6 Tips for handling “Class 0” Items
When talking about ESD Classifications a little while ago, we identified a “class 0” item as withstanding discharges of less than 250 volts.
The introduction of IEC 64340-5-1 states “This part of IEC 61340 covers the requirements necessary to design, establish, implement and maintain an electrostatic discharge (ESD) control program for activities that: manufacture, process, assemble, install, package, label, service, test, inspect, transport or otherwise handle electrical or electronic parts, assemblies and equipment susceptible to damage by electrostatic discharges greater than or equal to 100 V human body model (HBM), 200 V charged device model (CDM) and 35 V on isolated conductors.”
So, the obvious question is: how do you handle items that are susceptible to voltages of less than 100V? That’s what we’re going to answer in today’s blog post.
Years ago, it was common for devices to be vulnerable to voltages greater than 100V. As the need for smaller and faster devices increased, so did their sensitivity to ElectroStatic Discharges as circuit-protection schemes were removed to stay ahead of the market. These new extremely sensitive components are now susceptible to discharges nearing 0V. Obviously, this causes problems for companies handling these devices: while their ESD programme may be in compliance with the ESD Standard, extremely sensitive devices require tighter ESD Control to protect them from ESD failures.
Definition of “Class 0”
Before moving any further, we need to qualify the term “class 0” as there is a lot of confusion out there as to what this term actually means. As stated above, the HBM Model refers to any item with a failure voltage of less than 250V as a “class 0” component. However, in recent times, the term has been used more and more to describe ultra-sensitive devices with failure voltages of less than 100V. Whilst the following tips and tricks really work on any “class 0” item, they are specifically designed to protect extremely sensitive items that withstand discharges of less than 100V.
Ultra-sensitive devices are extremely common these days
Do your homework
Imagine someone (a customer, your boss etc.) is approaching you and demands you to update all internal procedures so your company can handle “class 0” components. Do you know how to handle this request? Or would you be pulling out your hair trying to figure out what needs to be done? As explained further above, “class 0” refers to a wide range of items and there are a few things you should remember before making any changes to your existing ESD programme:
- Verify what ESD Model your company/engineers/customers etc. are referring to. As we have learnt in the past, there are different ESD models (HBM, CDM, MM) as well as individual classifications for each model. A lot of people get confused when it comes to citing ESD classifications. In reality, there is only one “class 0” which refers to the human body model (HBM) but it’s always best to check.
- Check the specific withstand voltage an individual part is susceptible to. “Class 0” refers to all items that withstand discharges of less than 250V. However, there is a big difference between a failure voltage of 240V or 50V. You need to have detailed ESD sensitivity information available before being able to make decisions on how to improve your existing ESD control programme. This step is actually part of creating a compliance verification plan.
- A part’s ESD classification is only of importance until it is ‘merged’ into an assembly. So, the ESD classification of a device only refers to the stand-alone component. Once it goes into another construction, the classification of the whole assembly is likely to change.
Below are 6 tips that will help your company to upgrade your ESD control programme so you can effectively and efficiently handle ultra-sensitive items without risking ESD damage.
One thing to note: proactive actions are critical. There is no point in figuring out how to protect your components from ESD damage AFTER you have received them. Trust us: it’s gonna go wrong! Instead, focus on getting things sorted BEFOREHAND. That’s the best approach to stay ahead of the game.
1. Improve Grounding
So, you will already know that inside an EPA, all conductors (including people) are grounded. Now you’re probably thinking: “But I’ve already grounded my operators and worksurfaces. What else is there left to do?”. Firstly, well done for properly grounding the ‘objects’ in your EPA – trust us, that’s not a given! The next step is to tweak things a bit to allow for even better protection. Here are some suggestions:
- Decrease the wrist strap and ESD footwear upper limit. The ESD Association has test data showing charge on a person is less as the path-to-ground resistance is less.
- Use continuous monitors and ESD smocks
- Introduce/increase use of ESD flooring
- Use sole or full coverage foot grounders (rather than heel grounders)
Full coverage foot grounders are recommended when handling ultra-sensitive devices
- Reduce the required limit for Point-to-Point resistance of 1 x 109 per the ESD Standard to 106 to 108 ohms (see #5). The reason for this reduction is simple: 1 x 109 is too high as it still produces thousands of volts of in electrostatic charges. However, the resistance cannot be too small either as this can lead to a sudden ‘hard discharge’ potentially damaging ESD sensitive components.
- Improve grounding of carts, shelves and equipment to Ground
- Minimise isolated conductors like devices on PCBs
2. Minimise Charge Generation
The best form of control is to minimise charge generation. First of all, you should always use shielding packing products like bags or containers (especially when outside an EPA) as these protect from generating charges in the first place. For more information on choosing the correct type of ESD Packaging, we recommend reading this post.
The next step is to eliminate charges once they are generated – this can be achieved through grounding and ionisation. We’ll cover ionisation in #3 and #4. We’ve already talked about improved grounding in #1. However, for ultra-sensitive components, we also recommend the following:
- Personnel: Use low-charging floor finish, e.g. Statguard® Dissipative Floor Finish.
- Surfaces: Use low-charging topical antistatic treatments, e.g Reztore® Topical Antistat
Both types of ESD products create a low tribocharging coating which allows charges to drain off when grounded. The antistatic properties will reduce triboelectric voltage to under 200 volts.
For more tips on managing charge generation from flooring, check this post.
3. Remove Insulators
When talking about conductors and insulators, we explained that insulators cannot be grounded and can damage nearby sensitive devices with a sudden uncontrolled discharge. It is therefore critical to eliminate ALL insulators that are not required in your EPA: plastic cups, non-ESD brushes, tapes etc. How? Here are a couple of options:
- Replace regular production supplies and fixtures with dissipative, low charging versions, e.g. ESD dissipative brushes, ESD dispensers , ESD tape, ESD Chairs etc.
- Shield charges on clothing by using ESD smocks
Use ESD safe accessories whenever possible
If an insulator is absolutely necessary for production and cannot be removed from the EPA, you could consider a topical treatment which will reduce triboelectric charges.
Is this not an option, then move on to tip #4.
4. Use Ionisation
First of all, ionisation is not a cure-all. We’ve learnt that ionisers neutralise charges on an insulator.
However, that does not mean that you can just have any insulator in your EPA because the ioniser will “just fix it”. No, in this instance, prevention is generally a better option than the cure. So, your priority should ALWAYS be to remove non-process essential insulators from your EPA – see tip #3. If this is not possible – then ionisation becomes essential:
- 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
- Offset voltage (balance) and discharge times are critical considerations depending on the actual application
- Ionisation can reduce ElectroStatic Attraction (ESA) and charged particles clinging and contaminating products.
It is recommended to use ionisers with feedback mechanisms so you’re notified if the offset voltage is out of balance.
5. Increase ESD Training and Awareness
ESD Training is a requirement of every ESD Programme. When handling ultra-sensitive devices, it is even more important to remind everyone what pre-cautions are necessary to avoid damage. Regular ‘refreshers’ are a must and it is recommended to verify the effectiveness of the training programme, e.g. through tests. So, who, when and what should be taught? Easy!
ESD Training is a vital part of every successful ESD Control Programme
- ESD training needs to be provided to everyone who handles ESD sensitive devices – that includes managers, supervisors, subcontractors, visitors, cleaners and even temporary personnel.
- Training must be given at the beginning of employment (BEFORE getting anywhere near a sensitive products) and in regular intervals thereafter.
- Training should be conducted on proper compliance verification procedures and on the proper use of equipment used for verification.
6. Create an enhanced Compliance Verification Plan
We talked in a previous post about compliance verification, what it is and how to create a plan that complies with the ESD standard. So, if you already followed our steps and have a plan in place, you’re probably wondering how you can possibly improve on that? Here are a few tips:
- Use a computer data collection system for wrist straps and foot grounders testing, e.g. SmartLog Pro™
- Increase the testing frequency of personnel grounding devices from once per day to every time the operator enters the EPA
- Use continuous monitors where operators are grounded via wrist straps. Consider computer based monitor data collection system, e.g. SMP. This should include continuous monitoring of the mat Ground.
- Use Ground continuous monitors, e.g. SCS Ground Master. At a large facility, the most frequent reoccurring violation is the ESD mat ground cord either becoming disconnected from the mat or grounding point. As Ground continuous monitors will only test the fact that the mat is grounded, it is still imperative that the Resistance to Ground of the mat is regularly tested. Remember that the use of improper mat cleaners can raise the mat surface resistance above the upper recommended level of <109
- Test ionisers more frequently or consider self-monitoring ionisers. Computer based data collection systems are a good alternative, too.
- Increase the use of a static field meter and nano coulomb testing to verify that automated processes (like auto insertion, tape and reel, etc) are not generating charges above acceptable limits.
The bottom line is: the only way to protect ultra-sensitive components is to increase ESD protective redundancies and periodic verifications to all ESD Control technical elements.
If you handle ultra-sensitive items, to decrease the probability of ESD damage, additional precautions are required including additional and/or more stringent technical requirements for EPA ESD control products, increasing redundancies, and more frequent periodic verifications or audits. Additionally, ESD control process systems should be evaluated as to their performance as a system. You will need to understand how the technical elements in use perform relative to the sensitivity of the devices being handled. Thus, tailoring the process to handle the more sensitive
parts. For example: If the footwear/flooring allows a person’s body voltage to reach say 80 volts and a 50 withstand voltage item gets introduced into the process, you will either have to allow only handling via wrist straps or would have to find a way to modify the footwear/flooring performance to get peak voltages below the 50 volt threshold.
Remember: it is YOUR responsibility to do protect YOUR devices and YOUR reputation. The ESD Standard can only give recommendations and it’ll always be behind current/future developments. As soon as a Standard is published, technology will have progressed. So, if – in order to protect your devices – your company needs to implement methods/procedures that exceed the recommendations of the ESD Standard, so be it.
- IEC 61340-5-1: Protection of electronic devices from electrostatic phenomena – General requirements
- Dave Long: Seven Mandatory Considerations Before Handling Class 0 ESDS Devices
- Stephen Halperin, David E Swenson, Craig Zander: The Truth About ESD Class 0
- Ron Gibson: What is ESD Class Zero?
- -Ing. Hartmut Berndt: Requirements on a Class “0” EPA – Basics, Standards, ESD Equipments and Measurements