EPA

The best way to keep electrostatic sensitive devices (ESDs) from damage is to ground all conductive objects and remove insulators from your ESD Protected Area (EPA). 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.

However, 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.

It is therefore essential to regularly clean your ionizers and verify they function correctly. Below we have put together a list of tasks you need to perform with your ionizers on a regular basis.

Maintenance

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 uses will generally require more frequent attention. It is important to set-up a routine schedule for ionizer service. Routine service is typically required to meet quality audit requirements.” (ESD Handbook TR20.20 section 5.3.6.7 Maintenance / Cleaning)

EIA-625, recommends checking ionizers every 6 months, but this may not be suitable for many programs particularly since an out-of-balance may exist for months before it is checked again. ANSI/ESD S20.20 section 6.1.3.1 Compliance Verification Plan Requirement states: “Test equipment shall be selected to make measurements of appropriate properties of the technical requirements that are incorporated into the ESD program plan.

Under normal conditions, an ionizer will attract dirt and dust (especially on the emitter points). To maintain optimum neutralization efficiency and operation, cleaning should be performed on a regular basis.

1. Case

Wipe the case with a soft cloth and deionized water. Fully squeeze the wiping cloth or sponge to remove any excess liquid. If a stronger cleaning solution is required, dab a soft cloth with mixture of isopropyl alcohol and deionized water (70% IPA and 30% DI water).

2. Emitter Points

The emitter points should be cleaned using specific emitter point cleaners or a swab dampened with Isopropyl alcohol. Below are general instructions on how to clean emitter points. However, each unit is slightly different so always refer to the ionizer’s manual.

  1. Turn the unit OFF and unplug the power cord.
  2. Open the top screen by loosening the screw and swinging the grill to one side.
  3. Clean the emitter points using the an emitter point cleaner or a swab dampened with Isopropyl alcohol.
  4. Re-attach the top screen.
  5. Plug in the power cord and turn the unit ON.
  6. Verify the performance of the ionizer by using a charged plate monitor or ionization test kit (see below).

Cleaning of Emitter Points using SCS 9110-NO as an example

With normal handling, the emitter points should not require replacement during the life of the unit.

Verification

Per ESD TR53 section 5.3.6.7.1 “The best practice is to measure the offset voltage and discharge times, clean the unit, including emitter points and air filters if present, offset voltage to zero (if adjustable), and then repeat offset voltage and discharge time testing. If the unit does not meet offset voltage specifications or minimum established discharge time limits, further service is indicated. Manufacturers should provide details on service procedures and typical service intervals.

Most companies will assign a number or otherwise identify each ionizer and setup a Compliance Verification / Maintenance / Calibration schedule. If the ionizers all test good, the data can justify lengthening the calibration period. If ionizers require adjustment, the calibration period should be shortened. Although ESD TR53 does not advise a test frequency, JESDD625-A (Revision of EIA-625) recommends ionizers be tested semi-annually, noting to use “S3.1 except the number of measurement points and locations may be selected based on the application.

Verification should be performed in accordance with the ESD Association ionization standard ANSI/ESD STM3.1.

Below are general instructions on how to verify your ionizer’s offset voltage and discharge time. Always refer to the User Guide accompanying your Charge Plate Monitor or Ionization Test Kit for proper operation and setup.

1. Testing Ionizer Offset Voltage:

The required limit per ANSI/ ESD S20.20 is less than ± 35 volts. Check your ionizer’s operating manual or consult with the ionizer manufacturer to determine what the offset voltage should be for your ionizer.

Charge Plate Monitor (CPM)

  1. Position the ionizer and charge plate monitor as shown below.
  2. Set the CPM to Decay/Offset mode.
  3. Set the CPM to decay and offset voltage mode with a starting charge at either + or – 1 KV and a stopping charge at either + or -100 Volts.
  4. Start the decay/offset test sequence on the CPM. This will take a few seconds.
  5. Record the decay time, and offset voltage as displayed on the CPM.

Positioning your Charge Plate Monitor for Overhead and Benchtop Ionizers

Ionization Test Kit

  1. Zero the charge plate by touching it with a grounded object. This can either be the finger of a grounded person or some other item which is connected to electrical ground. In either case, zeroing the charge plate should make the display on the field meter read zero.
  2. Hold the meter approximately one foot (30.5 cm) in front of the ionizer.
  3. Monitor the display. The value displayed is the offset balance of the ionizer, which is the difference between the number of positive and negative ions being emitted.
Testing Ionizer Offset Voltage using the SCS 718A Air Ionizer Test Kit

2. Testing Ionizer Discharge Time:

The required limit per ANSI/ESD S20.20 is “user defined”. Please refer to the ionizer’s operating manual or consult with the ionizer manufacturer to determine what this discharge time should be.

Charge Plate Monitor (CPM)

  1. Set the CPM to Decay/Offset mode.
  2. Set the CPM to decay and offset voltage mode with a starting charge at either + or – 1 KV and a stopping charge at either + or -100 Volts.
  3. Start the decay/offset test sequence on the CPM. This will take a few seconds.
  4. Record the decay time, and offset voltage as displayed on the CPM.

Ionization Test Kit

  1. After charging the plate of the ionization test kit, hold the field meter approximately one foot (30.5 cm) away from the ionizer.
  2. Monitor the display of the meter to see how quickly the 1.1 kV charge is dissipated to 0.1 kV.
  3. The speed at which this occurs (the discharge time) indicates how well the ionizer is operating.
  4. Repeat this procedure for both a positively and a negatively charged plate.

Some ionizers offer adjustment options (e.g. trim pots) which allow modification of the offset voltage.

However, if your ionizer is out of balance (and cannot be adjusted) or if the discharge time is out of specification, the ionizer will require service/repair by an authorized company.

Conclusion

Ionization is one of the best methods of removing charges from insulators and as a result plays an important role in controlling ESD.

Remember though: ionizers require periodic cleaning of emitter pins and verifying of the offset voltage and discharge time. Otherwise, instead of neutralizing charges, the ionizer will primarily produce positive or negative ions. The ionizer will therefore place an electrostatic charge on items that are not grounded, potentially discharging and causing ESD damage to nearby sensitive items.

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.

Tape.JPG
Sources of Charge Generation: Unwinding a Roll of Tape

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.

718.jpg
Static Field Meter – find more information here

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.

Workstation Grounding

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

ESD-Worksurface-Matting.jpg
Types of Worksurface Matting – click here for more information

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Personnel 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
    Wrist-Strap.png
  3. 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:

PersonnelGroundingTesters.png
The Personnel Grounding Checklist

 

Summary

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:

  1. Education: to ensure that everyone understands the problem and the proper handling of sensitive devices.
  2. Workstation Grounding: use a dissipative working surface material and dissipative flooring materials as required.
  3. Personnel Grounding: using wrist straps with ground cords and/or foot-grounding devices.
  4. 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:

  • Productivity
  • Quality
  • Customer Satisfaction

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.

Step3 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.

Step2.png 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.”

[ESD TR20.20 Handbook Ionization clause 15.8 Maintenance / Cleaning]

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!

Step3 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:

  • Wrist Straps
  • ESD footwear/flooring
  • Hip-to-Cuff grounding
Step2 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:

  1. Ground the garment to the body through a wrist strap-direct connection with an adapter.
  2. Ground the garment through conductive wrist or heel cuffs in direct contact with the skin of a grounded operator.
  3. Ground the garment through a typical separate ground cord, directly attached to an identified groundable point on the garment.
  4. 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 TR20.20 Handbook Garments clause 19.4 Proper Use]

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.

Step3 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
Step2 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.

Step3 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.

Step2 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.

[ANSI/ESD Foreword]

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.

Step3 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.
Step2 “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.”

[ESD TR20.20 Handbook Worksurfaces clause 10.5 Maintenance]

Conclusion

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:

  • Ground conductors.
  • 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.

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.

 

Enclose_Shielding_Bags
Enclose your ESD sensitive item

 

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.

 

Remove_Static_Charges.jpg
Remove charges

 

 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.

 

Dont_overuse_shielding_bags
Don’t overuse shielding bags


 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.

Shielding_Bags_are_no_ESD-Worksurface.jpg
Don’t use shielding bags as your ESD worksurface

 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.

Shielding_Bags_are_no-Gloves
Shielding bags are no “ESD glove” or “ESD potholder”

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.

 

Lightning.jpg
Lightning striking an airplane

 

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, Verify, Log, Handle
Your Personnel Grounding Checklist

Your Personnel Grounding Checklist:

  1. Wear your personnel grounding equipment such a wrist strap and/or footwear
  2. 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.
  3. Log a record of each test. Records should be kept for quality control purposes.
  4. 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

The SCS Combo Wrist Strap/ Footwear Tester
The SCS Combo Tester can be used to test wrist straps – more information

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.

Footwear testing:

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)]

The SCS Dual Combination Tester is used to test wrist straps and footwear
The SCS Dual Combination Tester is used to test wrist straps and footwear – more information

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.

Conclusion

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.

 

Do your employees handle ESD-sensitive high-end components that are expensive to replace if they failed? If so, reducing the possibility of ESD damage is an important part of an ESD control program. Today’s blog post will look at one option of protecting your critical applications: Dual-Wire Wrist Straps.

Introduction

In an ESD Protected Area (EPA), all surfaces, objects, people and ESD sensitive devices (ESDs) are kept at the same electric potential. This is achieved by using only ‘groundable’ materials that are then linked to ground.

This is in line with the requirements of ANSI/ESD S20.20: “The Organization shall prepare an ESD Control Program Plan that addresses each of the requirements of the Program. Those requirements include:
– Training
– Product Qualification
– Compliance Verification
– Grounding / Equipotential Bonding Systems
– Personnel Grounding
– ESD Protected Area (EPA) Requirements
– Packaging Systems
– Marking

[ANSI/ESD S20.20 clause 7.1 ESD Control Program Plan]

Wrist Straps

Wrist straps are the most common personnel grounding device and are used to link people to ground. They are required if the operator is sitting.

A wrist strap is made up of two components:

  • A wrist band that is worn comfortably around your wrist and
  • A coiled cord that connects the band to a Common Grounding Point.

wristbandComponents of a Wrist Strap 

Dual-Wire Wrist Straps

Dual-Wire Wrist Straps have two conductors (compared to single-wire monitors which have only one conductor inside the insulation of the coiled cord). They offer a reduced risk of damaging ESD sensitive devices because if one conductor is severed or damaged, the operator still has a reliable path-to-ground with the second conductor. For that reason, they dual-wire wrist straps are generally used in critical applications.

Advantages of using Dual-Wire Wrist Straps:

  • Elimination of intermittent failures
  • Extension of wrist strap lifespan
  • Compatible with high performance continuous monitors

 2231
The MagSnap 360™ Dual-Wire Wrist Strap and Coil Cord –
more information

Dual-Wire Continuous Monitors

For maximum benefit, dual-wire wrist straps should be used together with dual-wire continuous monitors. Instead of connecting a coil cord directly to a common grounding point, the operator connects to a continuous monitor. The operator is grounded through the continuous monitor and the operator-to-ground connection is monitored.

The monitors provide operators with instant feedback on the status and functionality of their wrist strap and/or workstation. Continuous monitors detect split-second failures when the wrist strap is still in the “intermittent” stage. This is prior to a permanent “open” which could result in damage to ESD sensitive components. The “intermittent” stage is characterized by sporadic failures as the cord is not completely severed. Once the cord is fully split, the “open” stage is reached.

WS-Aware-UseThe WS Aware Dual-Wire Workstation Monitor – more information


Since people are one of the greatest sources of static electricity and ESD, proper grounding is paramount. One of the most common ways to ground people is with a wrist strap. Ensuring that wrist straps are functional and are connected to people and ground is a continuous task.” “While effective at the time of testing, wrist strap checker use is periodic. The failure of a wrist strap between checks may expose products to damage from electrostatic charge. If the wrist strap system is checked at the beginning of a shift and subsequently fails, then an entire shift’s work could be suspect.” “Wrist strap checkers are usually placed in a central location for all to use.  Wrist straps are stressed and flexed to their limits at a workstation.  While a wrist strap is being checked, it is not stressed, as it would be under working conditions.  Opens in the wire at the coiled cord’s strain relief are sometimes only detected under stress.“ [ESD TR 12-01 Technical Report Survey of Constant (Continuous) Monitors for Wrist Straps]

Resistance (or dual-wire) constant monitors are “… used with a two wire (dual) wrist strap. When a person is wearing a wrist strap, the monitor observes the resistance of the loop, consisting of a wire, a person, a wristband, and a second wire.  If any part of the loop should open (become disconnected or have out of limit resistance), the circuit will go into the alarm state.” “While the continuity of the loop is monitored, the connection of the wrist strap to ground is not monitored.” “There are two types of signals used by resistance based constant monitors; steady state DC and pulsed DC.  Pulsed DC signals were developed because of concerns about skin irritation.  However, pulse DC units introduce periods of off time (seconds) when the system is not being monitored.“ [ESD TR 12-01 Technical Report Survey of Constant (Continuous) Monitors for Wrist Straps]

Conclusion

Dual Polarity Technology provides true continuous monitoring of wrist strap functionality and operator safety according to accepted industry standards. Dual-wire systems are used to create redundancy. In critical applications redundancy is built-in to have a backup if the primary source fails. With dual-wire wrist straps the redundancy is there as a protection rather than an alternative. If you are monitoring your dual-wire wrist strap and one wire fails, then the unit will alarm. You will still be grounded by the other wire, so there will be a significantly reduced risk of damaging ESD sensitive components if you happen to be handling them when the wrist strap fails. The wrist strap still needs to be replaced immediately.

And there you have it: dual-wire wrist straps together with dual-wire continuous monitors offer better protection than intermittent monitoring or testing if you have a critical application.

Check-out the SCS Wrist Strap Selection Guide and Workstation Monitor Selection Guide to find the correct products for your application.

We get a lot of inquiries regarding wrist straps: what they do, why there are different types, how they are used, etc. So, the purpose of today’s blog post is to answer all those questions for you. If there is something we did not cover in the blog post make sure you ask us in the comments!
Let’s get started!

Introduction
The ESD Standard S20.20 requires “an ESD Control Program Plan that addresses each of the requirements of the Program. Those requirements include:

  • Training
  • Product Qualification
  • Compliance Verification
  • Grounding/Equipotential Bonding Systems
  • Personnel Grounding
  • ESD Protected Area (EPA) Requirements
  • Packaging Systems
  • Marking”
    [ANSI/ESD S20.20 clause 7.1 ESD Control Program Plan]

The most common personnel grounding device is a wrist strap which is used to connect people to ground.
A wrist strap in general is a conductive wristband which provides an electrical connection to skin of an operator and, in turn, is connected to a known ground point at a workbench or a tool. While a wrist strap does not prevent generation of charges, its purpose is to dissipate these charges to ground as quickly as possible. Wrist straps are required if the operator is sitting. They are not necessary if an operator is wearing two foot grounders on a conductive grounded floor and doesn’t lift both heels/toes at the same time. As some people lift both feet off the ground while seated, wrist straps are essential for sitting personnel.
A wrist strap is made up of two components:

  • a wristband that is worn comfortably around your wrist and
  • a coil cord that connects the band to ground.

Wristband and coil cord of a wrist strapWristband and coil cord of a wrist strap

The key to the wrist strap is the intimate contact of the conductive band to the skin and of course the coil cord connecting to ground. It doesn’t matter if the contact point to your body is on your wrist, finger, forearm, ankle, etc., as long as it is in direct contact with your skin. The skin is electrically continuous over your whole body. The wrist is just a convenient place to couple the band to.

Styles of Wrist Straps
Operators can choose between elastic and metal wristbands:

  • Elastic wristbands are the most popular wristband as they are comfortable to wear and easy to adjust. Compared to metal wristbands they are also less expensive.
  • Some people prefer metal wristbands as they are generally longer lasting and easier to clean.

The key to personnel grounding is to have an adequate path to ground so that there is never a potential difference with respect to ground on the human body for longer than 150 milliseconds (ms) body movement time. Such rapid grounding is accomplished well by elastic or metal wrist straps. So, in terms of their effectiveness to protect against ESD, there is no difference between elastic and metal wristbands.

Both elastic and metal wristbands are (to a certain degree) adjustable. Metal wristbands offer less adjustment, so you will find those are generally available in different sizes depending on the circumference of your wrist. However, you are still able to adjust metal wristbands if you need a tighter/looser fit.
To adjust your wristband, follow the below steps:
1. Elastic wristbands:

  • Open the clasp by pulling upward on the “tail” of material that extends out from the clasp.
  • Tighten or loosen the elastic material through the clasp until the wristband fits snug but comfortably.
  • We recommend that you close the clasp and wear the band with the excess tail extended for a day to be sure the adjustment is snug, comfortable, and has the proper electrical contact with the skin before cutting.
  • Test the wrist strap system to be sure of proper electrical resistance and skin contact.
  • When you are ready to cut off excess material, mark with a pencil where excess material is to be trimmed.
  • Remove band from wrist. Open clasp. Cut off strip excess material about 1/4″ short of pencil mark so that the end of material is concealed by cap. This will eliminate the possibility of frayed ends.
  • Close clasp and use as a fixed elastic wristband.

Adjusting an elastic wristbandAdjusting an elastic wristband

2. Metal wristbands:

  • Insert the link end of the wristband into the slotted opening on the cap. Insert it at a downward angle to allow the links to slide inside the channel in the backplate.
  • Change the size of the band by sliding the links in or out of the stainless steel backplate. For extra small size, you can cut off excess links with cutters.
  • Lock the links into place by pulling down on the band, seating the band securely over the lip on the edge of the backplate.
  • Test the wrist strap system to be sure of proper electrical resistance and skin contact.

Adjusting a metal wristbandAdjusting a metal wristband

1 megohm Safety Resistors
The purpose of the 1 megohm resistor found in series with wrist straps is solely to provide safety to the human body by limiting the amount of current that could be conducted through the body. The 1 megohm resistor is designed to limit the current to 250 microamps at 250 Volts rms AC. This is just below the perception level (and a bit before the nervous system goes awry) of most people. Physical perception of current traveling in/on the body varies depending on size, weight, water content, skin conditions, etc. Remember that the termination of the coil cord with the 1 megohm resistor must always be connected to the operator.
Such safety resistors are built into the wrist straps themselves and also in such wrist strap monitors as WS Aware, Iron Man® Plus and Ground Man Plus manufactured by SCS. 

Typical Problems with Wrist Straps
Some of the typical problems with proper grounding of an operator using a wrist strap are:

  • worn out wrist strap which no longer has good electrical properties
  • stretched out wrist strap which doesn’t make good electrical contact with the skin
  • loosely-worn wrist strap which doesn’t make good electrical contact with the skin either
  • dry skin of an operator increasing electric resistance of a contact beyond specification
  • improper placement of a wrist strap, such as over the cuff of the garment

Also, another issue we often see is that wrist strap users connect their wrist cord to a stud on their ESD protective mat. This process is not recommended as it can increase the total system resistance to ground to over the 35 megohm limit required by ANSI/ESD S20.20 table 2.

Testing of Wrist Straps
Wrist straps need to be checked regularly to ensure they are faultless and ground the operator properly. Wrist straps should be worn while they are tested. This provides the best way to test all three components: the wristband, the ground cord (including the resistor) and the interface with the operator’s skin.
Wrist straps need to be checked before each use. Periodic testing is not required if continuous monitors are used. They provide instant feedback should the wrist strap fail while handling ESD sensitive devices.

Verifying a wrist strap using a wrist strap/footwear testerVerifying a wrist strap using a wrist strap/footwear tester

If the wrist strap tester outputs a FAIL test result, stop working. Test the wristband and cord individually to find out which item is damaged. There are some methods to troubleshoot your wrist straps. First make sure your tester is properly adjusted and calibrated.

If the operator and wrist strap system fails low:

  • Make sure that the person is not directly connected to ground via another path, i.e., touching a grounded metal structure.
  • The most common cause of a fail low is a shorted resistor in the wrist strap coil cord. Replace the coiled cord with a new one and repeat the test.

If the operator and wrist strap system fails high:

  • Make sure the coiled cord has a secure connection both the banana jack/socket to tester and the stud snap to wrist strap buckle.
  • Ensure there is continuity in the coiled cord (you can test with an ohmmeter).
  • Remove the wrist strap and hold the bottom part of the band tightly between the operator’s thumb and index finger and test. If the test fails high, the band may be soiled and needs cleaning or the buckle to band connection may be suspect. Either replace the band or clean and then retest.
  • If the above test is okay, then the skin of the operator’s wrist may be too dry. Apply ESD lotion to the wrist to re-moisturize the skin thereby increasing its conductivity. Retest. Operators with dryer skin should wear metal banded wrist straps to minimize the contact resistance. If their skin is very dry, application of an ESD lotion may be required as part of their donning process.

You need to obtain a PASS test result before beginning work.

Now that we’ve covered the basics of wrist straps, we will dive into the different types of wrist straps – but that will have to wait until next time as this post is already very long. Stay tuned!

In our last post, we talked about the ESD protective packaging requirements for ESD sensitive items and provided you with 6 steps to choose the correct type of packaging. We thought today we could go in a little bit more detail and introduce you to some types of packaging and how to use them. If you read our recent post on Tips to Fight ESD, you will remember how important it is to protect your ESD sensitive items when leaving an EPA. Yet, too often we see customers who have the perfect EPA, but when it comes to transporting and storing their precious components, it’s all falling apart.

Packaging required for transporting and storing ESD sensitive items
During storage and transportation outside of an EPA, it is recommended that ESD sensitive components and assemblies are enclosed in packaging that possesses the ESD control property of shielding. See our last post for more details.

Remember:

  • In ‘shielding’ we utilize the fact that electrostatic charges and discharges take the path of least resistance.
  • The charge will be either positive or negative; otherwise the charge will balance out and there will be no charge.
  • Charges repel so electrostatic charges will reside on the outer surface.

The Faraday Cage effect
A Faraday Cage effect can protect ESD sensitive items in a shielding bag or other container with a shielding layer. To complete the enclosure, make sure to place lids on boxes or containers and close shielding bags.

Cover must be in place to create Faraday Cage and shield contents.

Types of shielding packaging
The below list gives a few examples of what types of shielding packaging is available on the market. This list is by no means complete; there are many different options out there – just make sure the specifications state “shielding” properties.

  • Metal-In Shielding Bags
    ESD bags which protect ESD sensitive items. The ESD shielding limits energy penetration from electrostatic charges and discharge. They offer good see-through clarity. Available with and without zipper.

    Example of a Metal-In Shielding Bag – Click here for more information
  • Metal-Out Shielding Bags
    Integral antistatic and low tribocharging bags which will not electrostatically charge contents during movement. Bags have an aluminium metal outer layer of laminated film. Available with and without zipper.

    Example of a Metal-Out Shielding Bag – Click here for more information
  • Moisture Barrier Bags
    Offer ESD and moisture protection and can be used to pack SMD reels or trays.

    Example of a Moisture Barrier Bag – Click here for more information
  • Cushioned Shielding Bags
    These bags combine the “Faraday Cage” and mechanical protection. They shield about twice as well as normal shielding bags of equivalent size.

    Example of a Cushioned Shielding Bag – Click here for more information

Additional options for storing ESD sensitive items
Do you have the following in place?

  • ESD flooring
  • Grounded personnel (using foot grounders)
  • Grounded racking

IF (and this is a BIG IF) the above requirements are fulfilled, you can use conductive bags or containers to store your ESD sensitive items. Conductive materials have a low electrical resistance so electrons flow easily across the surface. Charges will go to ground if bags or containers are handled by a grounded operator or are stored on a grounded surface.

Conductive materials come in many different shapes and forms:

Conductive Black Bags
Tough and puncture resistant bags which are made of linear polyethylene with carbon added. The bags are heat sealable.

Example of a Conductive Black Film – Click here for more information

  • Rigid Conductive Boxes
    Provide good ESD and mechanical protection. Boxes are supplied with or without high density foam for insertion of component leads or low density foam which acts as a cushioning material.
  • PCB Containers
    Are flat based and can be stacked. They are made of injection moulded conductive polypropylene.

Again, there are many more options available on the market so make sure you do your research.

Note: we do not recommend using conductive packaging to transport ESD sensitive devices. Also, pink antistatic and pink antistatic bubble bags are not suited for storing or transporting ESD sensitive components.

Final thoughts
Packaging with holes, tears or gaps should not be used as the contents may be able to extend outside the enclosure and lose their shielding as well as mechanical protection.

Also, do not staple ESD bags shut. The metal staple provides a conductive path from the outside of the ESD bag to the inside. The use of a metal staple would undermine the effectiveness of the ESD bag making a conductive path for charges outside the bag to charge or discharge to ESD sensitive components inside the bag. To close an ESD bag, it is recommended to heat seal or use ESD tape or labels after the opening of the bag has been folded over. Alternatively, you can use ESD bags with a zipper.

If your company has an ESD Control Program per ANSI/ESD S20.20 in place, you need to define ESD protective packaging for ESD sensitive items (ESDs).
The Organization shall prepare an ESD Control Program Plan that addresses each of the requirements of the Program. Those requirements include:
– Training
– Product Qualification
– Compliance Verification
– Grounding / Equipotential Bonding Systems
– Personnel Grounding
– ESD Protected Area (EPA) Requirements
– Packaging Systems
– Marking” [ANSI/ESD S20.20 clause 7.1 ESD Control Program Plan]

But where do you start? Don’t panic – we’re here to help and we’ll be following the guidelines set-out in the ESD Standard.

Definition and Purpose of ESD Protective Packaging
ESD Protective Packaging covers any materials coming into direct contact with ESD sensitive devices during handling, shipping and storage. You don’t need to worry about secondary or exterior packaging unless it’s used for ESD protection purposes.
Packaging for ESD sensitive items is commonly derived by modifying existing packaging to prevent the packaging itself from causing static damage. The packaging generally retains physical and environmental protective qualities. ESD protective packaging has been modified further to prevent other sources of static electricity from damaging a packaged item.“ [ANSI/ESD S541 Foreword]

The fundamentals of ESD control include grounding all conductors in the EPA. ESD packaging will have special material composition to lower the resistance so that when grounded, electrostatic charges will be removed to ground thus protecting your ESD sensitive devices inside.
Transportation of electrostatic sensitive devices requires packaging that provides protection from electrostatic hazards in the transportation or storage system. In the case of an EPA designed with continuous grounding of all conductors and dissipative items (including personnel), packaging may not be necessary.” [ANSI/ESD S541 clause 6. Packaging Application Requirements]

Example of ESD Packaging

Packaging is to be determined for all material movements inside and outside of the ESD Protected Area (EPA). Best practice is to define the required packaging or material handling item on the product’s bill of materials. Remember: the ESD packaging is just as important as a component part.

Customer contract packaging can take precedence, but otherwise “the organization shall define ESD protective packaging requirements, both inside and outside the EPA per ANSI/ESD S541 or in accordance with the contract, purchase order, drawing or other documentation necessary to meet customer requirements.” [ANSI/ESD S20.20 clause 8.4 Packaging]

Choosing your ESD Protective Packaging
Numerous factors need to be taken into consideration when choosing your ESD protective packaging including the “environment and device sensitivity.” [ANSI/ESD S541 Annex A.1 Environment and Device Sensitivity]
It is best recommended to follow these 6 steps:

    1. Understand the product sensitivity
      You can gather information about the ESD sensitivity of an item by either measuring it in-house, contacting the manufacturer of the product or by analyzing published ESD sensitivity data.
    2. Determine the distribution environment for the packaged product
      Knowing the environment in which the product is shipped and how it will be handled is extremely important. Humidity and temperature are the main factors to consider when it comes to choosing the right type of packaging for your ESD sensitive items. If items are susceptible to moisture, a barrier material should be chosen to prevent excessive humidity exposure. On the other hand, condensation may occur inside the packaging if temperatures vary around the dew point of the established interior conditions. In those instances, desiccant should be put inside of the package or the air should be removed from the package before shipment.

A Moisture Barrier Bag – click here for more information

  1. Determine the type of packaging system that is best suited for the intended application
    The first step is to choose low charging or static dissipative materials when in contact with ESD sensitive devices. Many companies also require the packaging to protect the contents from a direct discharge or exposure to electric fields. In addition to these requirements, there are further questions that need to be asked:

    • Returnable or reusable packaging?
    • Disposable or one-time only packaging?
    • Aesthetic requirements for packaging?
  2. Select and test packaging materials
    Test methods are explained in ANSI/ESD S541 and will classify packaging materials as conductive, static dissipative or insulative.
  3. Design a packaging systemOnce the ESD sensitivity and distribution environment have been evaluated and available materials have been selected, the design of the packaging system can begin. Per the ANSI/ESD S541, the following general rules apply:
    • Inside an EPA:
      Packaging used within an EPA (that satisfies the minimum requirements of ANSI/ESD S20.20) shall be:

      • Low charge generation.
      • Dissipative or conductive materials for intimate contact.Items sensitive to < 100 volts human body model may need additional protection depending on application and program  plan requirements.”
        [ANSI/ESD S541 clause 6.1 Inside an EPA]
    • 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.
        [ANSI/ESD S541 clause 6.2 Outside an EPA]

    Example of ESD Packaging

    In addition to these guidelines, there may be additional factors that should be considered, e.g.:

    • Cost/value relationship: The cost of the packaging compared to the total value of the contents is important. Some companies choose less expensive packaging for less valuable parts.
    • Handling: If rigorous handling is expected, cushioned packaging may need to be considered.
  4. Test the final packaging design for effectiveness
    It is highly recommended to subject packages to the type of hazards that can be expected during shipments. These tests can, for example, involve the following:

    • High voltage discharges to the exterior of the packaging
    • Simulated over the road vibration
    • Drop tests
    • Environmental exposure

Final thoughts on ESD Protective Packaging
Now that you have an understanding of the factors to consider when choosing your ESD Protective Packaging, you’re ready to implement the above guidelines. ESD packaging comes in all sorts of shapes and forms so bear in mind to not just look at bags when deciding what type of packaging to choose.
Also, remember that ESD packaging should be marked. We’ll cover the specifics in a later post.

Last time we learned the difference between conductors & insulators. We went on to explain what ionizers are and when you need them in your EPA. Haven’t had a chance to read that post yet? Catch-up here!
All up to speed now? Right, let’s move on: as promised, today we’ll be looking at the different types of ionizers available.

What is an Ionizer?
But first a quick recap of what an ionizer is: An ionizer produces positively and negatively charged ions that are moved to the controlled area with fan driven airflow. Ionization can neutralize static charges on an insulator in a matter of seconds, thereby reducing their potential to cause ESD damage.

Types of Ionizers
Electrical ionizers generate air ions by a process known as corona discharge. A high voltage is applied to one or more sharp points and quantities of air ions are created. Fans or blowers may be incorporated in the ionizer to assist the movement of the ions and enhance performance.

  1. AC Ionizers
    AC ionizers use a transformer to multiply the AC power line voltage. AC stands for “Alternating Current” which means that the power cycles from positive to negative sixty times per second. The AC ionizer therefore produces both positive and negative ions from the same points or emitters. The drawback with this approach is that many ions recombine because the cycle frequency is too fast. For this reason, most AC ionizers rely on fans or blowers to be effective.
  2. Pulsed DC Ionizers
    Pulsed DC ionizers utilize separate power supplies to generate positive and negative voltages and usually each power supply has its own dedicated emitters. The power supply alternates between positive and negative, but usually at a lower frequency than AC units. In this way, ion recombination is reduced and performance is increased. Airflow may then be reduced for operator comfort without sacrificing much performance. With pulsed DC, it is important to cycle at least two or three times per second to prevent harmful voltage swings on the object being protected.
  3. Steady-state DC Ionizers
    Steady-state DC ionizers also employ separate power supplies and emitters, but instead of alternating positive and negative, both supplies are on all the time as the name implies. As would be expected, there is some degree of recombination, however, the ion density is still greater because of continuous operation of both supplies. The offset or balance voltage at the output will normally be more consistent than pulse units.

There are also nuclear types of ionizers which are non-electric. They are more frequently used in flammable or explosive environments for applications other than electronics.

Ionizer Configurations

  1. Room Ionization
    This type of configuration will typically have multiple emitters just below ceiling height and will rely on some amount of air movement for moving the ions down to bench level. It used to be considered as the most effective way to protect large areas against ESD hazards. However, these days localized workstation ionization is recommended:

    • Product sensitivity has become much greater and long decay times of room ionization cannot be tolerated.
    • With room ionization, often only a fraction of the ionized area may be ESD sensitive. Localized ionizers bring protection to the areas where it’s needed and performance is often 10 times faster than the ceiling height system.
    • Localized ionization moves with the workstation (or to a new workstation) making it much more flexible with changing production line layouts.
      Advantages Disadvantages
      + Effective for large areas – Long decay times
      – Cannot easily be moved once set-up
  2. Workstation Ionizers
    These come in many shapes and sizes. Probably the best-known type is the benchtop ionizer which is about the size of an iPad mini and about 4 inch deep. They’ve been around for many years and are to this day still in high demand. Over the years, smaller and lighter units were developed. As workstation space is incredibly valuable, many users prefer the smaller units. Some benchtop ionizers can even be suspended above the bench using a flexible mounting arm. Whatever style is chosen, care should be taken to assure that items normally on the bench would not obstruct the flow of ionized air.

    Example of a Benchtop Ionizer – click here for more information

    A real benefit of benchtop ionizers is the fact that they can easily be moved between workstations. So, if you only have a small EPA with a few users and shared workload, you can save money by moving one ionizer between different benches.

    Advantages Disadvantages
    + Compact – Potential obstruction of air flow
    + Lightweight
    + Portable
  3. Overhead Ionizers
    Overhead ionization was established to solve the problem of items on a workbench blocking the flow of ionized air. Overhead Ionizers have a unique hanging capability and are suspended about 17 to 24 inch above the bench – either by hanging from chains or by using mounting brackets attached to a shelf or bench.

    Example of an Overhead Ionizer – click here for more information

    Using this method of ionization makes it very unlikely for items to block the flow of ionized air to the item being protected. In addition, the downward airflow is more consistent over the entire bench. To ensure that adequate air is delivered an overhead ionizer with 2 to 4 fans should be used. Overhead ionization is ideal for areas where bench space is limited.

    Advantages Disadvantages
    + Large & consistent air flow coverage – Heavy
    + Don’t take up valuable workspace
    + Items unlikely to block air flow
  4. Forced Air Ionizers
    Most companies address ElectroStatic Attraction, visual imperfections and contamination issues by dislodging charged dust and debris with compressed air ionizers. They use compressed air or nitrogen to neutralise static charges in localized areas – they are a quick “point-and-shoot” option. They are either hand-held or may be mounted in a fixed location.

    Example of a Forced Air Ionizer – click here for more information

    The main advantage of this type is that the user has the benefit of a strong air blast (20 to 100 P.S.I.) to help dislodge contamination, while the ionization in the air stream eliminates the static attraction of the particles at the same time. Hand-held air nozzle types will usually have a trigger or push-button to activate the air and ion flow, while the stationary-mounted type is frequently remote controlled with a foot pedal, photo sensor or some other switch closure.

    Advantages Disadvantages
    + “Point-and-shoot” operation – Use valuable workstation space
    + Strong air blast

Summary
SCS Ionizers meet ANSI/ESD S20.20 tested per ANSI/ESD STM3.1 and ESD TR53. What type of ionizer you choose depends on a lot of different factors. There is no right or wrong – just different options.

A few things you should consider before making any decisions:

  • Type of operation
    Depending on the work your operators are doing, one type/configuration of ionizer may have more benefits then another. For example, if your workspace is limited, an overhead ionizer might be the answer. On the other hand, if there is an issue with debris & dust in your operation, then a compressed air ionizer would be better suited.
  • Features required
    Does your ionizer need to be made of stainless steel? Does it need to use zero-volt technology? Do you need a cost-effective ionizer with built-in emitter point cleaners? Do activities need to be monitored and recorded with some sort of software? Make a list of what is an absolute must and where you can compromise – see next point.
  • Available budget
    Even though this one is the last one in this list, it by no means is the least important factor. Quite contrary, it’s generally one of the main considerations when investing in an ionizer. However, it kind of goes hand in hand with the previous 2 points. So, you may have to make compromises, e.g. on the features, depending on what monies are available…

Need help choosing? Check out our Ionizer Selection Chart!
Alternatively, why not request an EOS/ESD Assessment? It’s a great way to have an extra set of eyes look at your ESD control plan!

Conclusion
Ionization is one of the best methods of removing charges from insulators and as a result plays an important role in controlling ESD. Remember though: an ionizer is a secondary form of defense and does not eliminate the need for standard ESD control devices such as wrist straps, heel grounders and worksurface mats. It is only one element in an effective ESD program.

Also, ionizers require periodic cleaning of emitter pins and the offset voltage must be kept in balance. Otherwise, instead of neutralizing charges, if it is producing primarily positive or negative ions, the ionizer will place an electrostatic charge on items that are not grounded.