June 2018

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If you’ve been handling ElectroStatic Discharge (ESD) sensitive devices for a while, you’ve probably come across the various ESD symbols already. But do you know the difference(s) and when to use them?

If you are new to ESD protection or have just taken over responsibility for an existing ESD program, this is where to start!

Introduction

The ESD Standard ANSI/ESD S20.20 requires that “ESDS items, system or packaging marking shall be in accordance with customer contracts, purchase orders, drawing or other documentation.” [ANSI/ESD S20.20 clause 8.5 Marking]. If ESD sensitive items are not covered in any of these documents, each company has to decide whether marking is required. If it is deemed necessary, the ESD Control Program Plan needs to define the details.

ESD Susceptibility Symbol

The ESD Susceptibility Symbol is the most commonly known symbol which consists of a yellow hand in the act of reaching, deleted by a bar; all within a black triangle. It is intended to identify devices and assemblies that are susceptible to ESD.

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The ESD Susceptibility Symbol

When to use the ESD Susceptibility Symbol:

The ESD Susceptibility Symbol is correctly used as follows:

  • on individual components and related documents to state: ‘this device is static sensitive; do not touch without appropriate precautions’
  • on assemblies and related documents to state: ‘includes static sensitive components; take appropriate precautions’
  • as part of a sign identifying an area where sensitive devices are handled; to warn all who approach it that precautions are required

 

Color of the ESD Susceptibility Symbol

The color is optional except “the color red shall not be used because it suggests a hazard to personnel.” [ANSI/ESD S8.1 clause 4.2.1 color].

Normally, the hand and slash symbol is used on a black triangle on a yellow or orange background.

ESD Protective Symbol

Just like the ESD Susceptibility Symbol, the ESD Protective Symbol has a reaching hand in a triangle. However, note the arc and missing slash through the triangle! Because of these differences it has a very different meaning.

This symbol should be on ESD protective products identifying a specialty product that has at least one ESD control property.

The ESD Protective Symbol is also called the ESD Packaging Symbol.

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The ESD Protective Symbol

If a letter is under the triangle, it should identify the most important ESD control property:

  • L = Low Charging
  • D = Static Dissipative
  • C = Conductive EPA (for use in the ESD Protected Area)

When to use the ESD Protective Symbol

The ESD Protective Symbol may be used to identify items that possess at least one ESD control property:

  • Low Charging (formerly referred to as astatic or antistatic)
  • Resistance (Conductive or Static Dissipative) able to remove electrostatic charges when grounded
  • Discharge Shielding

Color of the ESD Protective Symbol

The color is optional except “the color red shall not be used because it suggests a hazard to personnel.” [ANSI/ESD S8.1 clause 5.2.1 color].

Normally, a hand symbol is used on a black triangle on a yellow background.

ESD Common Ground Point and Earth Bonding Point Symbols

These two symbols identify where all ESD elements at an ESD workstation should be connected. There is a newer and older symbol; they are very different but basically have the same meaning:

  • The Earth Bonding Point Symbol has the earth ground symbol and concentric circles around the ground snap, plug or jack. This is the older symbol.
  • The ESD Common Ground Point Symbol has concentric circles with thick circle around the ground snap, plug or jack. This is the newer symbol.

Both symbols should include text identification.

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ESD Common Ground Point (newer symbol) and Earth Bonding Point (older symbol)
 

Color of the ESD Common Ground Point and Earth Bonding Point Symbols

The color is optional except “the color red shall not be used because it suggests a hazard to personnel.” [ANSI/ESD S8.1 clause 5.2.1 color].

Conclusion

The ESD Standard S20.20 recommends that every organisation handling ESD sensitive items marks their products using the above 3 symbols for every. Correct use of markings will “indicate that an item or material is ESD susceptible and those that indicate that an item is designed to afford some degree of ESD protection.” [ANSI/ESD S8.1 clause 1.1 Purpose]

Symbol artwork for all of the above symbols can be downloaded at no charge from the ESD Association.

ElectroStatic Discharge (ESD) can pose danger to a Printed Circuit Board (PCB). A standard bare PCB (meaning that it has no semiconductor components installed) should not be susceptible to ESD damage, however as soon as you add electronic (semiconductor) devices, it becomes susceptible according to each of the individual’s susceptibility.

While ESD damage can post a danger, there is another risk factor many operators forget: moisture.

Today’s blog post is going to address both risks and will explain how you can protect your PCBs from both when storing them.

The problem with moisture

If you have been following along with our blogs, you will be well aware of the problems ESD damage can cause.

Moisture, on the other hand, may be a new issue to you. Surface Mounted Devices (SMDs), for example, absorb moisture and then during solder re-flow operations, the rapid rise in temperature causes the moisture to expand and the delaminating of internal package interfaces, also known as “pop corning.” The result is either a circuit board assembly that will fail testing or can prematurely fail in the field.

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Moisture from air diffuses inside the plastic body & collects in spaces between body & circuit, lead frame and wires. Expanding vapor can crack (popcorn) the plastic body or cause delamination.

Storing PCBs

All PCBs should be stored in a moisture barrier bag (MBB) that is vacuum sealed. In addition to the bags, Desiccant Packs and Humidity Indicator Cards must be used for proper moisture protection. This ‘package’ is also known as a dry package.

Most manufacturers of the Moisture Sensitive Devices (MSD) will dictate how their product should be stored, shipped, etc. However, the IPC/JEDEC J-STD-033B standard describes the standardized levels of floor life exposure for moisture/reflow-sensitive SMD packages along with the handling, packing and shipping requirements necessary to avoid moisture/reflow-related failures.

The ESD Handbook ESD TR20.20 mentions the importance of moisture barrier bags in section 5.4.3.2.2 Temperature: “While only specialized materials and structures can control the interior temperature of a package, it is important to take possible temperature exposure into account when shipping electronic parts. It is particularly important to consider what happens to the interior of a package if the environment has high humidity. If the temperature varies across the dew point of the established interior environment of the package, condensation may occur. The interior of a package should either contain desiccant or the air should be evacuated from the package during the sealing process. The package itself should have a low WVTR.

Components of a dry package

A dry package has four parts:

  1. Moisture Barrier Bag (MBB)
  2. Desiccant
  3. Humidity Indicator Card (HIC)
  4. Moisture Sensitive Label (MSL)

 

 3371014.jpg Moisture Barrier Bags (MBB) work by enclosing a device with a metal or plastic shield that keep moisture vapor from getting inside the bag. They have specialized layers of film that control the Moisture Vapor Transfer Rate (MVTR). The bag also provides static shielding protection.
Desiccant is a drying agent which is packaged inside a porous pouch so that the moisture can get through the pouch and be absorb by the desiccant. Desiccant absorbs moisture vapor (humidity) from the air left inside the barrier bag after it has been sealed. Moisture that penetrates the bag will also be absorbed. Desiccant remains dry to the touch even when it is fully saturated with moisture vapor.

The recommended amount of desiccant  depends on the interior surface area of the bag to be used. Use this desiccant calculator to determine the minimum amounts of desiccant to be used with Moisture Barrier Bags.

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3HIC125.jpg Humidity Indicator Cards (HICs) are printed with moisture sensitive spots which respond to various levels of humidity with a visible color change from blue to pink. The humidity inside barrier bags can be monitored by the HIC inside. Examining the card when you open the bag will indicate the humidity level the components are experiencing so the user can determine if baking the devices is required.
The Moisture Sensitive Level (MSL) label tells you how long the devices can stay outside the bag before they should be soldered onto the board. This label is applied to the outside of the bag. If the “level” box is blank, look on the barcode label nearby. 113LABEL.jpg

5 Steps to Create a Dry Package

Now that we know the risks moisture poses to ESD components, follow these 5 steps to create a secure, dry package which will protect your PCBs against ElectroStatic Discharge and moisture:

  1. Place the desiccant and HIC onto the tray stack. Trays carry the devices. Remember to store desiccant in an air tight container until it used.
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  1. Place the MSL label on the bag and note the proper level on the label.
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  2. Place the tray stack (with desiccant and HIC) into the moisture barrier bag.
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  3. Using a vacuum sealer, remove some of the air from the bag, and heat seal the bag closed. It is not good to take all the air out of the bag. Only slight evaluation is needed to allow the bag to fit inside a box.
    Dry-Packaging-Step4.png
  4. Now your devices are safe from moisture and static.
    Dry-Packaging-Step5.png

With the steps taken above, your package should now be properly sealed from moisture and protected from ElectroStatic discharge.

Looking for a moisture barrier bag for your application? See the SCS Moisture Barrier Bag Selection Guide to find the packaging that fits your specifications!