Static discharges can be noticed when you touch an object of different electrical potential such as a door knob, and a bolt of electricity flows from your charged body to the door knob. This flow of electricity is actually a result of the stored static charge that is being rapidly transferred to the knob. This discharge that can be felt as well as seen, is commonly referred to as an electrostatic discharge, or “ESD”.
The generated static charges are a potentially costly occurrence for office and factory employers. You will learn in today’s post how they can easily be controlled with different types of floor material.
Static Charge Generation from Flooring
When a person walks across a floor, a triboelectric charge builds up in the body due to the friction between the shoes and floor material. The simple separation of two surfaces (such as a person walking across a floor with soles contracting and separating from the floor) can cause a transfer of electrons resulting in one surface being positively and the other one negatively charged, resulting in static charges.
It is not necessarily the static charge generated in the body that does the damage as much as it is the difference in potential that creates an electrostatic discharge.
The Problem with ESD (Electrostatic Discharge)
The generation of a static charge can pose quite a problem for environments that contain sensitive equipment or components that are vulnerable to static damage, such as electronics manufacturing, repair facilities and medical facilities – including computer rooms and clean rooms.
Controlling the damage and costs caused by ESD is usually the main concern that drives a company to implement a static control program. The costs involved with static damage not only include the immediate cost of the damaged component, but the contributing cost of diagnostic, repair and labor that is needed to replace or fix the component. In many cases the labor involved can far exceed the component cost.
ESD Flooring Materials
There are several options available on the market ranging from coatings (floor finish or paint) to coverings (vinyl or rubber). The choice of material depends on the mechanical and optical properties required as well as the available budget.
In general, floor coverings will last longer (10 years or more) than a floor coating. They are more durable and have a specific resistance to ground that remains constant over time.
Coatings are easier to apply and repair and their initial cost is considerably lower. Coatings are usually applied to existing floors and often serve to convert a conventional floor into an ESD floor. However, regular maintenance is required as coatings will lose their ESD properties over time.
ESD Floor Coatings
Conventional carpets can be treated with a Topical Antistat or other treatment. It is required that the treatment be replenished on the carpet as it wears away due to foot traffic.
ESD carpet is available but proper maintenance is very important.
ESD Floor Finish:
Existing hard surfaces (e.g. concrete, sealed or painted wood, linoleum, asphalt) can be treated with ESD Floor Finish to eliminate the need for ESD control flooring. Repeat applications are required periodically to keep ESD properties within specification.
Paint is ideal for providing a cost effective static-free environment and is very effective as a
static control floor coating for electronics manufacturing, assembly and storage. It controls dissipation of static electricity and provides path to ground.
ESD Floor Coverings:
Floor coverings will have either “conductive” or “dissipative” electrical properties.
Conductive materials have a resistance to ground (RG) of greater than 1 x 103 ohms but less than 1 x 105
Dissipative materials have a resistance to ground (RG) of greater than 1 x 105 ohms but less than 1 x 1012
It is recommended to use conductive flooring material; S20.20 requires ESD flooring to be less than 1 x 109 ohms (RG). The same standard requires a person/footwear/flooring to be less than 3.5 x 107 ohms (resistance in series of operator plus footwear plus floor). Remember that floors get dirty which can raise floor resistance. Therefore, it is good to start off with a floor that is conductive (less than 1 x 106 ohms). So even if the resistance increases, you’re within the required limits of the ESD Standard.
ESD control carpets are made with static dissipative yarn and only require that the yarn be kept clean and free of insulative dirt, dust and spray cleaners.
Types of matting range from vinyl to rubber and anti-fatigue matting.
Vinyl (e.g. SCS 8200 Series) is generally cheaper and provides high resistance to many chemicals. Rubber (e.g. SCS CONDFM Series) on the other hand is more durable and can withstand extreme hot and cold temperatures. Anti-fatigue matting (AFM Series) is designed to provide comfort for personnel that must stand or walk for long periods.
Considerations when Using Flooring Materials
ANSI/ESD S20.20 requires that all conductors in an ESD protected area, including personnel, must be grounded. This includes ESD flooring. The ESD ground must be tied directly to and at the same potential as the building or “green wire” equipment ground. The SCS floor mat ground cord FGC151M is just one option for grounding floor matting.
2. Periodic Verification
All ESD control items (including ESD flooring) have to be tested:
Prior to installation to qualify product for listing in user’s ESD control plan.
During initial installation.
For periodic checks of installed products as part of ANSI/ESD S20.20 clause 7.4 Compliance verification plan.
A surface resistance meter (e.g. SCS SRMETER2) can be used to verify compliance of the ESD floor with the ESD standard.
3. Person/Footwear/Flooring System
ESD flooring does not ensure protection from ESD damage unless operators walking across the ESD floor wear ESD footwear, either ESD shoes or ESD foot grounders.
ESD foot grounders are designed to reliably contact grounded ESD flooring and provide a continuous path-to-ground by removing electrostatic charges from personnel. They are easy to install and can be used on standard shoes by placing the grounding tab in the shoe under the foot.
Foot grounders must be worn on both feet to maintain the integrity of the body-to-ground connection Wearing a foot grounder on each foot ensures contact with ground via the ESD floor even when one foot is lifted off the floor. This will more reliably remove static charges generated by human movement.
Static charges can easily be controlled with different types of floor material which vary in their properties, cost and durability. The best static control systems are not only the ones that protect sensitive components and equipment but are: A) at hand and readily available, B) easily maintained. Floor coverings are long lasting and maintain their ESD properties over time, while existing floors can be economically converted for use in an ESD control program using various types of coatings.
Remember that all ESD control items such as flooring, personnel grounding and specialty equipment should be grounded and tested periodically to verify all components are within specification.
Not sure which ESD flooring is right for you? Request a free ESD/EOS Assessment at your facility by one of our knowledgeable local representatives to evaluate your ESD program and answer any ESD questions!
Most ESD Protected Areas (EPAs) will contain a bench or a series of benches. It is important that each bench, or worksurface, is covered with the correct ElectroStatic Discharge (ESD) protective material. They also have to be properly connected to earth using a system of cords and common point grounds. Today’s post will explain in more detail how these ESD protective worksurface work and what you need to look out for.
The purpose of an ESD protective worksurface is to aid in the prevention of damage to ESD sensitive items (ESDS) and assemblies from electrostatic discharge.
ESD worksurfaces, such as mats, are typically an integral part of the ESD workstation, particularly in areas where hand assembly occurs. An ESD protective worksurface provides protection in two ways:
Providing a low charging (antistatic) worksurface area that will limit static electricity to be generated below potentially damaging levels.
Removing the electrostatic charge from conductive objects placed on the worksurface.
Types of ESD protective worksurfaces
When deciding to invest in ESD protective worksurfaces, you have the choice of ESD matting (laid-out on a standard non-ESD bench) or ESD benches. Performance-wise there is no difference.
Generally speaking, ESD matting offers a lower initial investment and is easier to replace. On the other hand, some people prefer the robust and consistent approach of ESD benches.
An ESD protective worksurface is usually dissipative. Although conductive materials are the quickest to ground a charge, they can also cause damage by discharging too rapidly. Dissipative worksurfaces have a surface resistance of at least 1 x 104, but less than 1 x 109 ohms. Dissipative materials will dissipate a charge slower and are recommended for handling electronic components. Dissipative materials are usually the preferred choice for bench top worksurfaces.
Grounding of ESD protective worksurfaces
ESD protective worksurfaces need to be grounded. A ground wire from the surface should connect to the common point ground which is connected to ground, preferably equipment ground. For electronics manufacturing a worksurface resistance to ground (Rg) of 1 x 104 to less than 1 x 109 ohms is recommended. Best practice is that ground connections use firm fitting connecting devices such as metallic crimps, snaps and banana plugs to connect to designated ground points. The use of alligator clips is not recommended.
Using a current limiting resistor in the ground cord is the user’s choice. However, the resistor is not for ESD control purposes. The ESD Association standard for grounding is ANSI/ESD S6.1 which recommends a hard ground (no resistor) but allows the use of a current limiting resistor in the mat’s ground cord. “The grounding conductors (wires) from wrist straps, working surfaces, flooring or floor mats, tools, fixtures, storage units, carts, chairs, garments and other ESD technical elements may or may not contain added resistance. Where added resistance is not present, a direct connection from the ESD technical element to the common point ground or common connection point is acceptable and recommended.
Note: Manufacturers may add resistance to the grounding conductors for purposes other than ESD (e.g. current limiting). Added resistance is acceptable for the purposes of controlling ESD provided electrostatic accumulation does not exceed specific EPA requirements. The typical added resistance in grounding conductors is 1 megohm, although other values may be specified.” [ANSI/ESD S6.1 section 5.3.3 ESD Technical Element Conductors]
Using ESD protective worksurfaces
Operators need to ensure that the ESD workstation is organized to perform work and that all unnecessary insulators and personal items are removed. Regular plastics, polystyrene foam drink cups and packaging materials etc. are typically high charging and have no place at an ESD protective workstation.
When working at an ESD workstation, users have to be grounded, too. A wrist strap is arguably the best way to provide a safe ground connection to the operator. While it does not prevent the generation of charges, its purpose is to dissipate these charges to ground as quickly as possible.
When working on high-end sensitive components, the use of Continuous Monitors is recommended. Operators connect their wrist strap to the unit to allow for real-time continuous monitoring. If the wrist strap fails, the unit will alarm.
An option available with most Continuous Monitors is the ability to monitor worksurface ground connections. “Some continuous monitors can monitor worksurface ground connections. A test signal is passed through the worksurface and ground connections. Discontinuity or over limit resistance changes cause the monitor to alarm. Worksurface monitors test the electrical connection between the monitor, the worksurface, and the ground point. The monitor however, will not detect insulative contamination on the worksurface.” [ESD TR 12-01 Technical Report Survey of Constant (Continuous) Monitors for Wrist Straps]
When the monitor is connected to an ESD worksurface mat, the amount of current that flows is a function of the total resistance between the monitor and through the working surface to ground. When the resistance of the worksurface is below a pre-set threshold, the monitor will indicate good. Conversely, if the resistance level is high when compared to the monitor’s reference, the unit will alarm. This is an integrating resistance measuring circuit, therefore it is relatively insensitive to externally induced electromagnetic fields.
Maintaining your ESD protective worksurface
An ESD worksurface must be maintained and should be cleaned with an ESD cleaner. Regular cleaners typically contain silicone and should never be used on an ESD working surface.
Operators need to be on guard every day and check visually that ground wires are attached correctly. The company’s compliance verification plan should also include periodic checks of worksurfaces measuring:
Resistance Point-to-Point (Rp-p) and
Surface resistance testers can be used to perform these tests in accordance with S20.20 and its test method ESD TR53. If these measurements are within acceptable ranges, the worksurface and its connections are good.
Most people in the industry consider worksurfaces to be the second most important part of an ESD Control Program, with personnel grounding being the most important.
It is therefore important to install, use and maintain ESD protective worksurfaces correctly. Following all steps outlined above will ensure your ESD sensitive components are protected.
Not sure which ESD worksurface is right for you? Request a free ESD/EOS Assessment for your facility by one of our knowledgeable local representatives to evaluate your ESD Program and answer any ESD questions!