Are your Ionisers working correctly?

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 ionisation systems.
However, if an ioniser is out of balance, instead of neutralising 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 ionisers and verify their functionality. Below we have put together a list of tasks that need to be performed with ionisers 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.” (User Guide CLC/TR 61340-5-2 clause 4.7.6.7 Maintenance and cleaning)
EIA-625, recommends checking ionisers 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. EN 61340-5-1 clause 5.2.4 Compliance Verification Plan  states: “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.
Under normal conditions, an ioniser will attract dirt and dust (especially on the emitter points). To maintain optimum neutralisation efficiency and operation, cleaning should be performed on a regular basis.

1. Case
Wipe the case with a soft cloth and deionised 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 deionised 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 ioniser’s manual.

  • Turn the unit OFF and unplug the power cord.
  • Open the top screen by loosening the screw and swinging the grill to one side.
  • Clean the emitter points using an emitter point cleaner or a swab dampened with Isopropyl alcohol.
  • Re-attach the top screen.
  • Plug in the power cord and turn the unit ON.

Verify the performance of the ioniser by using a charged plate monitor or ionisation test kit (see below).

Cleaning of Emitter Points using SCS 9110-NO as an exampleCleaning 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
EN 61340-4-7 provides test methods and procedures for evaluating and selecting air ionisation equipment. It is recommended to measure the offset voltage and discharge times, clean the unit, including emitter points and air filters if present, offset the voltage to zero (if adjustable), and then repeat offset voltage and discharge time testing. Should the unit not meet offset voltage specifications or minimum established discharge time limits, further service is required. Manufacturers should provide details on service procedures and typical service intervals.
Most companies will assign a number or otherwise identify each ioniser and setup a Compliance Verification / Maintenance / Calibration schedule. If the ionisers all test good, the data can justify lengthening the calibration period. If ionisers require adjustment, the calibration period should be shortened.

Verification should be performed in accordance with EN 61340-4-7.
Below are general instructions on how to verify your ioniser’s offset voltage and discharge time. Always refer to the User Guide accompanying your charge plate monitor or ionisation test kit for proper operation and setup.

1. Testing Ioniser Offset Voltage:
The required limit per EN 61340-5-1 is less than ± 35 volts. Check your ioniser’s operating manual or consult with the ioniser manufacturer to determine what the offset voltage should be for your ioniser.

Charge Plate Monitor (CPM)

  • Position the ioniser and charge plate monitor as shown below.
  • Set the CPM to Decay/Offset mode.
  • 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.
  • Start the decay/offset test sequence on the CPM. This will take a few seconds.
  • Record the decay time, and offset voltage as displayed on the CPM.

Positioning your Charge Plate Monitor for Overhead and Benchtop Ionisers

Ionisation Test Kit

  • 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.
  • Hold the meter approximately one foot (30.5 cm) in front of the ioniser.
  • Monitor the display. The value displayed is the offset balance of the ioniser, which is the difference between the number of positive and negative ions being emitted.

Auditing ionisation equipment with the Digital Static Field Meter and Conductive PlateAuditing ionisation equipment with the Digital Static Field Meter and Conductive Plate

2. Testing Ioniser Discharge Time:
The required limit per EN 61340-5-1 is “(1 000 V to 100 V and –1 000 V to –100 V) < 20 s or user defined”. Please refer to the ioniser’s operating manual or consult with the ioniser manufacturer to determine what this discharge time should be.

Charge Plate Monitor (CPM)

  • Set the CPM to Decay/Offset mode.
  • 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.
  • Start the decay/offset test sequence on the CPM. This will take a few seconds.
  • Record the decay time, and offset voltage as displayed on the CPM.

Ionisation Test Kit

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

Some ionisers offer adjustment options (e.g. trim pots) which allow modification of the offset voltage.
However, if your ioniser is out of balance (and cannot be adjusted) or if the discharge time is out of specification, the ioniser will require service/repair by an authorised company.

Conclusion
Ionisation is one of the best methods of removing charges from insulators and as a result plays an important role in controlling ESD.
Remember though: ionisers require periodic cleaning of emitter pins and verifying of the offset voltage and discharge time. Otherwise, instead of neutralising charges, the ioniser will primarily produce positive or negative ions. The ioniser will therefore place an electrostatic charge on items that are not grounded, potentially discharging and causing ESD damage to nearby sensitive items.

How does Ionisation fit into an ESD Control Programme?

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

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

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

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

The method most frequently used to increase the conductivity of the air is ionisation.
Ionisers are useful in preventing electrostatic charge generation, ElectroStatic Discharge, ElectroStatic Attraction, as well as preventing equipment latch-up. EN 61340-5-1 clause 5.3.4.2 Insulators states: “If the measured electrostatic field or surface potential exceeds the stated limits, ionization or other charge mitigating techniques shall be used.

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

Ionisers create great numbers of positively and negatively charged ions. Fans help the ions flow over the work area. If there is a static charge present on an item in the work area, it will be reduced and neutralised by attracting opposite polarity charges from the air.
Ionisation can neutralise static charges on an insulator in a matter of seconds, thereby reducing their potential to cause ESD damage.

Electronic enclosures are process-essential insulatorsElectronic enclosures are process-essential insulators.

The charged ions created by an ioniser will:

  • neutralise charges on process required insulators,
  • neutralise charges on non-essential insulators,
  • neutralise isolated conductors and
  • minimise triboelectric charging.

How does Ionisation fit into an ESD Control Programme?
Ionisation is just one component of your ESD Control Programme. Before utilising ionisation, you should follow the fundamental principles of ESD Control:

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

“Air ionization is not a replacement for grounding methods. It is one component of a complete static control program. Ionizers are used when it is not possible to properly ground everything and as backup to other static control methods. In clean rooms, air ionization may be one of the few methods of static control available.” (User Guide CLC/TR 61340-5-2 clause 4.7.6 Ionization)

  • Ionisers can be critical to reduce induction charging caused by process necessary insulators
  • Ionisers can be critical in eliminating charges on isolated conductors like devices on PCBs
  • Ionisation can reduce ElectroStatic Attraction (ESA) and charged particles clinging and contaminating products.

The SCS Ioniser 9110-NO in use.The SCS Ioniser 9110-NO in use.

It is recommended to use ionisers with feedback mechanisms, so you’re notified if the offset voltage is out of balance.
Ionisers should be pieces of equipment that have serial numbers and are included in the company’s maintenance and calibration schedules. This is particularly critical to ensure that the offset voltage or balance is within acceptable limits. Otherwise, instead of neutralising charges the out of balance ioniser will charge insulators and isolated conductors. The user, depending on the value and function of their products, must determine the appropriate frequency of maintenance and calibration.

Summary
The best way to keep electrostatic sensitive devices (ESDs) from damage is to ground all conductive objects and remove insulators. This is not always possible because some insulators are “process-essential” and are necessary to build or assemble the finished product. The only way to control charges on these necessary non-conductive items is the use of ionisation systems. Applications include:

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

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

Controlling Static Charge Generation with ESD Flooring

Static discharges can be noticed when you touch an object of different electrical potential such as a door knob, and a bolt of electricity flows from your charged body to the door knob. This flow of electricity is actually a result of the stored static charge that is being rapidly transferred to the knob. This discharge that can be felt as well as seen, is commonly referred to as an electrostatic discharge, or “ESD”.
The generated static charges are a potentially costly occurrence for office and factory employers. You will learn in today’s post how they can easily be controlled with different types of floor material.

Static Charge Generation from Flooring
When a person walks across a floor, a triboelectric charge builds up in the body due to the friction between the shoes and floor material. The simple separation of two surfaces (such as a person walking across a floor with soles contracting and separating from the floor) can cause a transfer of electrons resulting in one surface being positively and the other one negatively charged, resulting in static charges.

Generating Charges by walking across a CarpetGenerating Charges by walking across carpet

It is not necessarily the static charge generated in the body that does the damage as much as it is the difference in potential that creates an electrostatic discharge.

The problem with ESD
The generation of a static charge can pose quite a problem for environments that contain sensitive equipment or components that are vulnerable to static damage, such as electronics manufacturing, repair facilities and medical facilities, including computer rooms and clean rooms.
Controlling the damage and costs caused by ESD is usually the main concern that drives a company to implement a static control programme. The costs involved with static damage not only include the immediate cost of the damaged component, but the contributing cost of diagnostic, repair and labour that is needed to replace or fix the component. In many cases the labour involved can far exceed the component cost.

Flooring Materials
There are several options available on the market ranging from coatings (floor finish or paint) to coverings (vinyl or rubber). The choice of material depends on the mechanical and optical properties required as well as the available budget.
In general, floor coverings will last longer (10 years or more) than a floor coating. They are more durable and have a specific resistance to ground that remains constant over time.

Types of Floor Coverings – click here for more information

Coatings are easier to apply and repair and their initial cost is considerably lower. Coatings are usually applied to existing floors and often serve to convert a conventional floor into an ESD floor. However, regular maintenance is required as coatings will lose their ESD properties over time.

1. Floor Coatings

  • Antistatic Coating:
    Conventional carpets can be treated with an Antistatic Coating or other treatment. It is required that the treatment be replenished on the carpet as it wears away due to foot traffic.
    ESD carpet is available but proper maintenance is very important.
  • ESD Floor Finish:
    Existing hard surfaces (e.g. concrete, sealed or painted wood, linoleum, asphalt) can be treated with ESD Floor Finish to eliminate the need for ESD control flooring. Repeat applications are required periodically to keep ESD properties within specification.
  • ESD Paint:
    Paint is ideal for providing a cost effective static-free environment and is very effective as a static control floor coating for electronics manufacturing, assembly and storage. It controls dissipation of static electricity and provides path to ground.

2. Floor Coverings:
Floor coverings will have either “conductive” or “dissipative” electrical properties:

  • Conductive materials have a resistance to ground (RG) of greater than 1 x 103 ohms but less than 1 x 105
  • Dissipative materials have a resistance to ground (RG) of greater than 1 x 105 ohms but less than 1 x 1012

It is recommended to use conductive flooring material; EN 61340-5-1 requires ESD flooring to be less than 1 x 109 ohms (RG). The same standard requires a person/footwear/flooring to be less than 3.5 x 107 ohms (resistance in series of operator plus footwear plus floor). Remember that floors get dirty which can raise floor resistance. Therefore, it is good to start off with a floor that is conductive (less than 1 x 106 ohms). So even if the resistance increases, you’re within the required limits of the ESD Standard.

  • Carpet:
    ESD control carpets are made with static dissipative yarn and only require that the yarn be kept clean and free of insulative dirt, dust and spray cleaners.
  • Matting:
    Types of matting range from vinyl to rubber and anti-fatigue matting.
    Vinyl is generally cheaper and provides high resistance to many chemicals. Rubber on the other hand is more durable and can withstand extreme hot and cold temperatures. Anti-fatigue matting (AFM Series) is designed to provide comfort for personnel that must stand or walk for long periods.

Considerations when using Flooring Materials
1. Grounding
EN 61340-5-1 requires that all conductors in an ESD protected area, including personnel, must be grounded. This includes ESD flooring; it must be electrically connected and attached to a known ground. The Desco Europe floor mat ground cord 231265 is just one option for grounding floor matting.

2. Periodic Verification
All ESD control items (including ESD flooring) have to be tested:

  • Prior to installation to qualify product for listing in user’s ESD control plan.
  • During initial installation.
  • For periodic checks of installed products as part of EN 61340-5-1 clause 5.2.4 Compliance verification plan.

19290_RtgMeasuring Surface Resistance of ESD Floor Matting – click here for more information

A surface resistance meter can be used to verify compliance of the ESD floor with the ESD standard.

3. Person/Footwear/Flooring System
ESD flooring does not ensure protection from ESD damage unless operators walking across the ESD floor wear ESD footwear, either ESD shoes or ESD foot grounders.
ESD foot grounders are designed to reliably contact grounded ESD flooring and provide a continuous path-to-ground by removing electrostatic charges from personnel. They are easy to install and can be used on standard shoes by placing the grounding tab in the shoe under the foot.
Foot grounders must be worn on both feet to maintain the integrity of the body-to-ground connection Wearing a foot grounder on each foot ensures contact with ground via the ESD floor even when one foot is lifted off the floor. This will more reliably remove static charges generated by human movement.
Desco Europe offer a number of different foot grounder types for your requirements.

Conclusion
Static charges can easily be controlled with different types of floor material which vary in their properties, cost and durability. The best static control systems are not only the ones that protect sensitive components and equipment but are: A) at hand and readily available, B) easily maintained. Floor coverings are long lasting and maintain their ESD properties over time, while existing floors can be economically converted for use in an ESD control program using various types of coatings.
Remember that all ESD control items such as flooring, personnel grounding and specialty equipment should be grounded and tested periodically to verify all components are within specification.

Not sure which ESD flooring is right for you? Request a free ESD Survey at your facility by one of our knowledgeable representatives to evaluate your ESD programme and answer any ESD questions!

 

 

 

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Internet of Things (IoT) in ESD Control

In today’s connected world, we are surrounded by home monitoring networks, fitness trackers and other smart systems. They all use an IoT platform to keep us up to-date with the current temperature in our house or the number of steps we have taken in a day. Is there a way to use this incredibly smart technology to improve ESD Control? Let’s take a look!

1. Internet of Things (IoT)
The Internet of Things (IoT):

  • Connects “things” in the physical world to the internet using sensors.
  • Collects data for these “things” via sensors.
  • Analyses the collected data and provides a deeper insight into the “things”.

This is a very broad and vague definition but then IoT is used everywhere today – from medical devices to vehicles, homes etc.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical devices, vehicles, home appliances, and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and connectivity which enables these things to connect and exchange data, creating opportunities for more direct integration of the physical world into computer-based systems, resulting in efficiency improvements, economic benefits, and reduced human exertions.” [Source]

The history of IoTThe history of IoT [Source]

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) applies specifically to manufacturing and industrial processes.
It has slightly different requirements compared to consumer IoT products but the principle is the same: smart machines (incorporating various sensors) accurately and consistently capture and analyse real-time data allowing companies to pick-up problems as soon as (or even before) they appear.

2. Industry 4.0
IoT helped push the 3rd industrial revolution (machine automation) one step further. “Cyber Physical Systems (CPS) dominate the manufacturing floor, linking real objects with information processing, and virtual objects via the internet. The goal is to converge Operational Technology (OT) and Information Technology (IT).” [Source]
The 4th industrial revolution is also referred to as “Industry 4.0”. “At the very core Industry 4.0 includes the (partial) transfer of autonomy and autonomous decisions to cyber-physical systems and machines, leveraging information systems”. [Source]

Industry-4.0-shutterstock_524444866_pk_cutIndustry 4.0 as fourth industrial revolution [Source]

So, how can companies use the power of IoT and create accessible, real-time feedback on the status of their ESD Control Protected Area (EPA) and ESD control items?

3. IoT in ESD Control
ESD damages can be extremely costly – especially when it comes to latent defects that are not detected until the damaged component is installed in a customer’s system. Conventional ESD control programmes incorporate periodic verification checks of ESD control products to detect any issues that could result in ESD events and ESD damage. The problem is that ESD control products (and the EPA as a whole) are not constantly monitored.
Take an ioniser for example: if a company uses ionisation to handle process-essential insulators, the ionisers need to be fully reliable at all times. If an ioniser passes one check but is found to be out of balance at the next, the company faces a huge problem: nobody knows WHEN exactly the ioniser failed or if contributed to a charged insulator potentially causing ESD damage.
The Industry 4.0 IoT platform will be a game changer when it comes to creating a reliable and dependable ESD control programme. Sensors collecting vital ESD information like field voltage, Electromagnetic Interference (EMI), temperature, humidity etc. in an EPA will help detect potential threats in real-time allowing supervisors to take action even before an ESD threat occurs. Here is a (by no means exhaustive) list of advantages, IoT can bring to ESD Control:

Collecting Data
The day in an EPA can be busy. Taking the time to capture and record measurements of ionisers, wrist straps, work surfaces, automated processes etc. can be disruptive and is prone to errors. IoT allows data to be collected automatically without any input from users. This helps to increase the accuracy of data and allows operators and supervisors more time focusing on their actual jobs.

SmartLogwithUnitSmartLog Pro®: the SMART Access Control System – more information

Analysing Data
Supervisors have all the essential data in one place right in front of them and are able to make informed decisions; they can provide feedback and give suggestions in case of an ESD emergency. IoT allows to pinpoint areas of concern and prevent ESD events.

24/7 Monitoring
IoT continuously monitors processes and provides a real-time picture of them – no manual checks required. If a potential threat is detected, warnings will show-up immediately. There is no need to worry about potentially damaging sensitive devices because the next scheduled check of ionisers, wrist straps etc. has not been completed yet.

Cutting Costs
The number one reason for adapting an ESD control programme is to reduce costs by:

  • Enhancing quality and productivity,
  • Increasing reliability,
  • Improving customer satisfaction,
  • Lowering repair, rework and field service costs and
  • Reducing material, labour and overhead costs.

IoT pushes all of the above even further

  • Reduced workload for operators: Data is collected remotely without any input from users. Operators are not disrupted in their day-to-day activities.
  • Reduced workload for supervisors: Supervisors don’t have to collect and analyse data from personnel testers, field meters, monitors etc. The system does it for them and will highlight any issues.
  • Further increases in productivity and cost reductions: An ESD Programme can be managed better and with fewer resources.

SMT-Line-LayoutStatic Management Program (SMP): the next generation of ESD Process Control – more information

4. Conclusion
IoT will no doubt change ESD control and the way EPAs are monitored. Quantifiable data allows companies to see trends, become more proactive and improve the efficiency of their ESD process control system. IoT will support organisations’ efforts to make more dependable products, improve yields, increase automation and provide a measurable return on investment. Not only will this benefit users and supervisors, but the company as a whole.

 

 

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Resources:
Bill McCabe: Quick History of the Internet of Things..
Margaret Rouce: industrial internet of things (IIoT)
Michelle Lam: ESD Control in the World of IoT
Ian Wright: What Is Industry 4.0, Anyway?
Pascal Kriesche: Humans vs. machines – who will manage the factory of the future?
Industry 4.0: the fourth industrial revolution – guide to Industrie 4.0

Increase your Return on Investment with a successful ESD Control Programme

It is now well-known that electronic devices and systems can be damaged by exposure to high electric fields as well as by direct electrostatic discharges. Many companies implement an ElectroStatic Discharge (ESD) Control Programme with the aim of improving their operations. Effective ESD control can be a key to improving:

  • Productivity,
  • Quality and
  • Customer satisfaction.

A successful ESD Control Programme can also save you money which we want to focus on in today’s post.

Types of ESD Damage
There are two types of ESD damage:
1) catastrophic failure and
2) latent defects.

While catastrophic failures cause an ESD sensitive item to be damaged permanently, latent defects only partially degrade an ESD sensitive item that is exposed to an ESD event. It may continue to perform its intended function and may not be detected by normal inspection. However, intermittent or permanent failures may occur later. Even if an ESD sensitive component has quite a high withstand voltage and no catastrophic failure has been caused, latent defects may still make your life miserable.

Types of ESD DamageTypes of ESD Damage

A catastrophic failure of an electronic component can be the least costly type of ESD damage as it may be detected and repaired at an early manufacturing stage.
Latent damage caused by ESD is potentially costlier since damage occurs that cannot be felt, seen or detected through normal inspection procedures. Latent defects can be very expensive as the product passes all inspection steps and the product is completed and shipped. Latent defects can severely impact the reputation of a company’s product. Intermittent failures after shipping a product can be frustrating, particularly when the customer returns a product, reporting a problem which the factory again fails to detect. It consequently passes inspection and the product is returned to the customer with the problem unresolved.

Implementing an ESD Control Programme
A prerequisite of ESD control is the accurate and consistent identification of ESD susceptible items. Some companies assume that all electronic components are ESD susceptible. However, others write their ESD control plan based on the device and item susceptibility or withstand voltage of the most sensitive components used in the facility. A general rule is to treat any device or component that is received in ESD packaging as an ESD susceptible item.

The Organization shall prepare an ESD Control Program Plan that addresses each of the requirements of the Program. Those requirements include:

  • training
  • compliance verification
  • grounding / equipotential bonding systems
  • personnel grounding
  • EPA requirements
  • packaging systems
  • marking.” [EN 61340-5-1 clause 5.2.1 ESD control program plan]

Each company has different processes, and so will require a different blend of ESD prevention measures for an optimum ESD control program. It is vital that these measures are selected, based on technical necessity and carefully documented in an ESD control program plan, so that all concerned can be sure of the program requirements.” [EN 61340-5-1 Introduction]

Increasing Return on Investment with an ESD Control Programme
When it comes to reducing quality failures due to ESD, a thorough ESD Control Programme that is followed throughout the receiving, manufacturing, storage and shipping departments, is essential.

Below are two case studies that show what return on investment (ROI) can be achieved from implementing an ESD Control Programme.

1. AT&T
Former ESD Manager Terry O’Malley collected data for their Albuquerque and St. Louis facilities. The graph clearly displays a reduction in return and repair costs of more than 50% after an ESD Control Programme was implemented.

AT&TROI for AT&T (Source)

2.Lucent Technologies
The below overview shows the relationship between the relative cost benefits and compliance to Lucent’s ESD Control Programme. You can expect a typical ROI of 1,000% for a strict ESD Control Pogramme used by Lucent.

Lucent“Cost Benefit and ESD Control Programme Compliance” Relationship for Lucent (Source)

Organisations like AT&T, Motorola, Agilent Technologies and IBM were able to demonstrate the benefits of implementing an ESD Control Programme. In each of these companies, the introduced programme resulted in a substantial return on their original investment. The only way to accurately calculate the return on investment (ROI) from an ESD Control Programme, is to track the return, repair and scrap cost data before and after the introduction.

Even if your company is unable to track detailed data, it is still worth investing in an ESD Control Programme. “A properly implemented ESD program can have an ROI exceeding five to one within six months.” (Source)

Conclusion
As electronic technology advances, electronic circuitry gets progressively smaller. As the size of components is reduced, so is the microscopic spacing of insulators and circuits within them, increasing their sensitivity to ESD. Therefore, the need for proper ESD protection increases every day – not just to protect sensitive devices but also to allow companies to survive, be profitable and grow.
Independent consultants and corporate studies have found that ESD losses can be as high as 10% of annual revenues with an estimated average negative impact of 6.5% of revenues. Based on 1997-2001 production data, the international electronics industry is losing in excess of $84 billion every year. Other than increasing sales, ESD control is the single most profitable opportunity for our industry in today’s economic conditions.” (Source)

A proper ESD control programme will increase profitability of a company by:

  • Enhancing quality and productivity,
  • Increasing reliability,
  • Improving customer satisfaction,
  • Lowering repair, rework and field service costs and
  • Reducing material, labour and overhead costs

 

 

 

 

References:
Michael T. Brandt: What does ESD really cost?
Ryne C. Allen: ESD Control and ROI

Controlling ESD/EOS during the Soldering Process

When the tip of a soldering iron comes into direct electrical contact with the pins of a sensitive component, there is a danger of voltage and/or current signal transfer between:

  • the grounded iron tip and the grounded PC board,
  • the ungrounded iron tip and the grounded PC board,
  • the grounded iron tip and the ungrounded PC board.

This can cause Electrical Overstress (EOS) and Electrostatic Discharge (ESD).

What is EOS and why is it important to detect?
EOS is the exposure of a component or PCB board to a current and/or voltage outside its operational range. This absolute maximum rating (AMR) differs from one device to the next and needs to be provided by the manufacturer of each component used during the soldering process. EOS can cause damage, malfunction or accelerated aging in sensitive devices.

ESD can be generated if a component and a board have different potentials and the voltage transfers from one to the other. When such an event happens, the component goes through EOS. ESD can influence EOS, but EOS can also be influenced by other signals.
Many people are familiar with Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) which is caused by the spontaneous discharge between two materials that are at different levels of ElectroStatic potential. Once electrostatic potential between the two materials is balanced, the ESD event will stop.
An EOS event on the other hand is created by voltage and/or current spikes when operating equipment; it can therefore last “as long as the originating signal exists”. [Source] The potentially never-ending stimulus of EOS is what makes it such a big concern in the electronics industry. Even though the voltage levels are generally much lower compared to an ESD event, applying this smaller voltage combined with a larger peak current over a long period of time will cause significant damage.
The high temperatures during an EOS event (created by the high current) can lead to visible EOS damage.

For more information on EOS and the differences to ESD, check-out this post.

Sources of EOS during the Soldering Process
When soldering components, it’s the tip of the soldering iron that comes into contact with the potentially sensitive device. Therefore, many people assume the soldering tip is the cause of ESD/EOS. However, the soldering iron and its tip are just some of the components used at a workbench. Other components on the bench like tweezers, wiring, test equipment, etc. can also be sources of ESD/EOS as they come into contact with the component or board:

  • Loss of Ground
    The tip of an ungrounded soldering iron can accumulate a voltage of up to ½ of the iron’s supply voltage. It can be caused within the soldering iron itself or in power outlets.
  • Noise on Ground
    If a noise signal exists on ground, the tip of the solder iron will carry noise, too. These high-frequency signals, or electromagnetic interference (EMI), are disturbances that affect an electrical circuit, due to either electromagnetic induction or electromagnetic radiation emitted from an external source.
  • Noise on Power Lines
    Noise not only generates via ground but in power lines, too. Transformers and power supplies that convert voltages to 24V are the main culprit. They regularly carry high-frequency spikes which end up on the tip of the soldering iron.
  • Power Tools
    Although not technically related to the soldering process itself, it’s worth mentioning that the tips of power tools (e.g. electric screwdrivers) may not be properly grounded during rotation. This can result in high voltage on the tip itself.
  • Missing/Inadequate ESD Protection
    ESD can be a cause of EOS damage. Therefore, it is essential to have proper ESD Protection in place. A voltage on the operator or the PCB board can otherwise lead to an ESD Event and expose the components on the PCB to EOS.

Detecting EOS during the Soldering Process
1. Diagnostic Tools

  • SCS CTM051 Ground Pro Meter
    The SCS CTM051 Ground Pro Meter is a comprehensive instrument that measures ground impedance, AC and DC voltage on the ground as well as the presence of high-frequency noise or electromagnetic interference (EMI) voltage on the ground. It will alert if the soldering iron tip has lost its ground or has EMI voltage induced into the tip from an internal source on the soldering iron or from an EMI noisy ground or power lines.
    SCS CTM051 Ground Pro Meter
  • SCS CTM048 EM Eye – ESD Event Meter
    The SCS CTM048 EM Eye – ESD Event Meter paired with the SCS CTC028 EM Field Sensor is a diagnostic tool for the detection and analysis of ESD events and electromagnetic fields and can identify sources of harmful ESD Events and electromagnetic interference (EMI).
    SCS CTM048 EM Eye – ESD Event Meter

2. EOS Continuous Monitors

  • SCS CTC331-WW Iron Man® Plus Workstation Monitor
    The SCS CTC331-WW Iron Man® Plus Workstation Monitor is a single workstation continuous monitor which continuously monitors the path-to-ground integrity of an operator and conductive/dissipative worksurface and meets ANSI/ESD S20.20.
    The Iron Man® Plus Workstation Monitor is an essential tool when it comes to EOS detection. The unit is capable of detecting EOS on boards and alarms if an overvoltage (±5V or less) from a tool such as a soldering iron or electric screwdriver is applied to a circuit board under assembly.SCS CTC331-WW Iron Man® Plus Workstation Monitor

3. Data Acquisition

  • SCS Static Management Program
    SCS Static Management Program (SMP) continuously monitors the ESD parameters throughout all stages of manufacturing. It captures data from SCS workstation monitors, ground integrity monitors for equipment, ESD event and static voltage continuous monitors and provides real-time data of manufacturing processes. The SCS 770063 EM Aware Monitor, which is part of SMP, can help during the soldering process by monitoring ESD events and change of static voltage that may result in EOS. The EM Aware alarms (visual and audibly) locally and sends data to the database of the SMP system if any of the ESD parameters are detected to be higher than user-defined limits.
    SCS Static Management Program

Eliminating EOS during the Soldering Process
Once the source of EOS is known, there are many things that can be done to prevent it in the first place:

1. Managing Voltage on a PCB board
The only way to handle voltage on a PCB board is through ionisation. An ioniser creates great numbers of positively and negatively charged ions. Fans help the ions flow over the work area. Ionisation can neutralise static charges (or voltage) on a PCB board in a matter of seconds.
For more information on ionisation and how to choose the right type of ioniser for your application, please read these posts.

2. Managing Voltage on an Operator
Static voltage on an operator can be eliminated through proper grounding using a workstation monitor, e.g. WS Aware or Iron Man Plus Monitor. Sitting personnel is required to wear wrist straps. A wrist strap consists of a conductive wristband which provides an electrical connection to skin of an operator, and a coil cord, which is connected to a known ground point at a workbench, a tool or a continuous monitor. While a wrist strap does not prevent generation of voltages, its purpose is to dissipate these voltages to ground as quickly as possible.
Sitting personnel can also use continuous monitors – not only is the operator grounded through the continuous monitor, but they also provides a number of additional advantages:

  • Immediate feedback should a wrist strap fail
  • Monitoring of operators and work stations
  • Detection of split-second failures
  • Elimination of periodic testing

This post provides more details on continuous monitors.
Moving or standing personnel are grounded via a flooring/footwear system. ESD Footwear (e.g. foot grounders) are designed to reliably contact grounded ESD flooring and provide a continuous path-to-ground by removing electrostatic voltages from personnel.

3. Managing Current
One solution is the “re-routing of ground connection and separation of “noisy” ground from a clean one” as “connecting soldering iron and the workbench to the “quiet” ground often result in lower level of transient signals.“. [Source]
This will greatly reduce the high-frequency noise that could cause EOS damage.
If the noise on power lines and ground cannot be reduced manually, then the use of noise filters becomes necessary to reduce the risk of EOS exposure during the soldering process. Utilising these filters suppresses the noise on power lines and will allow the solder iron to use “clean” power only.
In his papers, Vladimir Kraz, explains the set-up of a soldering station using a noise filter in more detail.

Managing CurrentSoldering Iron with Power Line EMI Filter [Source]

Conclusion
During the soldering process, current and voltage spikes between the solder tip and PCB can cause ESD/EOS. Sources are varied:

  • Loss of Ground
  • Noise on Ground
  • Noise on Power Lines
  • Power Tools
  • Missing/Inadequate ESD Protection

Desco Europe offer a number of tools that can detect current, voltage and EMI – all potentially leading to ESD and EOS. Once the source of ESD/EOS is known, the next step is eliminating the source:

  • Managing Voltage on a PCB board using ionisers.
  • Managing Voltage on an operator using workstation monitors or foot grounders.
  • Managing Current using noise filters.
  • Managing voltage on materials at the work bench.
  • Managing ESD generation during specific processes.
  • Managing grounding.

 

 

References:

Is air humidification a necessity for ESD Control?

Have you ever walked across the car park on a bright cold winter’s day only to get zapped by your car’s door handle? Yup, we’ve all been there and it’s commonly known that these ‘zaps’ are much more frequent in cold dry weather. It begs the question: if I don’t get zapped when the air is moist, will using air humidifiers in a manufacturing environment prevent ESD damage of sensitive components? Let’s find out!

Humidity
Humidity describes the amount of water vapour in the air. There are 3 main measurements of humidity with the most common one being the relative humidity (RH). It is expressed in percent and describes “how much humidity there is in the air, compared to how much there could be. Meteorologists often use the relative humidity as a measurement to describe the weather at various places.” [Source]
At 0% the air is completely dry; at 100% it is so moist that mist or dew can form. The optimum relative humidity level is somewhere between 40% and 60%:

  • A lower relative humidity increases charge generation as the environment is drier.
  • If the humidity level is too high, condensation can form on surfaces.

Charge Generation and ElectroStatic Discharge (ESD)
The simple separation of two surfaces generates an ElectroStatic charge. Examples:

  • Unwinding a roll of tape
  • Gas or liquid moving through a hose or pipe
  • A person walking across a floor with heels and soles contacting and separating from the floor

Generating Charges by walking across a CarpetWalking across a floor generates ElectroStatic charges

The amount of static electricity generated varies and is affected by materials, friction, area of contact and the relative humidity of the environment. A higher charge is generated at low humidity, in a dry environment.
Once an item has generated a charge, it will want to come into balance. If it is in close enough proximity to a second item, there can be a rapid, spontaneous transfer of electrostatic charge. This is called discharge or ElectroStatic Discharge (ESD).

Going back to our earlier example of getting a zap from your car’s door handle:

  1. Charge generation: you walk across the car park with your soles contacting and separating from the floor. A charge is built-up on you.
  2. ElectroStatic Discharge (ESD): you touch the door handle. Charges move from your body to your car until both are balanced out.

Impact of relative humidity on ESD
Many people will notice a difference in the ability to generate static electricity when the air gets dryer (relative humidity decreases). Relative humidity (RH) directly affects the ability of a surface to store an electrostatic charge. “With a humidity level of 40% RH, surface resistance is lowered on floors, carpets, table mats and other areas. … the moisture in the air forms a thin protective “film” on surfaces that serves as a natural conductor to dissipate electric charges. When humidity drops below 40% RH, this protection disappears and normal employee activities lead to objects being charged with static electricity.” [Source]

PCB-Damage

In an electronics manufacturing environment lower humidity may result in lower output from production due to an increase in ESD events during manufacturing processes.

Air Humidification and ESD
Air humidifiers are used to add moisture to the air and are commonly used in drier environments to keep humidity at a constant (optimum) level. Given that a lower humidity level increases the risk of ESD events, the obvious questions are:

  1. Can air humidifiers replace normal ESD Control measures?
  2. Are air humidifiers required for complete ESD protection?

Let’s address both of these questions:

  • Let’s be very clear about one thing here: air humidifiers cannot replace ESD Control measures.As explained further above, ESD is caused by two items that are at a different electrostatic equipotential and want to equalise their charges. Adding moisture to the air using humidifiers will not stop this discharge from happening. The only thing you may achieve is a reduction in the number of ESD events. BUT: they will still happen; just walking across a carpet will generate a charge on an operator. If they then touch an ESD sensitive component, discharge will still occur and may damage the component. No humidifier in the world will prevent this.
    The only way to control electrostatic charges on a person or object is through ESD grounding – this will ensure any charges generated dissipate to earth:

    • Operators need to be grounded using wrist straps or a footwear/flooring system.
    • Surfaces need to grounded using appropriate matting and ground cords.

    For more information on how to create a ESD workstation and how to correctly ground all elements, have a look at this post.

EBP-Bar-for-Flyer

Grounding of an operator using a wrist strap

  • Low air humidity can increase the number of ESD events so it may make sense to keep a factory at a higher humidity level. However, there are many other factors that come into play when choosing the ‘right’ humidity for a manufacturing environment. The recommended humidity range is usually determined by the specifications of the devices and components being assembled. Increasing the humidity in an electronics manufacturing facility can help to reduce ESD events but increased humidity can lead to other unwanted quality issues in an electronics manufacturing environment such as corrosion, soldering defects and the popcorn effect on moisture sensitive devices.
    A normal range for humidity in electronics manufacturing is between 30% RH and 70% RH. Some facilities try to maintain a constant moderate RH (~50%), whereas other environments may want lower % RH due to corrosion susceptibility to humidity sensitive parts.
    And remember: you will not eliminate ESD by using humidifiers and keeping humidity levels at a higher humidity level. You need an ESD Control Programme in place to avoid ESD and associated damages.

Conclusion
A lower relative humidity level increases charge generation as the environment is drier. This will result in more ESD events which can potentially damage sensitive components. The only way to protect sensitive components from ESD damage is by having proper ESD control measures in place and connecting operators, objects and surfaces to ground. This will ensure each element is kept at the same electrical potential and any electrostatic discharge is being removed to ground.
Humidification can help reduce the number of ESD events in an electronics manufacturing environment but at the same time there are other factors (e.g. moisture sensitivity of components) that need to be considered, too.

“Product Qualification” is a new Requirement of IEC 61340-5-1

In a previous blog post we discussed the “Walking Test”, a new requirement that was introduced with the latest ESD Standard published in 2016. There was another significant update to the ESD Standard that most people are not aware of: product qualification. Today’s post will explain in detail what this requirement entails and how you can ensure you’re compliant with the current ESD Standard.

Introduction
A second edition of IEC 61340-5-1 was published in 2016 cancelling and replacing the first edition issued in 2007. The current document added section 5.2.3 on “product qualification”.
Product qualification “is the process of certifying that a certain product has passed performance tests and quality assurance tests, and meets qualification criteria stipulated in contracts, regulations, or specifications (typically called “certification schemes” in the product certification industry).” [Source]

So, you’re now probably wondering what exactly this change means for you – simple: if you want to be compliant with IEC 61340-5-1, you have to ensure that any ESD control items you are using in your ESD Control Programme meet the Product Qualifications outlined in the Standard.

Tables 2 and 3 of the Standard outline:

  • Test methods and
  • Associated limits

for the product qualification of each ESD control item.

Requirement for 61340-5-1 ComplianceProduct Qualification is a Requirement for 61340-5-1 Compliance

Acceptable proofs of Product Qualification
So, now you know WHAT is required, the next question is HOW to verify if your ESD control items comply with the ESD Standard 61340-5-1. First things first: for any products you have acquired before adopting IEC 61340-5-1:2016, you can use ongoing compliance verification records as proof of product qualification. For more information on compliance verification, we suggest reading this post.

Once you have adopted IEC 61340-5-1:2016, any new products you chose to purchase need to be qualified to ensure they comply with the ESD Standard. There are a number of things you can use:

  1. The manufacturer’s datasheets.
  2. Test reports from independent laboratories or
  3. Your own internal test reports

Whatever option you choose, the datasheet or report of each product needs to fulfil the following requirements:

  • Display the IEC test method and
  • Mentioned test limits needed to comply with the ESD Standard.

If you are using ESD control items that are not listed in tables 2 and 3 of the ESD Standard, you need to qualify those items before starting to use them. The test method and acceptable limits need to be documented in your ESD control programme. If you need help setting up an ESD control plan, have a look at this post.

Summary
The latest ESD Standard 61340-5-1 published in 2016 added section 5.2.3 on “product qualification”. If your company wants to be compliant with IEC 61340-5-1, you have to ensure that any ESD control items you are using in your ESD Protected Area (EPA) meet the requirements of the ESD Standard.

Acceptable proofs of product qualification are:

  1. The manufacturer’s datasheets.
  2. Test reports from independent laboratories or
  3. Your own internal test reports
  4. Ongoing compliance verification records (only for items acquired before adopting the ESD Standard)

Desco Europe has a comprehensive range of technical information online, including product specification to the required Standards. Contact Desco Europe today for assistance with your product qualification plan.

Organising your ESD Workstation using 5S

Although not strictly related to ElectroStatic Discharge (ESD), we all know that a tidy workstation is essential when it comes to ‘getting the job done’. Having a cluttered desk and not being able to find the tools you need makes everything take twice as long. Ever heard of the 5S methodology? In today’s post, we will show how this approach can be applied to an ESD workstation. We’ll also introduce a few ESD products that can help in becoming more efficient and productive when handling ESD sensitive devices.

5S Methodology
5S is the name of a workplace organization method that uses a list of five Japanese words: seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu, and shitsuke. Transliterated into Roman Script, they all start with the letter “S”.[1] The list describes how to organize a work space for efficiency and effectiveness by identifying and storing the items used, maintaining the area and items, and sustaining the new order.” [Source]
Generally speaking, 5S incorporates 5 phases:

  1. Sort
  2. Arrange
  3. Clean
  4. Standardise
  5. Sustain

This post is going to focus on the first two steps of 5S.

Sorting an ESD Workstation
Items at an ESD protective workstation should be either dissipative or conductive so that electrostatic charges are removed to ground when in contact with a grounded operator or grounded ESD mat.
The protection of ESDS is accomplished by providing a ground path to bring ESD protective materials and personnel to the same electrical potential. All conductor and dissipative items in the environment, including personnel, shall be bonded or electrically connected to a known ground or common connection point. This connection results in sharing of charge which equalizes the voltage across all items and personnel and eliminates the chances of an ESD event to ESD sensitive devices. Electrostatic protection can be maintained at a potential different from a “zero” voltage ground reference as long as all items in the system are at the same potential.“ [CLC/TR 61340-5-2 Clause 4.4 Grounding/bonding systems]

So, before moving any further operators need to take a good look at their workstation and eliminate any items that are not essential to their workflow.
All non-essential insulators and items (plastics and paper), such as coffee cups, food wrappers and personal items shall be removed from the workstation or any operation where unprotected ESDS are handled. The ESD threat associated with process essential insulators or electrostatic field sources shall be evaluated to ensure that:

  • the electrostatic field at the position where the ESDS are handled shall not exceed 5 000 V/m;

or

  • if the electrostatic potential measured at the surface of the process required insulator exceeds 2 000 V, the item shall be kept a minimum of 30 cm from the ESDS; and
  • if the electrostatic potential measured at the surface of the process required insulator exceeds 125 V, the item shall be kept a minimum of 2,5 cm from the ESDS.

If the measured electrostatic field or surface potential exceeds the stated limits, ionization or other charge mitigating techniques shall be used.” [IEC 61340-5-1 Clause 5.3.4.2 Insulators]

Arranging an ESD Workstation
Once the essential items required to do the job have been identified, the next step is to arrange them in a way that is suitable to the operator’s workflow. Here are a few tools and items that can be useful:

1. Use Colour and Labels
Having a proper colour and labelling system in place will help arrange a workstation and put items in the right places. This in return will ensure operators can find tools and accessories quickly when required.

Dispensing Bottles
Operators working with solder irons or performing various cleaning tasks at an ESD workstation will likely be using water or some sort of cleaning agent. ESD dispensing bottles can store these liquids. They come in all sorts of sizes and with various pumps or spouts. Using different colours will help identify the many liquids needed at an ESD workstation.

ESD Dispensing BottlesExamples of Dispensing Bottles – more information

Waste Bin Liners
Bin liners come in different sizes and colours and can be useful when it comes to separating waste. They are non-tribocharging and are designed for use in ESD protected areas where electrostatic sensitive devices are present. Even at low humidity they do not become charged with static electricity. They are made from high quality polyethylene and are as strong as conventional refuse sacks.

BinLinersExamples of Waste Bin Liners – more information

Document Holders
Document holders are designed for use within ESD Protected Areas in accordance with EN 61340-5-1. They are static dissipative which means charges are removed to ground when placed on a grounded working surface or handled by a grounded operator. Applying them to ESD safe containers will help finding tools, components and accessories.

Document WalletsExamples of Document Holders – more information

2. Use Boxes and Containers
Everything is tidier when using boxes, right? The workstation looks clean and using document wallets (see above) will instantly tell the operator what is inside of each container or box. Everyone’s a winner!

Letter Trays
Generally conductive, any electrostatic charges on letter trays are removed to ground when the tray is placed on a grounded working surface or contacted by a grounded operator. They are helpful when organising documents (e.g. production orders) at an ESD workstation.

Letter TrayExample of a Letter Tray

Workstation Organisers
Workstation Organisers are ideal for improving the organisation of a workstation and standardising the placement of tools which is a key concept of the 5S methodology. They can be used for various items which are used on the workstation:

– dispensing bottles,
lotions,
flux bottles,
– solder spools,
– cutters,
– tweezers,
– wash bottles and
– various other workbench accessories.

Workstation OrganiserExample of a Worstation Organiser – more information

Ideally, Workstation Organisers should be the exact size required for your work area and have the tool openings cut for the tools you have “sorted” and determined need to be kept at the workstation.

Rack Holders, Containers and Hanging Bins
These types of storage solutions are perfect for PCB boards and components. They are generally made of a conductive material so that when placed on a grounded surface, any charges will dissipate to ground.

PCB ContainersExamples of a PCB Containers – more information

Maintaining an ESD Workstation
The hard part of ‘change’ is sticking with it and not falling back into old habits – this is where the last 3 steps of 5S come into play: clean, standardise and sustain. It’s essential that:

  1. An ESD Workstation is cleaned on a regular basis. Ensure all tools, accessories etc. are in the correct place and ESD precautions are followed.
  2. Procedures and processes are in place so every operator is aware of their responsibilities and how to perform their jobs correctly.
  3. A regular training and audit schedule is created. They are part of any ESD Programme and will not only ensure that ESD sensitive items are handled properly, but that ESD workstations are maintained.

Conclusion
The 5S methodology can be applied to a wide range of industries including an ESD workstation. There are numerous ESD tools and accessories available that can support companies with the implementation of 5S. The results will be increased efficiency, productivity and output.

References:
Huffington Post: 7 Tips to Organize Your Work Space and Stay Productive
Wikipedia: 5S (methodology)

Creating an ESD Workstation

When referring to an “ESD Protected Area” or “EPA”, a lot of people imagine rooms or even whole factory floors with numerous workstations. This very common misconception leads to nervousness and even fear when it comes to implementing an ESD Control Programme. There is a concern regarding the cost and time implications to establish an EPA. However, most often, a simple ESD workstation is completely sufficient to fulfil a company’s needs to protect their ESD sensitive products. Today’s post will provide a step-by-step guide on:

  • how to create an EPA at your workstation,
  • what ESD control products are required and
  • how to correctly set them up.

Introduction
An EPA is an area that has been established to effectively control Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) and its purpose is therefore to avoid all problems resulting from ESD damage, e.g. catastrophic failures or latent defects. It is a defined space within which all surfaces, objects, people and ESD Sensitive Devices (ESDs) are kept at the same electrical potential. This is achieved by simply using only ‘groundable’ materials for covering of surfaces and for the manufacture of containers and tools. All surfaces, products and people are bonded to Ground. Bonding means linking, usually through a resistance of between 1 and 10 megohms. Movable items (such as containers and tools) are bonded by virtue of standing on a bonded surface or being held by a bonded person. Everything that does not readily dissipate charge must be excluded from the EPA.
An EPA can be just one workstation or it could be a room containing a number of different workstations. “The size of an EPA can vary greatly. A protected area may be a permanent workstation within a room or an entire factory floor encompassing thousands of workstations. A protected area may also be a portable worksurface or mat used in a field service situation.” [CLC/TR 61340-5-2:2008 Use guide clause 4.6 Protected areas (EPA)]

Converting your Workstation into an EPA
Creating an EPA at your existing workstation does not need to be complicated or expensive. There are just a few things you will need:

ESD Workstation

1. Working Surface Mat
ESD protective working surfaces aid in the prevention of damage to ESD sensitive items (ESDS) and assemblies from electrostatic discharge.
ESD working surfaces, such as mats, are typically an integral part of the ESD workstation, particularly in areas where hand assembly occurs. The purpose of the ESD working surface is two-fold:

  • To provide a surface with little to no charge on it.
  • To provide a surface that will remove ElectroStatic charges from conductors (including ESDS devices and assemblies) that are placed on the surface.

2. Working Surface Mat Grounding Cord
Your ESD working surface needs to be grounded using a ground cord. A ground wire from the surface should connect to the common point ground (in our example an Earth Bonding Point Plug) which is connected to ground, preferably equipment ground. Best practice is that ground connections use firm fitting connecting devices such as metallic crimps, snaps and banana plugs to connect to designated ground points. The use of alligator clips is not recommended.

3. Earth Bonding Point Plug
Earth Bonding Point (EBP) plugs are designed to provide a common ground point for grounding using protective earth in an EPA. The plugs fit into the mains supply socket, making a connection with the earth conductor only. In place of the live and neutral pins are moulded insulating plastic pins to allow positive location in the socket.
Connectors on the front of the plug are available for connection via ground cords to the various elements of the EPA. Thus each element is held at a common potential.

4. Wrist Strap
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 Ground (in our example an Earth Bonding Point (EBP) Bar).

5. Earth Bonding Point Bar
Note: instead of connecting your wrist strap to an Earth Bonding Point (EBP) bar, you can also connect it to the EBP plug described in #3. EBP bars fulfil the same function as EBP. However, they have been designed to be installed underneath bench tops where they are easily accessible to operators and where they are unlikely to be knocked and damaged or hinder the operator. The earthing cord of the bar needs to be connected to a suitable earth.

Where sitting personnel will be grounded via a wrist strap, this method is not feasible for operators moving around in an ESD Protected Area. In those situations, a flooring / footwear system is required.

6. Foot Grounders
Foot grounders are designed to reliably contact grounded ESD flooring and provide a continuous path-to-ground by removing electrostatic charges from personnel. They are easy to install and can be used on standard shoes by placing the grounding tab in the shoe under the foot.
Foot grounders must be worn on both feet to maintain the integrity of the body-to-ground connection Wearing a foot grounder on each foot ensures contact with ground via the ESD floor even when one foot is lifted off the floor.

7. Floor Mat
Floor matting is an essential component in the flooring / footwear system when grounding moving or standing personnel. The path to ground from operators via heel grounders to ground is maintained by using dissipative or conductive flooring.
Floor mats don’t just ground personnel; they are also used to ground ESD control items (e.g. mobile carts or workstations).

8. Floor Mat Grounding Cord
Just like working surface matting, floor matting needs to be connected to ground. This ensures that any charges on the operator are dissipated through their heel grounders and the floor matting to ground. A floor mat grounding cord is used to link the floor mat to ground (in our example an EBP bar).
Alternatively, matting can be earthed via a strip of copper foil.

Installing an ESD Workstation
Below is a step-by-step guide as to who you can create an ESD workstation at your existing workbench:

1.  Working Surface Mat Lay the working surface mat flat on the workbench with the stud(s) facing upwards.
2.  Working Surface Mat Grounding Cord Connect the working surface mat grounding cord to the working surface mat.
3.  EBP Plug Plug the earth bonding point plug into the appropriate socket at the wall. Note: if you are located outside the UK, there are country-specific bonding points available.
4.  Working Surface Mat Grounding Cord Grounding Connect the other end of the working surface mat grounding cord to the earth bonding point plug
5.  Wristband Place the wristband on the wrist.
6.  Coiled Cord Connect the coiled cord to the wristband.
7.  EBP Bar Attach the earth bonding point bar to the bench. Remember that it needs to be connected to a suitable earth.
8.  Coiled Cord Grounding Connect the other end of the coiled cord to the earth bonding point bar.

If your operators are standing or mobile and grounding via a wrist strap is not feasible, follow these steps:

1. Follow steps #1 to #4 above.
2.  Floor Mat Lay the floor mat flat on the floor with the stud(s) facing upwards.
3.  Floor Mat Grounding Cord Connect the floor mat grounding cord to the floor mat.
4.  EBP Bar Attach the earth bonding point bar to the bench. Remember that it needs to be connected to a suitable earth.
5.  Floor Mat Grounding Cord Connect the other end of the floor mat grounding cord to the earth bonding point bar.
6.  Foot Grounders Place the foot grounders on the feet.

Conclusion
To sum-up, in an EPA you:

  • ground all conductors (including people),
  • remove all insulators (or substituting with ESD protective versions) or
  • neutralise process essential insulators with an ioniser.

With a few simple steps, you can convert your existing workstation into an ESD workstation. You will need:

  • Working Surface Mat
  • Working Surface Mat Grounding Cord
  • Earth Bonding Point Plug
  • Wrist Strap
  • Earth Bonding Point Bar

Optional:

  • Foot Grounders
  • Floor Mat
  • Floor Mat Grounding Cord

 

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