, remember that all three tools need to be used correctly as otherwise all your efforts have been in vain. And don’t forget: your Moisture Barrier Bag must be heat sealed with a vacuum sealer to eliminate the amount of “moisture laden air” within the package.

Find the right protective packaging for your sensitive components! Check out the SCS Moisture Barrier Bag Selection Guide and Humidity Indicator Card and Desiccant Chart to find the right packaging products for your application.

In a previous post we learnt how to select the correct ESD bag for your application, we want to focus on the next step: how to correctly use your ESD bag. We’ll use shielding bags as an example as they are the most commonly used ESD bags. However, the below can be applied to all types of ESD bags.

There are a few “dos and do-nots” you should keep in mind to ensure you get the most from your ESD bags. Nothing is worse than investing in all the right equipment and then using it incorrectly rendering all your efforts void. So, on that note, we have comprised a list of 5 tips for you on how to most efficiently use your shielding bags.

5 Tips On Efficient Use of Shielding Bags With ESD Sensitive Items:

1. Enclose Your ESD Sensitive Item with a Shielding Bag

Shielding bags should be large enough to enclose the entire product within. The shielding bag should be closed with a label or tape. Alternatively, you can use a zipper-style shielding bag. Following this advice ensures a continuous Faraday Cage is created which provides electrostatic shielding. This is the only way to ensure ESD sensitive devices placed inside the shielding bag are protected. If you are unfamiliar with the term “Faraday Cage”, scroll to the bottom of this page – we’ve included a more detailed explanation at the end of the post.

 

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Enclose your ESD sensitive item

 

Please do not staple your shielding bag. The staple punctures the shielding layers and will provide a conductive path from the outside of the shielding bag to the inside. Charges outside the shielding bag could potentially charge or discharge to ESD sensitive components inside the shielding bag.

If you’re unsure as to what the correct size is for your application, catch-up on this post which will provide all the required information.

2. Remove Charges from Shielding Bags

When receiving an ESD sensitive device enclosed in a shielding bag, make sure you place the closed shielding bag on an ESD worksurface before removing the product. This will eliminate any charge that might have accumulated on the surface of the shielding bag.

 

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Remove charges

 

 3. Do Not Overuse Shielding Bags

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.

 

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Don’t overuse shielding bags


 4. Shielding Bags Are Not A Working Surface

Do not use a shielding bag as an ESD worksurface. Although a shielding bag is safe to use around ESD susceptible products, it is not intended to be a worksurface for product. When working on ESD sensitive devices, do so using ESD worksurfaces that are grounded correctly.

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Don’t use shielding bags as your ESD worksurface

 5. A Shielding Bag Is Not A “Potholder” Or “Glove”

Do not use a shielding bag as an “ESD potholder” or “ESD glove”. This type of use offers no ESD protection to the product.

If you need to handle ESD sensitive devices, make sure you are properly grounded using wrist straps or heel grounders.

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Shielding bags are no “ESD glove” or “ESD potholder”

Some of you may have read through this post and have stumbled across the term “Faraday Cage” as you have not come across it before. We’ve also mentioned it before when talking about storing and transporting ESD sensitive items. However, we’ve never actually explained what a Faraday Cage is – so let’s rectify that!

What Is A “Faraday Cage” Or “Faraday Shield”?

A Faraday Cage or Faraday shield is an enclosure formed by conducting material or by a mesh of conductive material. Such an enclosure blocks external static and non-static electric fields. Faraday Cages are named after the English scientist Michael Faraday, who invented them in 1836.

What Is An Example of Faraday Cage Effect?

An impressive demonstration of the Faraday Cage effect is that of an aircraft being struck by lightning. This happens frequently but does not harm the plane or passengers. The metal body of the aircraft protects the interior. For the same reason, a car may be a safe place during a thunderstorm.

 

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Lightning striking an airplane

 

How Is A Faraday Cage Effect Used In ESD Protection?

In ESD Protection, the Faraday Cage effect causes charges to be conducted around the outside surface of the conductor. Since similar charges repel, charges will rest on the exterior and ESD sensitive items on the inside will be ‘safe’.

Examples of ESD control products that provide a Faraday Cage or shielding include Metal-In and Metal-Out Shielding bags.

When Is ESD Shielding Packaging Used?

ESD shielding packaging is to be used particularly when transporting or storing ESD sensitive items outside an ESD Protected Area.

ESD Packaging Standards For Outside An EPA

Per Packaging Standard ANSI/ESD S541 clause 6.2 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.

Additional ESD Definitions

Other helpful ESD related definitions from the ESD Association Glossary ESD ADV1.0 include:

Faraday Cage“A conductive enclosure that attenuates a stationary electrostatic field.
Electrostatic discharge (ESD) shield: “A barrier or enclosure that limits the passage of current and attenuates an electromagnetic field resulting from an electrostatic discharge.
Electrostatic shield: “A barrier or enclosure that limits the penetration of an electrostatic field.

So, hopefully we’ve clarified a few things today when it comes to the “shielding” property by explaining the phenomenon of the “Faraday Cage”. Don’t forget to implement our tips when it comes to using your ESD bags!