ESD – What You Need To Know

What is ESD?

Electrostatic discharge or ESD as it’s also known is the sudden flow that happens between two electrically charged objects. This can happen due to an electrical short, a dielectric breakdown or from contact of objects.

Within high-tech factories, electrostatic discharge is the sworn enemy. Unless proper procedures are in place, ESD is generally frustrating to deal with as on many occasions it can’t be detected by control inspections and in the worst cases can damage product reliability!

ESD has a direct impact on an organisation’s manufacture and assembly reputation, therefore, it is a pivotal part of our day to day process here at European Circuits.

European Circuits has spent over £35,000 on antistatic flooring in recent years.

ESD Protection

There are many ways to protect your products:

  • Make sure you only handle unpackaged ESD items in the protected area (EPA).
  • Continually monitor the process.
  • Test ESD footwear and wrist straps on a daily basis.
  • Make sure that grounding cords are connected using the naked eye.
  • Make sure wristbands are snug, foot grounding tab is on shoes and ensure ESD smocks (lab coats) cover all clothing on your torso.

Sign as you enter the European Circuits Assembly area.

The low down on an ESD Protected Area

The EPA is the section area that’s filled with ESD control items that protect against the damage to ESD sensitive devices. An EPA can control static electricity on all items that enter. The size of an EPA depends. It really comes down to circumstance. The area might be part of a factory workstation or might cover the whole area such as a full factory floor. An EPA might be a portable workstation too.

European Circuits employees test themselves throughout the working day.

What’s more interesting is that an EPA can be an ESD workstation itself. It’s an area that has been created to control ESD. By grounding all conductors and people and removing insulators, we’re able to limit electrostatic charges.

What’s the need to set up an ESD Protected Area?

To make sure all ESD sensitive devices, objects, people and surfaces are all at the same potential; ESD protection is achieved by using only grounding materials. These are materials with an electrical resistance within the range of 109ohm.

All people, products and surfaces are linked. Linked means bonded through a resistance of up to 10 megohms. Items like tools and containers (which are moveable) are bonded by virtue since they’re stood on a surface or held by a bonded person.

The ESD protected area should always adhere to having signage to where it’s located. You should know the basics and understand ESD control to limit the generation of ESD charges.

European Circuits’ Employee’s Daily Checklist

  1. Are you properly and safely grounded?
  2. Did you test and inspect your ESD personal equipment?
  3. Is the ESD at your work area properly grounded?
  4. Is your work station clear of all non-essential items?
  5. Are all visitors to your work area properly grounded?
  6. Are all ESD-sensitive items stored and transported in static shielding containers?
  7. Did you inspect each static shield container for damage?
  8. Did you make dure the static shield containers were properly closed?
  9. Are all ESD-sensitive items labelled correctly?
  10. Do you report any ESD hazards you notice to the quality manager?

Poster on display in assembly area above ESD personal test station.

Aren’t assemblies (PCBs) safe from ESD damage?

No! In fact, assemblies can be at greater risk because components may be directly touched. Once components are connected, ESD can damage more than one component. However, in most cases, it is reasonable to assume that assemblies can no longer be harmed once they are mounted in a chassis or machine.

Want to find out more about ESD control?

Protective measures are specified in a European Standard, EN 100 015-1, which also set up requirements for the measures to be taken.

Is ESD damage going to remain a problem?

Unfortunately yes, However, ESD damage can be significantly reduced if everyone follows proper ESD control procedures.

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