Welcome back to “A Minute with Miranda.” This week we will be covering how the WS Aware Monitor provides for continuous monitoring of an ESD Workstation setup.
The SCS WS Aware Monitor is a dual workstation continuous monitor for operators, ESD Worksurfaces and metal tools. It will continuously monitor the path-to-ground integrity and body voltage of two operators. It also monitors the path-to-ground integrity for two conductive or dissipative worksurfaces and two metal tools. It also continuously monitors for electromagnetic interference (EMI) on two metal tools which may cause electrical overstress (EOS) damage. The WS Aware Monitor eliminates the need for periodic testing and record keeping of wrist straps.
Per the ESD Handbook ESD TR20.20 section 18.4.2 “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. However, the monitor will not detect insulative contamination on the worksurface.”
View the full range of SCS WS Aware Monitors here.
Welcome back to “A Minute with Miranda.” This week we will be covering why you need to use ESD footwear within your ESD Protected Area (EPA).
Per the ESD Handbook ESD TR20.20, Personnel may also be grounded through the use of ESD footwear with an ESD Flooring system. This method is useful for situations where personnel are mobile or standing in areas where a wrist strap is not feasible and ESDS items must be handled or transported. ESD protective footwear is designed to reduce body charge levels by providing a conductive path from the body to the ESD flooring material.
Heel, sole and toe grounders should be worn on both feet to ensure effective use. They should be worn by all personnel and visitors within an ESD controlled area. If worn improperly, the heel, sole and toe grounders become ineffective. ESD footwear should be tested daily before use within an ESD Protected Area.
Welcome back to “A Minute with Miranda.” This week we will be covering how to use the WS Aware Monitor for continuous monitoring of SCS wrist straps when at an ESD Workstation.
The SCS WS Aware Monitor is a dual workstation continuous monitor for operators, ESD Worksurfaces and metal tools. It will continuously monitor the path-to-ground integrity and body voltage of two operators. The WS Aware Monitor eliminates the need for periodic testing and record keeping of wrist straps. The WS Aware Monitor features operator body voltage detection. It will alarm if the operator generates or comes into contact with voltage that would be dangerous to an ESD susceptible item. Per the ESD Handbook ESD TR20.20 section 18.104.22.168.4 “Typical test programs recommend that wrist straps that are used daily should be tested daily. However, if the products that are being produced are of such value that knowledge of continuous, reliable ground is needed, then continuous monitoring should be considered or even required.”
Welcome back to “A Minute with Miranda.” This week we will be discussing how to test the point-to-point resistance (or Rpp) of an ESD Smock.
ANSI/ESD S20.20 requires initial and periodic verification of ESD Control items – this includes ESD Smocks. ANSI/ESD STM2.1 outlines the test method applicable for ESD Smocks: the ESD Smock is to be placed on an insulative surface and 2 x 5lbs cylindrical electrodes are to be positioned on each cuff before taking the measurement. The Resistance Point-to-Point Rpp of the groundable smock needs to be less than 1 x 109 ohms.
Welcome back to “A Minute with Miranda.” This week we will be covering how to properly wear a wrist strap.
ANSI/ESD S20.20 requires seated personnel to be
connected to the grounding / equipotential bonding system via a wrist strap.
The total resistance of the Wrist Strap System needs to be less than 3.5 x 10^7 ohms. The key to a wrist strap is
the intimate contact of the band to the skin and that the coil cord is
connected to ground. Wrist straps need to be tested at least daily before
handling any ESD sensitive devices.
Operators can choose between elastic and metal wristbands. Elastic wristbands are comfortable to wear and easy to adjust. Metal wristbands generally last longer and are easier to clean. View the full range of SCS Wrist Straps here.
Welcome back to “A Minute with Miranda.” This week we will be covering how to launder your ESD Smocks.
SCS Static Control Smocks should be laundered periodically for proper operation. Smocks should be washed by hand or with a standard household washing machine using cold or warm water with a non-ionic liquid detergent. Avoid using bleach, fabric softeners or dry detergents as these can contaminate the conductive fibers and make the garment insulative .
After washing the smocks they should either be hung dry or tumbled dry at low heat. High heat can degrade the conductive fibers within the garment and degrade the ESD properties.
With normal wearing and washing conditions, SCS Static Control Smocks will maintain their ESD properties for a minimum of 100 washings.
SCS Smocks meet the requirement for Groundable Static Control Garment System per ANSI/ESD S20.20 required limit of less than 3.5 x 107 ohm Rtg tested per ANSI/ESD STM2.1 and ESD TR53.
SCS is excited to announce a brand new video series discussing real-life ESD problems and solutions. This is a great educational resource for anybody new to ESD or just wanting to learn more about best practices.
Each episode will focus on one issue commonly found in an ESD Protected Area – at the same time we will present solutions so you know how to tackle the problem should you ever face it in your own factory.
A new episode will be published each week so make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel to get notified when a new video is available. Episodes 1 and 2 are now live so don’t waste a second longer and catch-up now:
Have you ever walked across a car park on a bright cold winter’s day only to get zapped by your car’s door handle? It’s commonly known that these ‘zaps’ are much more common in cold dry weather. It begs the question: if there are less ‘zap, will using air humidifiers in a manufacturing environment prevent ESD damage of sensitive components? Let’s find out!
Humidity describes the amount of water vapor in the air. There are 3 main measurements of humidity with the most common one being the relative humidity (RH). It is expressed in percent and describes “how much humidity there is in the air, compared to how much there could be. Meteorologists often use the relative humidity as a measurement to describe the weather at various places.” [Source]
At 0% the air is completely dry; at 100% it is so moist that mist or dew can form. The optimum relative humidity level is somewhere between 40% and 60%:
A lower relative humidity increases charge generation as the environment is drier.
If the humidity level is too high, condensation can form on surfaces.
Charge Generation and ElectroStatic Discharge (ESD)
The simple separation of two surfaces generates an ElectroStatic charge. Examples:
Unwinding a roll of tape
Gas or liquid moving through a hose or pipe
A person walking across a floor with heels and soles contacting and separating from the floor
The amount of static electricity generated varies and is affected by materials, friction, area of contact and the relative humidity of the environment. A higher charge is generated at low humidity or in a dry environment.
Once an item has generated a charge, it will want to come into balance. If it is in close enough proximity to a second item, there can be a rapid, spontaneous transfer of electrostatic charge. This is called discharge or ElectroStatic Discharge (ESD).
Going back to our earlier example of getting a zap from your car’s door handle:
Charge generation: you walk across the car park with your soles contacting and separating from the floor. A charge is built-up on you.
ElectroStatic Discharge (ESD): you touch the door handle. Charges move from your body to your car until both are balanced out.
Impact of relative humidity on ESD
Many people will notice a difference in the ability to generate static electricity when the air gets dryer (relative humidity decreases). Relative humidity (RH) directly affects the ability of a surface to store an electrostatic charge. “With a humidity level of 40% RH, surface resistance is lowered on floors, carpets, table mats and other areas. …the moisture in the air forms a thin protective “film” on surfaces that serves as a natural conductor to dissipate electric charges. When humidity drops below 40% RH, this protection disappears, and normal employee activities lead to objects being charged with static electricity.” [Source]
In an electronics manufacturing environment lower humidity may result in lower output from production due to an increase in ESD events during manufacturing processes.
Air Humidification and ESD
Air humidifiers are used to add moisture to the air and are commonly used in drier environments to keep humidity at a constant (optimum) level. Given that a lower humidity level increases the risk of ESD events, the obvious questions are:
Can air humidifiers replace normal ESD Control measures?
Are air humidifiers required for complete ESD protection?
Let’s address both questions:
Let’s be very clear about one thing here: air humidifiers cannot replace ESD Control measures.
As explained further above, ESD is caused by two items that are at a different electrostatic equipotential and want to equalize their charges. Adding moisture to the air using humidifiers will not stop this discharge from happening. The only thing you may achieve is a reduction in the number of ESD events. BUT: they will still happen; just walking across a carpet will generate a charge on an operator. If they then touch an ESD sensitive component, discharge will still occur and may damage the component. No humidifier will prevent this.
The only way to control electrostatic charges on a person or object is through ESD grounding – this will ensure any charges generated dissipate to earth:
For more information on how to create a ESD workstation and how to correctly ground all elements, have a look at this post.
Low air humidity can increase the number of ESD events so it may make sense to keep a factory at a higher humidity level. However, there are many other factors that come into play when choosing the ‘right’ humidity for a manufacturing environment. The recommended humidity range is usually determined by the specifications of the devices and components being assembled. Increasing the humidity in an electronics manufacturing facility can help to reduce ESD events but increased humidity can lead to other unwanted quality issues in an electronics manufacturing environment such as corrosion, soldering defects and the popcorn effect on moisture sensitive devices.
A normal range for humidity in electronics manufacturing is between 30% RH and 70% RH. Some facilities try to maintain a constant moderate RH (~50%), whereas other environments may want lower % RH due to corrosion susceptibility to humidity sensitive parts.
And remember: you will not eliminate ESD by using humidifiers and keeping humidity levels at a higher level. You need an ESD Control Program in place to avoid ESD and associated damages.
Air humidification can help reduce the number of ESD events in an electronics manufacturing environment but at the same time there are other factors (e.g. moisture sensitivity of components) that need to be considered.
A lower relative humidity level increases charge generation as the environment is drier. This will result in more ESD events which can potentially damage sensitive components. The only way to protect sensitive components from ESD damage is by having proper ESD control measures in place and connecting operators, objects and surfaces to ground. This will ensure each element is kept at the same electrical potential and any electrostatic discharge is being removed to ground.
For more information on how to get your ESD control program off the ground or improve an existing program, 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!
The best-equipped service bench in your shop can be a real money-maker when set up properly. It can also be a source of frustration and lost revenue if the threat of ElectroStatic Discharge (ESD) is ignored.
A typical scenario might be where an electronic product is brought in for service, properly diagnosed and repaired, only to find a new symptom requiring additional repair. Unless the technician understands the ESD problem and has developed methods to keep it in check damage from static electricity cannot be ruled out as a potential source of the new problem.
Static electricity is nothing new; it’s all around us and always has been. What has changed is the spread of semiconductors in almost every consumer product we buy. As device complexity increases, often its static sensitivity increases as well. Some semiconductor devices may be damaged by as little as 20-30 volts!
It is important to note that this post is addressing the issue of ESD in terms of control, and not elimination. The potential for an ESD event to occur cannot be completely eliminated outside of a laboratory environment, but we can greatly reduce the risk with proper training and equipment. By implementing a good static control program and developing some simple habits, ESD can be effectively controlled.
The Source of the Problem
Static is all around us. We occasionally will see or feel it by walking on carpet, touching something or someone and feeling the “zap” of a static discharge. The perception level varies but static charge is typically 2000-3000 volts before we can feel it. ESD sensitivity of some parts is under 100 volts – well below the level that we would be able to detect.
Even though carpet may not be used around the service bench, there are many other static “generators” may not be obvious and frequently found around or on a service bench. The innocent-looking Styrofoam coffee cup can be a tremendous source of static. The simple act of pulling several inches of adhesive tape from a roll can generate several thousand volts of static! Many insulative materials will develop a charge by rubbing them or separating them from another material. This phenomenon is known as “tribocharging” and it occurs often where there are insulative materials present.
People are often a major factor in generation of static charges. Studies have shown that personnel in a manufacturing environment frequently develop 5000 volts or more just by walking across the floor. Again, this is “tribocharging” produced by the separation of their shoes and the flooring as they walk.
A technician seated at a non-ESD workbench could easily have a 400-500 volt charge on his or her body caused not only by friction or tribocharging, but additionally by the constant change in body capacitance that occurs from natural movements. The simple act of lifting both feet off the floor can raise the measured voltage on a person as much as 500-1000 volts.
Setting up a “Static Safe” Program
Perhaps the most important factor in a successful static control program is developing an awareness of the “unseen” problem. One of the best ways to demonstrate the ESD hazard is by using a “static field meter”. The visual impact of locating and measuring static charges of more than 1000 volts will get the attention of skeptical individuals.
Education of Personnel
ESD education and awareness are essential basic ingredients in any effective static control program. A high level of static awareness must be created and maintained in and around the protected area. Once personnel understand the potential problem, reinforce the understanding by hanging up static control posters in strategic locations. The technician doesn’t need an unaware and/or unprotected person wandering over and touching things on the service bench.
To minimize the threat of an ESD event, we need to bring all components of the system to the same relative potential and maintain that potential. Workstations can be grounded with the following options:
Establish an ESD Common Grounding Point, an electrical junction where all ESD grounds are connected to. Usually, a common ground point is connected to ground, preferably equipment ground.
The Service Bench Surface should be covered with a dissipative material. This can be either an ESD-type high-pressure laminate formed as the benchtop surface, or it may be one of the many types of dissipative mats placed upon the benchtop surface. The mats are available in different colors, with different surface textures, and with various cushioning effects. Whichever type is chosen, look for a material with surface resistivity of 1 x 109 or less, as these materials are sufficiently conductive to discharge objects in less than one second. The ESD laminate or mat must be grounded to the ESD common grounding point to work properly. Frequently, a one Megohm current limiting safety resistor is used in series with the work surface ground. This blog post will provide more information on how to choose and install your ESD working surface.
A Dissipative Floor Mat may also be used, especially if the technician intends to wear foot-grounding devices. The selection of the floor mat should take into consideration several factors. If anything is to roll on the mat, then a soft, cushion-type mat will probably not work well. If the tech does a lot of standing, then the soft, anti-fatigue type will be much appreciated. Again, the mat should be grounded to the common ground point, with or without the safety resistor as desired.
Workstation Tools and Supplies should be selected with ESD in mind. Avoid insulators and plastics where possible on and around the bench. Poly bags and normal adhesive tapes can generate substantial charges, as can plastic cups and glasses. If charge-generating plastics and the like cannot be eliminated, consider using one of the small, low cost air ionizers It can usually be mounted off the bench to conserve work area, and then aimed at the area where most of the work is being done. The ionizer does not eliminate the need for grounding the working surface or the operator, but it does drain static charges from insulators, which do not lend themselves to grounding.
People are great static generators. Simple movements at the bench can easily build up charges as high as 500-1000 volts. Therefore, controlling this charge build-up on the technician is essential. The two best known methods for draining the charge on a person are wrist straps with ground cords and foot or heel grounders. Personnel can be grounded through:
Wrist Straps are probably the most common item used for personnel grounding. They are comprised of a conductive band or strap that fits snugly on the wrist. The wrist strap is frequently made of an elastic material with a conductive inner surface, or it may be a metallic expandable band similar to that found on a watch. For more information on wrist straps, check out this post.
Ground Cords are typically made of a highly flexible wire and often are made retractable for additional freedom of movement. There are two safety features that are usually built into the cord, and the user should not attempt to bypass them. The first, and most important, is a current limiting resistor (typically 1 Megohm) which prevents hazardous current from flowing through the cord in the event the wearer inadvertently contacts line voltage. The line voltage may find another path to ground, but the cord is designed to neither increase or reduce shock hazard for voltages under 250 volts. The second safety feature built into most cords is a breakaway connection to allow the user to exit rapidly in an emergency. This is usually accomplished by using a snap connector at the wrist strap end.
Foot or Heel Grounders are frequently used where the technician needs more freedom of movement than the wrist strap and cord allow. The heel grounder is often made of a conductive rubber or vinyl and is worn over a standard shoe. It usually has a strap that passes under the heel for good contact and a strap of some type that is laid inside the shoe for contact to the wearer. Heel grounders must be used with some type of conductive or dissipative floor surface to be effective and should be worn on both feet to insure continuous contact with the floor. Obviously, lifting both feet from the floor while sitting will cause protection to be lost.Don’t forget to regularly check and verify your personnel grounding items:
An effective static control program doesn’t have to be expensive or complex. The main concept is to minimize generation of static and to drain it away when it does occur, thereby lessening the chance for an ESD event to happen. The ingredients for an effective ESD program are:
Education: to ensure that everyone understands the problem and the proper handling of sensitive devices.
Workstation Grounding: use a dissipative working surface material and dissipative flooring materials as required.
Personnel Grounding: using wrist straps with ground cords and/or foot-grounding devices.
Follow-up to ensure Compliance: all elements of the program should be checked frequently to determine that they are working effectively.
The ESD “threat” is not likely to go away soon, and it is very likely to become an even greater hazard, as electronic devices continue to increase in complexity and decrease in size. By implementing a static control program now, you will be prepared for the more sensitive products that will be coming.
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.