When referring to an “ESD Protected Area” or “EPA”, a lot of people imagine rooms or even whole factory floors with numerous workstations. This very common misconception leads to nervousness and even fear when it comes to implementing an ESD Control Program. There is a concern regarding the cost and time implications when establishing an EPA. However, most often, a simple ESD workstation is completely sufficient to fulfill a company’s needs to protect their ESD sensitive products. Today’s post will provide a step-by-step guide on:
How to create an EPA at an existing workstation,
What ESD control products are required
How to correctly set up ESD control products
What is an “ESD Protected Area” or “EPA”?
An EPA is an area that has been established to effectively control Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) and its purpose is therefore to avoid all problems resulting from ESD damage, e.g. catastrophic failures or latent defects. It is a defined space within which all surfaces, objects, people and ESD Sensitive Devices (ESDs) are kept at the same electrical potential. This is achieved by simply using only ‘groundable’ materials for covering of surfaces and for the manufacture of containers and tools. All surfaces, products and people are grounded to Ground.
What is Grounding?
Grounding means linking, usually through a resistance of between 1 and 10 megohms. Movable items (such as containers and tools) are grounded by virtue of lying on a grounded surface or being held by a grounded person. Everything that does not readily dissipate a charge must be excluded from the EPA.
How big does an EPA need to be?
An EPA can be just one workstation, or it could be a room containing several different workstations. “The definition of an EPA depends somewhat on the user environment. An EPA may be a permanent workstation within a room or an entire factory floor encompassing thousands of workstations. An EPA may also be portable as used in a field service situation.” [Handbook ESD TR20.20-2016 Clause 9.0 ESD Protected Areas]
What is needed to convert a Workstation into an EPA?
Creating an EPA at an existing workstation does not need to be complicated or expensive. There are just a few things that are required:
A wristband that is worn comfortably around the wrist and
A coiled cord that connects the band to Ground or a Wrist Strap Grounding System as explained in #4.
2. Wrist Strap Grounding System
These have been designed to be installed underneath bench tops where they are easily accessible to operators and where they are unlikely to be knocked and damaged or hinder the operator. The grounding cord of the Grounding System needs to be connected to a suitable Ground.
ESD worksurfaces, such as mats, are typically an integral part of the ESD workstation, particularly in areas where hand assembly occurs. The purpose of the ESD worksurface is two-fold:
To provide a surface with little to no charge on it.
To provide a surface that will remove ElectroStatic charges from conductors (including ESDs) that are placed on the surface.
4. Worksurface Mat Grounding Cord
An ESD worksurface needs to be grounded using a ground cord. A ground wire from the surface should connect to Ground. 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.
Where sitting personnel will be grounded via a wrist strap, this method is not feasible for operators moving around in an ESD Protected Area. In those situations, a flooring / footwear system is required.
5. Foot Grounders
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.
6. Floor Mat
Floor matting is an essential component in the flooring / footwear system when grounding moving or standing personnel. The path to Ground from operators via heel grounders to Ground is maintained by using dissipative or conductive flooring.
Floor mats don’t just ground personnel; they are also used to ground ESD control items (e.g. mobile carts or workstations).
7. Floor Mat Grounding Cord
Just like worksurface matting, floor matting needs to be connected to Ground. This ensures that any charges on the operator are dissipated through their heel grounders and the floor matting to Ground. A floor mat grounding cord is used to link the floor mat to Ground.
Alternatively, matting can be grounded via a strip of copper foil.
Installing an ESD Workstation
To install the ESD workstation, it is necessary to ground the worksurface and operator with the following steps:
Lay the worksurface mat flat on the workbench with the stud(s) facing upwards.
Connect the worksurface mat grounding cord to the worksurface mat.
Connect the other end of the worksurface mat grounding cord to Ground.
Place the wristband on the wrist.
Connect the coiled cord to the wristband.
Attach the Wrist Strap Grounding System to the bench. Remember that it needs to be connected to a suitable Ground.
Connect the other end of the coiled cord to the Wrist Strap Grounding System and verify personnel is properly grounded.
If your operators are standing or mobile and grounding via a wrist strap is not feasible, ground the worksurface, and the ESD flooring:
Ground the worksurface mat by following steps #1 to #4 above
Lay the floor mat flat on the floor with the stud(s) facing upwards.
Connect the floor mat grounding cord to the floor mat.
Connect the other end of the floor mat grounding cord to Ground.
Place the foot grounders on the feet and verify personnel is properly grounded.
An EPA can be created at an existing workstation in a facility. To establish an EPA it is important to:
Ground all conductors (including people),
Remove all insulators (or substituting with ESD protective versions) or
Neutralize process essential insulators with an ionizer.
With a few simple steps, you can convert your existing workstation into an ESD workstation. You will need:
Worksurface Mat Grounding Cord
Wrist Strap Grounding System
Floor Mat Grounding Cord
We hope this article has introduced the basics of an ESD Protected Area (EPA), and the steps needed to create an ESD Workstation.
For more information on how to get your ESD control program off the ground, 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!
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!
Many companies implement an ElectroStatic Discharge (ESD) Control Program with the aim of improving their operations. Effective ESD control can be a key to improving:
Problems arise when an organization invests in ESD protective products and/or equipment and then misuses them. Misuse of ESD protective products and/or equipment wastes invested money and can also be causing more harm than good. Today’s blog post will highlight some of the major issues we have come across and how you can avoid or fix them.
About ESD Control and ESD Protection
Remember that for a successful ESD control program, ESD protection is required throughout the manufacturing process: from goods-in to assembly all the way through to inspection. Anybody who handles electrical or electronic parts, assemblies or equipment that are susceptible to damage by electrostatic discharges should take necessary precautions.
Just like viruses or bacteria that can infect the human body, ESD can be a hidden threat unable to be detected by human eyes. Hidden viral/bacterial threats in hospitals are controlled by extensive contamination control procedures and protective measures such as sterilization. The same principles apply to ESD control: you should never handle, assemble or repair electronic assemblies without taking adequate protective measures against ESD.
Common Mistakes in ESD Control
1. Ionizers are poorly maintained or out-of-balance
If an ionizer is out of balance, instead of neutralizing charges, it will produce primarily positive or negative ions. This results in placing an electrostatic charge on items that are not grounded, potentially discharging and causing ESD damage to nearby sensitive items.
Remember to clean emitter pins and filters using appropriate tools. Create a regular maintenance schedule which will extend the lifespan of your ionizers tremendously.
Consider using ionizers with “Clean Me” and//or “Balance” alarms. These will alert you when maintenance is required.
“All ionization devices will require periodic maintenance for proper operation. Maintenance intervals for ionizers vary widely depending on the type of ionization equipment and use environment. Critical clean room use will generally require more frequent attention. It is important to set up a routine schedule for ionizer service.”
If you would like to learn more about how ionizers work and what type of ionizer will work best for your application, check out this post for detailed coverage.
2. ESD Garments are Ungrounded
We’ve seen it so many times: operators wearing an ESD coat (without appropriate wrist straps and/or footwear/flooring) thinking they are properly grounded. However, without proper electrical bonds to a grounding system they are not grounded!
Every ESD garment needs to be electrically bonded to the grounding system of the wearer. Otherwise it just acts as a floating conductor. There are a few options to choose from:
“After verifying that the garment has electrical conductivity through all panels, the garment should be electrically bonded to the grounding system of the wearer so as not to act as a floating conductor.
This can be accomplished by several means:
Ground the garment to the body through a wrist strap-direct connection with an adapter.
Ground the garment through conductive wrist or heel cuffs in direct contact with the skin of a grounded operator.
Ground the garment through a typical separate ground cord, directly attached to an identified groundable point on the garment.
Garments should be worn with the front properly snapped or buttoned to avoid exposure of possible charge on personal clothing worn under the garment.”
ESD clothing loses their ESD properties over time. It is therefore an important part of the ESD Control Program to incorporate periodic checks (see #3 below) of ESD garments.
If you need more information on ESD garments, we recommend having a look at this post.
3. No Compliance Verification Plan / Not Checking ESD Control Products
Companies can invest thousands of dollars in purchasing and installing ESD control products but then waste their investment by never checking their ESD items. This results in ESD equipment that is out of specification. Without the tools in place to check their ESD items, companies may have no idea if they are actually working correctly. Remember: ESD products (like any other product) are subject to wear and tear, and other errors when workstations get moved, ground cords get disconnected…etc. The list goes on.
When investing in ESD control products, make sure you also establish a Compliance Verification Plan. This ensures that:
ESD equipment is checked periodically
Necessary test equipment is available
“A compliance verification plan shall be established to ensure the organization’s fulfilment of the requirements of the 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 used for process monitoring and measurements. If the organization uses different test methods to replace those of this standard, the organization shall be able to show that the results achieved correlate with the referenced standards. Where test methods are devised for testing items not covered in this standard, these shall be adequately documented including corresponding test limits. 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 clause 7.4 Compliance verification plan]
We provide detailed instructions on how to create a Compliance Verification Plan in this post.
4. Improperly Re-Using Shielding Bags / Using Shielding Bags with Holes or Scratches
ESD Shielding Bags are used to store and transport ESD sensitive items. When used properly, they create a Faraday Cage effect which causes charges to be conducted around the outside surface. Since similar charges repel, charges will rest on the exterior and ESD sensitive items on the inside will be ‘safe’. However, if the shielding layer of an ESD Shielding Bag is damaged, ESD sensitive items on the inside will not be protected anymore.
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.
Use a system of labels to identify when the bag has gone through five (5) handling cycles. When there are five broken labels, the bag is discarded.
ESD shielding packaging is to be used particularly when transporting or storing ESD sensitive items outside an ESD Protected Area.
“Transportation of ESDS items outside an ESD Protected Area (hereafter referred to as “EPA”) requires enclosure in static protective materials, although the type of material depends on the situation and destination. Inside an EPA, low charging and static dissipative materials may provide adequate protection. Outside an EPA, low charging and static discharge shielding materials are recommended. While these materials are not discussed in
the document, it is important to recognize the differences in their application. For more clarification see ANSI/ESD S541. “
This post provides further “dos and don’ts” when using ESD Shielding Bags.
5. Using Household Cleaners on ESD Matting
The use of standard household cleaners on ESD matting can put an ESD Control Program at risk and damage the ESD properties of items. Many household cleaners contain silicone or other insulative contaminants which create that lovely shine you get when wiping surfaces in your home. The problem is that silicone and other chemical contaminates can create an insulative layer which reduces the grounding performance of the mat.
Don’t spend all this extra money on ESD matting and then coat it with an insulative layer by using household cleaners. There are many specially formulated ESD surface and mat cleaners available on the market. Only clean your ESD working surfaces using those cleaners.
“Periodic cleaning, following the manufacturer’s recommendations, is required to maintain proper electrical function of all work surfaces. Ensure that the cleaning products used to not leave an electrically insulative residue which is common with some household cleaners that contain silicone.”
There are many more issues we see when setting foot into EPAs and the above list is by no means complete. These are the most common issues we’ve found when assessing EPAs.
It is important to train all personnel using ESD products and/or equipment to follow proper ESD control programs, and maintenance procedures to avoid common ESD control mistakes. Basic ESD control principles should be followed for an ESD control program to be successful:
Remove, convert or neutralize insulators with ionizers.
Shield ESD sensitive items when stored or transported outside the EPA.
What mistakes do you commonly see when walking through an EPA? Let us know what you commonly see in the comments and your solutions for fixing them!
For more information on how to get your ESD control program off the ground and create an EPA, check this post.
When talking about ESD Classifications a little while ago, we identified a “class 0” item as withstanding discharges of less than 250 volts.
The introduction of ANSI/ESD S20.20 states: “This standard covers the requirements necessary to design, establish, implement and maintain an Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) Control Program for activities that manufacture, process, assemble, install, package, label, service, test, inspect or otherwise handle electrical or electronic parts, assemblies and equipment susceptible to damage by electrostatic discharges greater than or equal to 100 volts Human Body Model (HBM) and 200 volts Charged Device Model (CDM).”
So how do you handle items that are susceptible to voltages of less than 100V? That’s what we’re going to answer in today’s blog post.
Years ago, it was common for devices to be vulnerable to voltages greater than 100 V. As the need for smaller and faster devices increased, so did their sensitivity to ElectroStatic Discharges as circuit-protection schemes were removed to stay ahead of the market. These new extremely sensitive components are now susceptible to discharges nearing 0 V. This causes problems for companies handling these devices: while their ESD program may be in compliance with the ESD Standard, extremely sensitive devices require tighter ESD Control to protect them from ESD failures.
What is a “Class 0” device?
Before moving any further, we need to qualify the term “class 0”. As stated above, the HBM Model refers to any item with a failure voltage of less than 250 V as a “class 0” component. However, in recent times, the term has been used more and more to describe ultra-sensitive devices with failure voltages of less than 100 V. Whilst the following tips and tricks work on any “class 0” item, they are specifically designed to protect extremely sensitive items that withstand discharges of less than 100 V.
Before Updating Your ESD Program
“Class 0” refers to a wide range of items and there are a few things you should remember before making any changes to your existing ESD program:
Verify what ESD Model your company/engineers/customers etc. are referring to. As we have learnt in the past, there are different ESD models (HBM, CDM, MM) as well as individual classifications for each model. A lot of people get confused when it comes to citing ESD classifications. There is only one “class 0” which refers to the human body model (HBM) but it’s always best to check.
Check the specific withstand voltage an individual part is susceptible to. “Class 0” refers to all items that withstand discharges of less than 250 V. However, there is a big difference between a failure voltage of 240 V or 50 V. You need to have detailed ESD sensitivity information available before being able to make decisions on how to improve your existing ESD control program. This step is part of creating a compliance verification plan.
A part’s ESD classification is only of importance until it is ‘merged’ into an assembly. So, the ESD classification of a device only refers to the stand-alone component. Once it goes into another construction, the classification of the whole assembly is likely to change.
Tips for handling “Class 0” Items
Below are 6 tips that will help your company to upgrade your ESD control program so you can effectively and efficiently handle ultra-sensitive items without risking ESD damage.
One thing to note: The best approach to stay ahead of the game is taking proactive actions. It is critical to figure out how to protect your components from ESD damage before you receive them. If actions are taken after components are received, the components are susceptible to receiving ESD damage.
1. Improve Grounding
Inside an EPA, all conductors (including people) are grounded. Now you’re probably thinking: “But I’ve already grounded my operators and worksurfaces. What else is there left to do?”. Firstly, well done for properly grounding the ‘objects’ in your EPA. The next step is to adjust and improve your current program to allow for even better protection. Here are some suggestions:
Decrease the wrist strap and ESD footwear upper limit. The ESD Association has test data showing charge on a person is less as the path-to-ground resistance is less.
Reduce the required limit for Point-to-Point resistance of 1 x 109 per the ESD Standard to 106 to 108 ohms (see #5). The reason for this reduction is simple: 1 x 109 is too high as it still produces thousands of volts of in electrostatic charges. However, the resistance cannot be too small either as this can lead to a sudden ‘hard discharge’ potentially damaging ESD sensitive components.
Improve grounding of carts, shelves and equipment to Ground
Minimize isolated conductors like devices on PCBs
2. Minimize Charge Generation
The best form of control is to minimize charge generation. First, you should always use shielding packing products like bags or containers (especially when outside an EPA) as these protect from generating charges in the first place. For more information on choosing the correct type of ESD Packaging, we recommend reading this post.
The next step is to eliminate charges once they are generated – this can be achieved through grounding and ionization. We’ll cover ionization in #3 and #4. We’ve already talked about improved grounding in #1. However, for ultra-sensitive components, we also recommend the following:
Personnel: Use low-charging floor finish
Surfaces: Use low-charging topical antistatic treatments
Both types of ESD products create a low tribocharging coating which allows charges to drain off when grounded. The antistatic properties will reduce triboelectric voltage to under 200 volts.
3. Remove Insulators
When talking about conductors and insulators, we explained that insulators cannot be grounded and can damage nearby sensitive devices with a sudden uncontrolled discharge. It is therefore critical to eliminate ALL insulators that are not required in your EPA: plastic cups, non-ESD brushes, tapes etc. How? Here are a couple of options:
Replace regular production supplies and fixtures with dissipative, low charging versions, e.g. ESD dissipative brushes, ESD dispensers, ESD tape, ESD Chairs etc.
If an insulator is absolutely necessary for production and cannot be removed from the EPA, you could consider a topical treatment which will reduce triboelectric charges.
Is this not an option, then move on to tip #4.
4. Use Ionization
First, ionization is not a cure-all. We’ve learnt that ionizers neutralize charges on an insulator.
However, that does not mean that you can just have any insulator in your EPA because the ionizer will “just fix it”. No, in this instance, prevention is generally a better option than the cure. So, your priority should ALWAYS be to remove non-process essential insulators from your EPA – see tip #3. If this is not possible – then ionization becomes essential.
Ionizers can be critical to reduce induction charging caused by process necessary insulators
Ionizers can be critical in eliminating charges on isolated conductors like devices on PCBs
Offset voltage (balance) and discharge times are critical considerations depending on the actual application
Ionization can reduce ElectroStatic Attraction (ESA) and charged particles clinging and contaminating products.
It is recommended to use ionizers with feedback mechanisms, so you’re notified if the offset voltage is out of balance.
5. Increase ESD Training and Awareness
ESD Training is a requirement of every ESD Program. When handling ultra-sensitive devices, it is even more important to remind everyone what pre-cautions are necessary to avoid damage. Regular ‘refreshers’ are a must and it is recommended to verify the effectiveness of the training program, e.g. through tests. So, who, when and what should be taught?
ESD training needs to be provided to everyone who handles ESD sensitive devices – that includes managers, supervisors, subcontractors, visitors, cleaners and even temporary personnel.
Training must be given at the beginning of employment (BEFORE getting anywhere near a sensitive products) and in regular intervals thereafter.
Training should be conducted on proper compliance verification procedures and on the proper use of equipment used for verification.
6. Create an enhanced Compliance Verification Plan
We talked in a previous post about compliance verification, what it is and how to create a plan that complies with the ESD standard. So, if you already followed our steps and have a plan in place, here are a few tips to improve your compliance verification plan:
Use a computer data collection system for wrist straps and foot grounders testing
Increase the test frequency of personnel grounding devices from once per day to every time the operator enters the EPA
Use continuous monitors where operators are grounded via wrist straps. Consider computer based monitor data collection system, e.g. SMP. This should include continuous monitoring of the mat Ground.
Use Ground continuous monitors, e.g. Ground Master. At a large facility, the most frequent reoccurring violation is the ESD mat ground cord either becoming disconnected from the mat or grounding point. As Ground continuous monitors will only test the fact that the mat is grounded, it is still imperative that the Resistance to Ground of the mat is regularly tested. Remember that the use of improper mat cleaners can raise the mat surface resistance above the upper recommended level of <109
Test ionizers more frequently or consider self-monitoring ionizers. Computer based data collection systems are a good alternative, too.
Increase the use of a static field meter and nano coulomb testing to verify that automated processes (like auto insertion, tape and reel, etc.) are not generating charges above acceptable limits.
“Class 0” items require additional measures of ESD protection due to their sensitivity to ESD damage. The best way to protect these ultra-sensitive components is to increase ESD protective redundancies and periodic verifications to all ESD Control technical elements.
To decrease the probability of ESD damage while handling ultra-sensitive items, additional precautions are required. This includes additional and/or more stringent technical requirements for ESD control products, increasing redundancies, and more frequent periodic verifications or audits.
Additionally, ESD control process systems should be evaluated as to their performance as a system. It is important to understand how the technical elements in use perform relative to the sensitivity of the devices being handled. Thus, tailoring the process to handle the more sensitive parts. For example: If the footwear/flooring allows a person’s body voltage to reach 80 volts and a 50 withstand voltage item gets introduced into the process, you must either allow only handling via wrist straps or would have to find a way to modify the footwear/flooring performance to get peak voltages below the 50 volt threshold.
Remember: The ESD Standard gives recommendations that will always be behind current/future developments. As soon as a Standard is published, technology will have progressed. In order to protect your devices and company reputation for reliable devices – it is recommended your company take responsibility to implement methods/procedures that exceed the recommendations of the ESD Standard to fit your sensitive component requirements.
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!
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.
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.
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
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 PointSymbols
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.
ESD Common Ground Point (newer symbol) and Earth Bonding Point (older symbol)
Color of the ESD Common Ground Point and Earth Bonding PointSymbols
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].
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
We already know that in an ESD Protected Area (EPA) all surfaces, objects, people and ESD Sensitive Devices (ESDs) are kept at the same potential which is achieved by using ‘groundable’ materials that are then linked to ground. We have also learnt that the most common personnel grounding device to link people to ground are wrist straps. People who are moving around should instead wear ESD footwear.
So how do you know if your wrist straps and ESD footwear are working properly? Excellent question! And one we’ll answer in today’s post so let’s jump right in!
Purpose of Personnel Grounding Testers
Wrist straps and ESD footwear should be part of your Verification Plan. Each component in an EPA plays a vital part in the fight against electrostatic discharge (ESD). If just one component is not performing correctly, ESD sensitive devices can be damaged, potentially costing your company thousands of dollars.
Wrist straps and ESD footwear can fail and damage cannot always be detected by visual inspection. Just by looking at the items you would not know if they still provide sufficient protection. Personnel grounding testers should be used to provide feedback to verify the functionality of an operator’s wrist strap and/or footwear.
Your Personnel Grounding Checklist:
Wear your personnel grounding equipment such a wrist strap and/or footwear
Verify your personnel grounding system using a wrist strap and/or footwear tester. Wrist straps and footwear, need to be tested at least daily before handling ESD sensitive devices and should be worn while checking.
Log a record of each test. Records should be kept for quality control purposes.
Handle ESD sensitive components ONLY if your wrist strap and/or footwear pass(es) the test.
Types of Personnel Grounding Testers
Personnel grounding testers can be purchased in two configurations:
Wrist strap tester
Wrist strap and footwear tester
As wrist straps are the most commonly used personnel grounding device to ground operators, you will find a lot of testers on the market that check wrist straps only. Combined wrist strap and footwear testers will verify your wrist straps AND footwear.
In addition to WHAT the testers verify, you will also be faced with a wide range of devices differing in HOW they test. Below you will see a (by no means complete) list of options:
Continuous and split footplate: You will find testers with a continuous footplate which require each foot to be tested separately one after the other. Dual-footplate or independent footwear testers feature a split footplate which allows the unit to verify both feet independently at the same time. This can be an efficient time-saver if you have a number of operators in your company who are required to check their personnel grounding devices.
Portable, wall-mountable and fitted testers: Portable battery-powered (predominantly) wrist strap testers are suitable for small labs or for supervisors to spot-check workers and ensure compliance. Wall-mountable units are generally supplied with a wall plate which attaches to a wall; the tester is then mounted on to the wall plate. Some personal grounding devices are accompanied by a stand (and built-in footplate) which allow for a more freely positioning of the unit within a room.
Relay terminal: A few testers on the market are fitted with a relay terminal (electrically operated switch) that can be integrated with electronic door locks, turnstiles, lights, buzzers, etc. This can be of advantage if companies only want to allow personnel in an EPA that have passed their wrist strap and/or footwear test.
Data acquisition: A growing number of personnel grounding devices allow for test activity data to be logged in a database. The units link to a computer which records operator identification, test results, resistance measurements, time and more. Paperless data can enhance operator accountability, immediately identifying problems while reducing manual logging and auditing costs.
Operation of Personnel Grounding Testers
Wrist strap testing:
If you are not using a continuous or a constant monitor, a wrist strap should be tested at least daily. This quick check can determine that no break in the path-to-ground has occurred. Wrist straps should be worn while they are tested. This provides the best way to test all three components:
the wrist band
the ground cord (including the resistor)
the interface (contact) with the operator’s skin
“To ensure that the resistance to ground of personnel is within specification it is important to measure the entire system (i.e., wrist strap, person, and ground connection). The wrist strap system test method is described in ANIS/ESD S1.1. In general, the test method measures the resistance of the ground cord, wristband or cuff, and the interface of the band or cuff of the wearer.” [Handbook ESD TR20.20 Clause 8.2 Wrist Strap System]
“The wrist strap system should be tested daily to ensure proper electrical resistance. Nominally, the upper resistance reading should be < 35 megohms or a user-defined resistance. Daily test records can provide evidence of conformity. Daily testing may be omitted if continuous monitors are used.” [ANSI/ESD S1.1 Clause A3. Frequency of System Testing]
If the wrist strap tester outputs a FAIL test result, stop working and test the wrist band and cord individually to find out which item is damaged. Replace the bad component and repeat the test. Obtain a PASS test result before beginning work. For more information on troubleshooting failed wrist straps, check this post.
If you are using a flooring / footwear system as an alternative for standing or mobile workers, ESD footwear should be tested independently at least daily while being worn. Proper testing of foot grounders involves the verification of:
the individual foot grounder
the contact strip
the interface between the contact strip and the operator’s perspiration layer
“a) Place the foot grounders on the user’s shoes per the manufacturer’s instructions. b) Place the left foot on the floor plate and touch the body contact area on the tester with one hand. Activate the tester per the manufacturer’s instructions. c) Remove the left foot from the floor plate. d) Repeat steps b and c with the right foot.”
[ANSI/ESD SP9.2 Clause 6.2.2 Procedure (Integrated Tester)]
If the footwear tester outputs a FAIL test result, stop working, and test the foot grounder and contact strip individually to find out which item is damaged. Replace the foot grounder. Obtain a PASS test result before beginning work.
Wrist straps and footwear need to be tested at least daily before handling any ESD sensitive devices. Personnel grounding devices need to be worn for verification using a wrist strap and/or footwear tester.
A record of each test has to be kept for quality control purposes.
Only handle ESD sensitive components if your wrist strap and/or footwear pass(es) the test.
We have learned in a previous post that within an ESD Protected Area (EPA) all surfaces, objects, people and ESD Sensitive Devices (ESDs) are kept at the same electrical potential. We achieve this by using only ‘groundable’ materials.
But what do you do if an item in your EPA is essential to assembly and it cannot be grounded? Don’t sweat, not all hope is lost! Let us explain a couple of options which will allow you to use the non-groundable item in question.
Conductors and Insulators
In ESD Control, we differentiate items as conductors and insulators.
Materials that easily transfer electrons are called conductors. Examples of conductors are metals, carbon and the human body’s sweat layer.
Insulators are materials that do not easily transfer electrons are non-conductors by definition. Some well-known insulators are common plastics, polystyrene foam, and glass.
Both, conductors and insulators, may become charged with static electricity and discharge.
Electrostatic charges can effectively be removed from conductive or dissipative conductors by grounding them. A non-conductive insulator will hold the electron charge and cannot be grounded and “conduct” the charge away.
Conductors and Insulators in an EPA
The first two fundamental principles of ESD Control are:
Ground all conductors (including people).
Remove all insulators.
To ground all conductors per the first ESD Control principal, all surfaces, products and people are electrically bonded to ground. Bonding means linking or connecting, usually through a resistance of between 1 and 10 megohms.
Wrist straps and worksurface mats are some of the most common devices used to remove static charges:
Wrist straps drain charges from operators and a properly grounded mat will provide path-to-ground for exposed ESD susceptible devices.
Movable items (such as containers and tools) are bonded by standing on a bonded surface or being held by a bonded person.
If the static charge in question is on something that cannot be grounded, i.e. an insulator, then #2 of our ESD Control principles will kick in and insulators must be removed. Per the ESD Standard ANSI/ESD S20.20, “All nonessential insulators such as coffee cups, food wrappers and personal items shall be removed from the EPA.” [ANSI/ESD S20.20 clause 8.3.1 Insulators]
The ESD Standard differentiates between these two options:
If the field measured on the insulator is greater than 2000 volts/inch, keep it at a minimum distance of 12 inches from the ESDs or
If the field measured on the insulator is greater than 125 volts/inch, keep it at a minimum distance of 1 inch from the ESDs.
Well, nothing in life is black and white. It would be easy if we were always able to follow the above ESD Control ‘rules’ but there are situations where said insulator is an item used at the workstation, e.g. hand tools. They are “process-essential” insulators – you cannot remove them from the EPA or the job won’t get done.
How do you ‘remove’ these vital insulators without actually ‘removing’ them from your EPA?
Here are four ways to reduce the ESD risk of these insulators:
Keep all insulators a minimum of 1 inch or 12 inches from ESDs at all times per recommendation of the ESD Standard.
This reduces the chance of insulators coming in contact with ESDs during workstation processes and assembly.
Replace regular insulative items with an ESD protective version.
There are numerous tools and accessories available that are ESD safe – from document handling to cups & dispensers, soldering tools, brushes and waste bins. They are either conductive or dissipative and replace the standard insulative varieties that are generally used at a workbench.
Periodically apply Topical Antistat on non-ESD surfaces. After Topical Antistat has been applied and the surface dries, an antistatic and protective static dissipative coating is left behind. The static dissipative coating will allow charges to drain off when grounded. The antistatic properties will reduce triboelectric voltage to under 200 volts. It therefore gives non-ESD surfaces electrical properties until the hard coat is worn away.
Neutralization with Ionization If these three options are not feasible for your application, the insulator is termed “process-essential” and therefore neutralization using an ionizer becomes a necessary part of your ESD control program. This allows for control of charged particles that can cause ESD events which we will cover next.
Most ESD workstations will have some insulators or isolated conductors that cannot be removed or replaced. These should be addressed with ionization.
Examples of some common process essential insulators are a PC board substrate, insulative test fixtures and product plastic housings.
An example of isolated conductors are conductive traces or components loaded on a PC board that is not in contact with the ESD worksurface.
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.
The charged ions created by an ionizer will:
neutralize charges on process required insulators,
neutralize charges on non- essential insulators,
neutralize isolated conductors and
minimize triboelectric charging.
For more information on ionizers and how to choose the right type of ionizer for your application, read this post.
The best way to keep electrostatic sensitive devices (ESDs) from damage is to ground all conductive objects and remove insulators. This is not always possible because some insulators are “process-essential” and are necessary to build or assemble the ESDs.
Insulators, by definition, are non-conductors and therefore cannot be grounded, but they can be controlled to minimize potential ESD damage.
Insulators can be controlled by doing the following within an EPA:
Keep insulators a minimum distance from ESDS at all times (1 or 12 inch minimum distance depending on field voltage measurements of the insulator per ESD Standard recommendation)
Replace regular insulative items with ESD protective versions
Periodically apply a coat of Topical Antistat
Neutralize charges for “process-essential” insulators with ionization
With these steps added to your ESD control process, all surfaces, objects, people and ESD Sensitive Devices (ESDs) are kept at the same electrical potential in an ESD Protected Area (EPA) to reduce the risk of ESD events and ESD damage.