5 common mistakes in ESD Control & how to avoid them
Many companies implement an ESD Control Programme with the aim of improving their operations. Effective ESD control can be a key to improving:
- Quality and
- Customer satisfaction.
However, problems arise when an organisation invests in ESD protective products and/or equipment and then misuses them. Not only do these companies waste a lot of money but they could also be causing more harm than good. So, with today’s blog post we want to highlight some of the major issues we have come across and how you can avoid or fix them.
Remember that for a successful ESD Control Programme, ESD protection is required throughout the manufacturing process: from goods-in to assembly all the way through to inspection. Anybody who handles electrical or electronic parts, assemblies or equipment that are susceptible to damage by electrostatic discharges should take necessary precautions.
Think of viruses or bacteria that can infect the human body. Just like ESD, they are invisible. Yet, in hospitals the defence against this hidden threat is controlled by extensive contamination control procedures including sterilisation. The same applies to ESD Control: you should never handle, assemble or repair electronic assemblies without taking adequate protective measures against ESD.
Treat ESD like you would Viruses and Bacteria
For an ESD Control Programme to be successful, there is discipline required; basic ESD Control principles should be followed:
- Ground conductors.
- Remove, convert or neutralise insulators with ionisers.
- Shield ESD sensitive items when stored or transported outside the EPA.
For more information on how to get your ESD Control Programme off the ground (no pun intended) and create an EPA, check this post.
Common Mistakes in ESD Control
1. Poorly maintained or out-of-balance Ionisers
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. These could then discharge to nearby sensitive items potentially cause ESD damage.
|Remember to clean emitter pins and filters using appropriate tools. Create a regular maintenance schedule which will extend the lifespan of your ionisers tremendously.
Consider using ionisers with “Clean Me” and//or “Balance” alarms. These will alert you when cleaning is required.
|“All ionization devices will require periodic maintenance for proper operation. Maintenance intervals for ionizers vary widely depending on the type of ionization equipment and use environment. Critical clean room use will generally require more frequent attention. It is important to set up a routine schedule for ionizer service.”
[CLC TR 61340-5-2 User guide Ionization clause 188.8.131.52 Maintenance and cleaning]
This post covers in detail how ionisers work and what type of ioniser will work best for your application.
2. Ungrounded ESD Garments
We’ve seen it so many times: operators wearing an ESD coat (without appropriate wrist straps and/or footwear/flooring) thinking they are properly grounded. Well, here is some news for you: you are not!
|Every ESD garment needs to be electrically bonded to the grounding system of the wearer. Otherwise it just acts as a floating conductor. There are a few options to choose from:
· Wrist Straps
· ESD footwear/flooring
· Hip-to-Cuff grounding
|“The ESD risk provided by everyday clothing cannot be easily assessed. The current general view of experts is that the main source of ESD risk may occur where ESDS [ESD sensitive items] can reach high induced voltage due to external fields from the clothing, and subsequently experience a field induced CDM [Charged Device Model] type discharge. So ESD control garments may be of particular benefit where larger ESDS having low CDM withstand voltage are handled, and operators habitually wear everyday clothing that could generate electrostatic high fields.”
[CLC TR 61340-5-2 User guide Garments clause 184.108.40.206 Introductory remarks]
Another thing to remember with ESD clothing is that they do lose their ESD properties over time. So make sure you incorporate periodic checks (see #3 below).
If you need more information on ESD coats, we recommend having a look at this post.
3. Not Checking ESD Control Products
A lot of companies waste thousands of pounds by buying and installing ESD Control products but then never check them resulting in ESD equipment that is out of specification. They haven’t got the tools in place to check their ESD items and have no idea if they are actually working correctly. Remember, ESD products (just like any other) are subject to wear and tear, workstations get moved, ground cords get disconnected…. The list goes on.
|When investing in ESD Control Products, make sure you also establish a Compliance Verification Plan. This ensures that:
· ESD equipment is checked periodically and
· Necessary test equipment is available.
|“A compliance verification plan shall be established to ensure the organization’s fulfilment of the requirements of the plan. Process monitoring (measurements) shall be conducted in accordance with a compliance verification plan that identifies the technical requirements to be verified, the measurement limits and the frequency at which those verifications shall occur. The compliance verification plan shall document the test methods used for process monitoring and measurements. If the organization uses different test methods to replace those of this standard, the organization shall be able to show that the results achieved correlate with the referenced standards. Where test methods are devised for testing items not covered in this standard, these shall be adequately documented including corresponding test limits. Compliance verification records shall be established and maintained to provide evidence of conformity to the technical requirements.
The test equipment selected shall be capable of making the measurements defined in the compliance verification plan.”
[EN 61340-5-1 clause 5.2.4 Compliance verification plan]
For detailed instructions on how to create a Compliance Verification Plan, have a read through this post.
4. Re-Using Shielding Bags with Holes or Scratches
ESD Shielding Bags are used to store and transport ESD sensitive items. When used properly, they create a Faraday Cage effect which causes charges to be conducted around the outside surface. Since similar charges repel, charges will rest on the exterior and ESD sensitive items on the inside will be ‘safe’. However, if the shielding layer of an ESD Shielding Bag is damaged, ESD sensitive items on the inside will not be protected anymore.
|Re-using shielding bags is acceptable as long as there is no damage to the shielding layer. Shielding bags with holes, tears or excessive wrinkles should be discarded.
Use a system of labels to identify when the bag has gone through five (5) handling cycles. When there are five broken labels, the bag is discarded.
|ESD shielding packaging is to be used particularly when transporting or storing ESD sensitive items outside an ESD Protected Area. Per Packaging Standard EN 61340-5-3 clause 5.3 Outside an EPA “Transportation of sensitive products outside of an EPA shall require packaging that provides both:
– dissipative or conductive materials for intimate contact;
– a structure that provides electrostatic discharge shielding.“
This post provides further “dos and don’ts” when using ESD Shielding Bags.
5. Using Household Cleaners on ESD Matting
A lot of people use standard household cleaners on their ESD matting not realising how damaging this is to their ESD Programme. Many household cleaners contain silicone which creates that lovely shine you get when wiping surfaces in your home. The problem is that on an ESD working surface mat, that same silicone creates an insulative layer which reduces the grounding performance of the mat.
|Don’t spend all this extra money on ESD matting and then coat it with an insulative layer by using household cleaners. There are many specially formulated ESD surface and mat cleaners available on the market. Only clean your ESD working surfaces using those cleaners.|
|“Periodic cleaning, following the manufacturer’s recommendations, is required to maintain proper electrical function of all work surfaces. Ensure that the cleaning products used to not leave an electrically insulative residue which is common with some household cleaners that contain silicone.”
[CLC TR 61340-5-2 User guide Work surfaces clause 220.127.116.11 Maintenance]
This post covers everything you need to know about ESD protective working surfaces.
Now – the above list is by no means complete. There are many more issues we see when setting foot into EPAs but we think it’s true to say that these issues are some of the ones we encounter more often.
What issues have you come across before? Leave us a comment below.