ESD Protective Area (EPA)

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.

View the full range of SCS ESD Footwear here.

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 5.3.2.4.4 “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.”

View the full range of SCS WS Aware Monitors: https://staticcontrol.descoindustries…

Welcome back to “A Minute with Miranda.” This week we will be covering how to properly clean an ESD Worksurface Mat.

For optimum electrical performance, the ESD worksurface mat surface should be cleaned regularly using a recommended ESD mat cleaner. Per the ESD Handbook ESD TR20.20, “Ensure that cleaners that are used do not leave an electrically insulative residue common with some household cleaners.”
We recommend using Reztore ESD Surface and Mat Cleaner. Reztore is alcohol free and does not contain silicone or other substances that will leave an insulative residue or inhibit the performance of the ESD worksurface mats.

After cleaning the ESD worksurface mat with Reztore it is recommended to test the surface to ensure that all insulative contaminates such as dirt and grime have been removed from the mat.
SCS worksurface mats meet the ANSI/ESD STM4.1 and ANSI/ESD S20.20 required limit of 1 x 106 to less than 1 x 109 ohms for Rtt and Rtg and the recommendations of ANSI/ESD S4.1. View the range of Reztore Alcohol Free products here.

Welcome back to “A Minute with Miranda.” This week we will be discussing how to test the point-to-point resistance (Rtt) and the resistance-to-ground (Rtg) of a Conductive ESD Floor.

ANSI/ESD S20.20 requires initial and periodic verification of an ESD Flooring System. ANSI/ESD STM7.1 outlines the test methods applicable for the Conductive flooring material. For the Point-to-Point resistance (Rtt) test the flooring will be tested with a resistance measurement meter and
2 x 5lbs cylindrical electrodes positioned 36” apart. The value for the test should be less than or equal to 1 x 106 ohms.

The Resistance Point-to-Ground (Rtg) test should be conducted with a resistance measurement meter and 1 x 5lbs cylindrical electrode. One lead from the meter should be connected to the ground point and the other lead will be connected to the electrode. The test value should be less than or equal to 1 x 106 ohms.

View the full range of SCS Surface Resistance Testers here.

Welcome back to “A Minute with Miranda.” This week we will be covering how to perform the Rtt and Rtg test on an ESD Worksurface Mat.

Before using a worksurface mat in an EPA environment, you need to verify that the mat will meet the ANSI/ESD S20.20 Worksurface Requirements.
For both the Rtt and Rtg test the worksurface should test between 1 x 106 to less than 1 x 109 ohms. The test should be performed in accordance to the ANSI/ESD S4.1 Standards.

SCS worksurface mats meet the ANSI/ESD STM4.1 and ANSI/ESD S20.20 required limit of 1 x 10^6 to less than 1 x 10^9 ohms for Rtt and Rtg and the recommendations of ANSI/ESD S4.1.

View our complete SCS Static Worksurface mat offering here.

Welcome back to “A Minute with Miranda.” This week we will be covering ESD Worksurface Mats.

SCS worksurface mats serve two purposes for an ESD worksurface in an EPA:

  • they provide a surface that does not generate a static charge and
  • they remove charges from all charged conductors, which include ESD susceptible devices and assemblies, that are placed on the surface.

SCS worksurface mats are constructed from either dissipative 2 layer rubber or 3 layer vinyl material and are available in both rolls and mat kits.

We can also quote custom sizes SCS worksurface mats meet ANSI/ESD STM4.1 ANSI/ESD S20.20 required limit of 1 x 106 to less than 1 x 109 ohms for Rtt and Rtg and the recommendations of ANSI/ESD S4.1

For more information on SCS Worksurface matting, check out our Selection Guide here.

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:

Setting up an ESD-safe workstation is often more challenging than it first appears. There are many methods of controlling ElectroStatic Discharge (ESD), and typically, it requires a combination of these to curb all static problems. Unfortunately, there is no single method that will fill all requirements.

Wrist straps and work surface mats are probably the most familiar to everyone, draining charges from operators as well as from the product being worked on. But what if the static charge in question is on an insulator? Electronic products, by nature, will normally consist of conductors and insulators. Insulators at the workstation can be found on the product itself, tools being used, tapes for masking, even circuit boards. A static charge on an insulator cannot be drained by grounding, as you could with a conductive material.

Ionization

To effectively remove charges from insulators, we need to make the surrounding air more conductive. We have all seen a balloon cling to a wall because of a static charge, and we know that, after a period of time, it will drop. That is because the air is somewhat conductive and the charge eventually drains off. The problem with this concept is that it takes too long. The more conductive the air is, the faster the charge will be neutralized.


A balloon “stuck” on a wall by static charge.

The method most frequently used to increase the conductivity of the air is ionization.

Ionizers are useful in preventing electrostatic charge generation, ElectroStatic Discharge, ElectroStatic Attraction, as well as preventing equipment latch-up. Per ANSI/ESD S20.20 section 6.2.3.1. Protected Areas Requirement states: “Ionization or other charge mitigating techniques shall be used at the workstation to neutralize electrostatic fields on all process essential insulators if the electrostatic field is considered a threat.”

How do Ionizers work?

Most ESD workstations will have some insulators (e.g. product plastic housing) or isolated conductors (e.g. PCB board components not in contact with ESD worksurface) that cannot be removed or replaced. These should be controlled using ionization.

Ionizers create great numbers of positively and negatively charged ions. Fans help the ions flow over the work area. If there is a static charge present on an item in the work area, it will be reduced and neutralized by attracting opposite polarity charges from the air.

Ionization can neutralize static charges on an insulator in a matter of seconds, thereby reducing their potential to cause ESD damage.


Electronic enclosures are process-essential insulators

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.

How does Ionization fit into an ESD Control Program?

Ionization is just one component of your ESD Control Program. Before utilizing ionization, you should follow the fundamental principles of ESD Control:

  • Ground all conductors (including people) using conventional grounding methods (e.g. wrist straps or footwear/flooring system).
  • Remove all insulators, e.g. coffee cups, food wrappers etc.

“Air ionization is not a replacement for grounding methods. It is one component of a complete static control program. Ionizers are used when it is not possible to properly ground everything and as backup to other static control methods. In clean rooms, air ionization may be one of the few methods of static control available.” (ESD Handbook ESD TR20.20 Ionization, section 5.3.6.1 Introduction and Purpose / General Information)

  • 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
  • Ionization can reduce ElectroStatic Attraction (ESA) and charged particles clinging and contaminating products.

The SCS Ionizer 9110-NO in Use

It is recommended to use ionizers with feedback mechanisms, so you’re notified if the offset voltage is out of balance.

Ionizers should be pieces of equipment that have serial numbers and are included in the company’s maintenance and calibration schedules. This is particularly critical to ensure that the offset voltage or balance is within acceptable limits. Otherwise, instead of neutralizing charges the out of balance ionizer will charge insulators and isolated conductors. The user, depending on the value and function of their products, must determine the appropriate frequency of maintenance and calibration.

Summary

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 finished product. The only way to control charges on these necessary non-conductive items is the use of ionization systems. Applications include:

  • eliminating charges on process essential insulators,
  • neutralizing workstations where ESDS are handled,
  • removing charged particulates to create a static free work area.

For more information and to select the right ionizer for your application, check out our Ionizer Selection Guide.

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

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

 

Walking across a floor generates ElectroStatic charges.
Walking across a floor generates ElectroStatic charges.

 

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:

  1. Charge generation: you walk across the car park with your soles contacting and separating from the floor. A charge is built-up on you.
  2. 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]

ESD Damage on an integrated circuit. No Magnification, 400x magnification, 5,000x magnification.

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:

  1. Can air humidifiers replace normal ESD Control measures?
  2. 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.

Wrist-Strap.jpg
Grounding of an operator using a wrist strap

  • 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.

 

Conclusion

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!