ESD Protective Packaging

ElectroStatic Discharge (ESD) can pose danger to a Printed Circuit Board (PCB). A standard bare PCB (meaning that it has no semiconductor components installed) should not be susceptible to ESD damage, however as soon as you add electronic (semiconductor) devices, it becomes susceptible according to each of the individual’s susceptibility.

While ESD damage can post a danger, there is another risk factor many operators forget: moisture.

Today’s blog post is going to address both risks and will explain how you can protect your PCBs from both when storing them.

The problem with moisture

If you have been following along with our blogs, you will be well aware of the problems ESD damage can cause.

Moisture, on the other hand, may be a new issue to you. Surface Mounted Devices (SMDs), for example, absorb moisture and then during solder re-flow operations, the rapid rise in temperature causes the moisture to expand and the delaminating of internal package interfaces, also known as “pop corning.” The result is either a circuit board assembly that will fail testing or can prematurely fail in the field.

Moisture.png
Moisture from air diffuses inside the plastic body & collects in spaces between body & circuit, lead frame and wires. Expanding vapor can crack (popcorn) the plastic body or cause delamination.

Storing PCBs

All PCBs should be stored in a moisture barrier bag (MBB) that is vacuum sealed. In addition to the bags, Desiccant Packs and Humidity Indicator Cards must be used for proper moisture protection. This ‘package’ is also known as a dry package.

Most manufacturers of the Moisture Sensitive Devices (MSD) will dictate how their product should be stored, shipped, etc. However, the IPC/JEDEC J-STD-033B standard describes the standardized levels of floor life exposure for moisture/reflow-sensitive SMD packages along with the handling, packing and shipping requirements necessary to avoid moisture/reflow-related failures.

The ESD Handbook ESD TR20.20 mentions the importance of moisture barrier bags in section 5.4.3.2.2 Temperature: “While only specialized materials and structures can control the interior temperature of a package, it is important to take possible temperature exposure into account when shipping electronic parts. It is particularly important to consider what happens to the interior of a package if the environment has high humidity. If the temperature varies across the dew point of the established interior environment of the package, condensation may occur. The interior of a package should either contain desiccant or the air should be evacuated from the package during the sealing process. The package itself should have a low WVTR.

Components of a dry package

A dry package has four parts:

  1. Moisture Barrier Bag (MBB)
  2. Desiccant
  3. Humidity Indicator Card (HIC)
  4. Moisture Sensitive Label (MSL)

 

 3371014.jpg Moisture Barrier Bags (MBB) work by enclosing a device with a metal or plastic shield that keep moisture vapor from getting inside the bag. They have specialized layers of film that control the Moisture Vapor Transfer Rate (MVTR). The bag also provides static shielding protection.
Desiccant is a drying agent which is packaged inside a porous pouch so that the moisture can get through the pouch and be absorb by the desiccant. Desiccant absorbs moisture vapor (humidity) from the air left inside the barrier bag after it has been sealed. Moisture that penetrates the bag will also be absorbed. Desiccant remains dry to the touch even when it is fully saturated with moisture vapor.

The recommended amount of desiccant  depends on the interior surface area of the bag to be used. Use this desiccant calculator to determine the minimum amounts of desiccant to be used with Moisture Barrier Bags.

1-6PLDES1200.jpg
3HIC125.jpg Humidity Indicator Cards (HICs) are printed with moisture sensitive spots which respond to various levels of humidity with a visible color change from blue to pink. The humidity inside barrier bags can be monitored by the HIC inside. Examining the card when you open the bag will indicate the humidity level the components are experiencing so the user can determine if baking the devices is required.
The Moisture Sensitive Level (MSL) label tells you how long the devices can stay outside the bag before they should be soldered onto the board. This label is applied to the outside of the bag. If the “level” box is blank, look on the barcode label nearby. 113LABEL.jpg

5 Steps to Create a Dry Package

Now that we know the risks moisture poses to ESD components, follow these 5 steps to create a secure, dry package which will protect your PCBs against ElectroStatic Discharge and moisture:

  1. Place the desiccant and HIC onto the tray stack. Trays carry the devices. Remember to store desiccant in an air tight container until it used.
    Dry-Packaging-Step1.png
  1. Place the MSL label on the bag and note the proper level on the label.
    Dry-Packaging-Step2.png
  2. Place the tray stack (with desiccant and HIC) into the moisture barrier bag.
    Dry-Packaging-Step3.png
  3. Using a vacuum sealer, remove some of the air from the bag, and heat seal the bag closed. It is not good to take all the air out of the bag. Only slight evaluation is needed to allow the bag to fit inside a box.
    Dry-Packaging-Step4.png
  4. Now your devices are safe from moisture and static.
    Dry-Packaging-Step5.png

With the steps taken above, your package should now be properly sealed from moisture and protected from ElectroStatic discharge.

Looking for a moisture barrier bag for your application? See the SCS Moisture Barrier Bag Selection Guide to find the packaging that fits your specifications!

Last time, we discussed the storage requirements of ESD sensitive items. Today we want to focus on the overall selection process for ESD bags: from choosing the correct type of material all the way through to determining the right size for your application. Sounds complicated? Honestly – it’s not and once you have the right tools (you’re welcome!), you’ll be an expert in no time. So, let’s go!

Choose the correct material for your ESD bag
Before you get started, you need to be clear about the purpose of your ESD bag and the environment it’s being used in. Make sure you have the answers to the following questions:

  1. What do you intend to put inside the ESD bag? ESD sensitive items? Non-ESD sensitive items?
  2. Is moisture an issue you need to consider?
  3. Do you need your ESD bags to be self-sealable? Or will you be using ESD tape/labels to close your bags?
  4. Are the items inside your ESD bag sensitive to physical damage?
  5. Are the items you’re storing in your ESD bag particularly sharp which could potentially damage the material?
  6. Will the ESD bags (and obviously the items inside) be stored on a grounded shelf inside an EPA or are they being transported outside of an EPA, as well?

Once you have answers to ALL of the above questions, you can move on to the below selection chart and choose the right material for your application.

ESD sensitive items Moisture protection Self-sealable Physical protection Inside/
Outside EPA
Metal-In x x Both
Metal-Out x x Both
MBB – High Barrier x x x Both
MBB – Low Barrier x x x Both
Bubble Shielding x x Both
Conductive Black Only if used on a grounded surface Inside only if used with ESD sensitive items

A few more details on the different types of materials listed in the above chart:

  1. Metal-In Shielding Bags
    ESD bags which protect ESD sensitive items. The ESD shielding limits energy penetration from electrostatic charges and discharge. The dissipative outer layer dampens any discharge and therefore reduces damaging electrostatic events. They offer good see-through clarity. Available with and without dissipative zipper.

    Metal-In Shielding Bag – more information
  2. Metal-Out Shielding Bags
    Integral antistatic and low tribocharging bags which will not electrostatically charge contents during movement. Bags have a protective coated aluminum metal outer layer of laminated film; this promotes a more rapid discharge of static fields creating the event which the metal layer then attenuates. If RF field sensitivity is an issue, metal-out bags may be unsuitable. The rapid discharge to the highly conductive outer layer can create a higher radiated field which in return can cause issues for objects inside or near the bag. Available with and without dissipative zipper.

    Metal-Out Shielding Bag – more information
  3. Moisture Barrier Bags (MBB) – Low Barrier
    Offers ESD and moisture protection and can be used to pack SMD reels or trays. Available with and without dissipative zipper (except Dri-Shield® 2700).

    Low Barrier Moisture Barrier (MBB) Bag – more information
  4. Moisture Barrier Bags (MBB) – High Barrier
    Offer ESD and moisture protection and are ideal for applications where high moisture protection or conformance to IPC/JEDEC J-STD-033 is required. Available with and without dissipative zipper (except Dri-Shield® 3000).

    High Barrier Moisture Barrier (MBB) Bag – more information
  5. Cushioned Bags
    These bags combine the “Faraday Cage” and mechanical protection. They shield about twice as well as normal shielding bags of equivalent size. Bubble cushion layer provides heavy-duty protection that absorbs impact and prevents product damage.

    Cushioned Bag – more information
  6. Conductive Black Bags
    Black conductive film is made of virgin low density materials with black conductive compound to achieve high toughness and strength. This is commonly used for material handling, shipping and storage.

    Conductive Black Bag – more information

Calculating the correct size for your ESD bag
Once you have selected the correct type of material, it’s time to choose the right size for your ESD bag. There are different ways to determine this based on the type of material you use:

Shielding and Black Conductive Bags:
A. Bag Width = Item’s Thickness + Item’s Width + 25mm
B. Bag Length = Item’s Thickness + Item’s Length + 50mm

Moisture Barrier Bags (MBB):
A. Bag Width = Item’s Thickness + Item’s Width + 25mm
B. Bag Length = Item’s Thickness + Item’s Length + 76mm

Cushioned Bags:
A. Bag Width = Item’s Thickness + Item’s Width + 76mm
B. Bag Length = Item’s Thickness + Item’s Length + 76mm

Bonus Tip: Measuring a bag
It might seem obvious to some of you but given that we do get these types of queries on a regular basis, we thought this would be a good opportunity to include. Imagine you already have ESD bags that you use in your company. Someone has just taken the last one off the shelf and you need to order some more. How do you know what size ESD bag you have in front of you so you can place a new purchase order? No worries – we have the answer:

A. The width is measured from inside seam to inside seam. This is also your opening.
B. The length is measured from the top of the opening to the bottom of the bag.

Bonus Tip 2: Remember your ESDS items
Outside an ESD protected area, the objective of ESD protective packaging is to prevent a direct electrostatic discharge to the ESD sensitive item contained within and allow for dissipation of charge from the exterior surface. In addition, the packaging should minimize charging of the ESD sensitive item in response to an external electrostatic field and triboelectrification. If the user does not know the sensitivity of the items being used, we would always recommend static shielding packaging to be on the safe side.

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.