Category Archives: Foot Grounders
Let’s face it: nobody likes ‘change’! We all like our little routines and feel comfortable with what we know.
BUT: without ‘change’, everything would stay the same; ultimately humanity would stagnate and die. So, let’s think of ‘change’ as an opportunity: to improve, to progress, to be better! That’s exactly the reason behind the latest major change to the ESD Standard: ensuring your ESD Programme is the best one yet and protects your ESD sensitive devices 110%.
You will have learnt by now that a fundamental principle of ESD control is to ground conductors including people at ESD protected workstations. Wrist straps are the first line of defence against ESD. A wrist strap is the most common personnel grounding device and is required for sitting operators.
A Flooring / Footwear system is an alternative for personnel grounding for standing or mobile workers. You will know that ESD footwear must be used in conjunction with an ESD floor and needs to be worn on both feet. But did you know that the latest ESD Standard now requires an Operator Walking Test and conformance to Operator Resistance Measurements?
The importance of the Walking Test
- The Walking Test is necessary to qualify the Footwear / Flooring personnel grounding system for certification to EN 61340-5-1.
- The Walking Test can provide records to prove that the Footwear / Flooring personnel grounding system used as a static control method is providing the performance expected.
- The Walking Test is also used when testing samples for qualification of a Footwear / Flooring personnel grounding system or on an existing installed floor when evaluating a change in footwear or flooring maintenance.
Performing the Walking Test
The Walking Test is completed with a device which measures the human body voltage generated while walking. There are different units on the market: some of them will display the results on the unit itself; others connect to a computer and use software to analyse the data.
All units work in the same way though:
- You wear your ESD footwear.
- You hold a small probe (more like a rod) connected to the meter measuring your body voltage.
- While holding the probe, you walk across your ESD floor.
- You record the results and either calculate the average of the 5 highest peaks or let the software (supplied with some units) do the calculation for you.
Results of the Walking Test
The Walking Test simulates a real-world working environment with operators walking through an ESD Protected Area. The results will show the effectiveness of a Footwear / Flooring system to remove charges from the operator through the floor to ground. If the system is working properly, no more than 100 Volts will be generated on the body.
For any Footwear / Flooring system, EN 61340-5-1 requires:
- the resistance from body to ground to be <109 ohms AND
- the body voltage to be < 100 Volts (average of 5 highest peaks).
Remember that the Walking Test must be performed on ALL ESD floors using ANY ESD footwear you may be using. So, if you have 2 EPAs with different flooring and use 2 different types of footwear (e.g. shoes, foot grounders), you need to perform a total of 4 tests to cover all possible options.
Also, if you make any changes to your footwear or flooring (e.g. you change suppliers for your foot grounders or ESD floor cleaner), the Walking Test needs to be repeated to ensure compliance with the ESD Standard.
If you require further information on the changes to the ESD Standard or need the Walking Test performed in your facility, get in touch.
The best-equipped service bench in your shop can be a real money-maker when set-up properly. It can also be a source of frustration and lost revenue if the threat of ElectroStatic Discharge (ESD) is ignored. Static electricity is nothing new; it’s all around us and always has been. What has changed is the proliferation of semiconductors in almost every consumer product we buy. Couple that with the fact that as device complexity becomes greater, often its static sensitivity increases. Some semiconductor devices may be damaged by as little as 20-30 volts!
A typical scenario might be where an electronic product is brought in for service, properly diagnosed, repaired, only to find a new and perhaps different symptom, necessitating additional repair. Damage from static electricity cannot be ruled out unless the technician understands the ESD problem and has developed methods to keep it in check.
It is important to note that we are addressing the issue of ESD in terms of control, and not elimination. The potential for an ESD event to occur cannot be totally eliminated outside of a laboratory environment, but we can greatly reduce the risk with proper training and equipment. By implementing a good static control program and developing some simple habits, the problem can be effectively controlled.
The Source of the Problem
As mentioned earlier, static is all around us. We occasionally will see or feel it by walking on carpet, touching something or someone and feeling the “zap” of a static discharge. The perception level varies but the static charge is typically 2000-3000 volts before we can feel it. Remembering that the sensitivity of some parts is under 100 volts, it’s easy to see that we might never know that an ESD event has occurred.
Even though carpet may not be used around the service bench, there are many other – subtler – static “generators” frequently found around or on a service bench. The innocent-looking Styrofoam coffee cup can be a tremendous source of static. The simple act of pulling several inches of adhesive tape from a roll can generate several thousand volts of static! Many insulative materials will develop a charge by rubbing them or separating them from another material. This phenomenon is known as “tribocharging” and it occurs often where there are insulative materials present.
Sources of Charge Generation: Unwinding a Roll of Tape
People are often a major factor in the generation of static charges. Studies have shown that personnel in a manufacturing environment frequently develop 5000 volts or more just by walking across the floor. Again, this is “tribocharging” produced by the separation of their shoes and the flooring as they walk.
A technician seated at a non-ESD workbench could easily have a 400-500 volt charge on his or her body caused not only by friction or tribocharging but additionally by the constant change in body capacitance that occurs from natural movements. The simple act of lifting both feet off the floor can raise the measured voltage on a person as much as 500-1000 volts.
Setting up a “static safe” Programme
Perhaps the most important factor in a successful static control programme is developing an awareness of the “unseen” problem. One of the best ways to demonstrate the hazard is by using a “static field meter”. Although this is not something a service centre would typically purchase, it often can be borrowed from a local static control product distributor. The visual impact of locating and measuring static charges in excess of 1000 volts will surely get the attention of the sceptics.
Static Field Meter – find more information here
Education of Personnel
This is an essential basic ingredient in any effective static control programme. A high level of static awareness must be created and maintained in and around the protected area. Once personnel understand the potential problem, it might help to reinforce this understanding by hanging up a few static control posters in strategic locations. The technician doesn’t need an unprotected person wandering over and touching things on the service bench.
Information on static control and setting up a static-safe workstation is readily available from a variety of sources. Your local electronic parts distributor will often have a variety of ESD Control products and may also have literature from manufacturers on setting up a static-safe area.
To minimise the threat of an ESD event, we need to bring all components of the system to the same relative potential and keep them that way.
- Establish an ESD Common Grounding Point, an electrical junction where all ESD grounds are connected to. Usually, a common ground point is connected to ground, preferably equipment ground. If you need help with grounding your workstation, this post might help to clarify a few things.
- The Service Bench Surface should be covered with a dissipative material. This can be either an ESD-type high-pressure laminate formed as the benchtop surface, or it may be one of the many types of dissipative mats placed upon the benchtop surface. The mats are available in different colours, with different surface textures, and with various cushioning effects. Whichever type is chosen, look for a material with a surface resistivity of 1 x 109 or less, as these materials are sufficiently conductive to discharge objects in less than one second. The ESD laminate or mat must be grounded to the ESD common grounding point to work properly. Frequently, a one Megohm current limiting safety resistor is used in series with the work surface ground. This blog post will provide more information on how to choose and install your ESD working surface.
Types of Bench Matting – click here for more information
- A Dissipative Floor Mat may also be used, especially if the technician intends to wear foot-grounding devices. The selection of the floor mat should take into consideration several factors. If anything is to roll on the mat, then a soft, cushion-type mat will probably not work well. If the tech does a lot of standing, then the soft, anti-fatigue type will be much appreciated. Again, the mat should be grounded to the common ground point, with or without the safety resistor as desired. If you require more information as to how you can manage charge generation from flooring, have a look at this previous post.
- Workstation Tools and Supplies should be selected with ESD in mind. Avoid insulators and plastics where possible on and around the bench. Poly bags and normal adhesive tapes can generate substantial charges, as can plastic cups and glasses. If charge-generating plastics and the like cannot be eliminated, consider using one of the small, low-cost air ionisers available from some manufacturers. It can usually be mounted on the bench to conserve work area, and then aimed at the area where most of the work is being done. The ioniser does not eliminate the need for grounding the working surface or the operator, but it does drain static charges from insulators, which do not lend themselves to grounding. Not sure what tools and accessories to replace? Check out this blog post.
As was mentioned previously, people are great static generators. Simple movements at the bench can easily build up charges as high as 500-1000 volts. Therefore, controlling this charge build-up on the technician is essential. The two best-known methods for draining the charge on a person are wrist straps with ground cords and foot or heel grounds.
- Wrist Straps are probably the most common item used for personnel grounding. They are comprised of a conductive band or strap that fits snugly on the wrist. The wrist strap is frequently made of an elastic material with a conductive inner surface, or it may be a metallic expandable band similar to that found on a watch. Need more information on wrist straps? We’ve created a Q&A post to answer all questions you may have.
- Ground Cords are typically made of a highly flexible wire and often are made retractable for additional freedom of movement. There are two safety features that are usually built into the cord, and the user should not attempt to bypass them. The first, and most important, is a current limiting resistor (typically 1 Megohm) which prevents hazardous current from flowing through the cord in the event the wearer inadvertently contacts line voltage. The line voltage may find another path to ground, but the cord is designed to neither increase or reduce shock hazard for voltages under 250 volts. The second safety feature built into most cords is a breakaway connection to allow the user to exit rapidly in an emergency. This is usually accomplished by using a snap connector at the wrist strap end.
Wrist Band and Grounding Cord – more information
- Foot/Heel Grounders or ESD Shoes are frequently used where the technician needs more freedom of movement than the wrist strap and cord allows. The heel grounder is often made of a conductive rubber or vinyl and is worn over a standard shoe. It usually has a strap that passes under the heel for good contact and a strap of some type that is laid inside the shoe for contact to the wearer. Heel grounders must be used with some type of conductive or dissipative floor surface to be effective and should be worn on both feet to ensure continuous contact with the floor. Obviously, lifting both feet from the floor while sitting will cause protection to be lost. If you can’t decide between foot/heel grounders or ESD shoes, this comparison may be of help.
Don’t forget to regularly check your personnel grounding items:
The Personnel Grounding Checklist
An effective static control programme doesn’t have to be expensive or complex. The main concept is to minimise the generation of static and to drain it away when it does occur, thereby lessening the chance for an ESD event to happen. The ingredients for an effective ESD program are:
- Education: to einsure that everyone understands the problem and the proper handling of sensitive devices.
- Workstation Grounding: through the use of a dissipative working surface material and dissipative flooring materials as required.
- Personnel Grounding: using wrist straps with ground cords and/or foot-grounding devices.
- Follow-up to ensure Compliance: all elements of the programme should be checked frequently to determine that they are working effectively.
The ESD “threat” is not likely to go away soon, and it is very likely to become an even greater hazard, as electronic devices continue to increase in complexity and decrease in size. By implementing a static control programme now, you will be prepared for the more sensitive products that will be coming.
We already know that in an ESD Protected Area (EPA) all surfaces, objects, people and ESD Sensitive Devices (ESDs) are kept at the same potential which is achieved by using ‘groundable’ materials that are then linked to ground. We have also learnt that the most common personnel grounding device to ground people to ground are wrist straps. People who are moving around should instead wear ESD footwear. So how do you know if your wrist straps and ESD footwear are working properly? Excellent question! And one we’ll answer with today’s post so let’s jump right in!
1. Purpose of Personnel Grounding Testers
Wrist Straps and ESD footwear should be part of your Verification Plan. Each component in an EPA plays a vital part in the fight against electrostatic discharge (ESD). If just one component is not performing correctly, you could damage your ESD sensitive devices potentially costing your company thousands of pounds. The problem with wrist straps and ESD footwear is that you can’t always see the damage. Just by looking at the items you would not know if they still provide sufficient protection. That’s where personnel testers provide feedback. They verify the functionality of an operator’s wrist strap and/or footwear and can determine if a person’s wrist strap and/or footwear function correctly.
Your Personnel Grounding Checklist
Your Personnel Grounding Checklist:
- Both wrist straps and footwear need to be tested at least daily before handling ESD sensitive devices and should be worn while checking.
- Verify your personnel grounding system using a wrist strap and/or footwear tester.
- Remember that a record of each test should be kept for quality control purposes.
- ONLY handle ESD sensitive components if your wrist strap and/or footwear pass(es) the test.
2. Types of Personnel Grounding Testers
Broadly speaking, personnel grounding testers can be purchased in two configurations:
- Wrist strap tester and
- Wrist strap and footwear tester.
As wrist straps are the most commonly used personnel grounding device to ground operators, you will find a lot of testers on the market that check wrist straps only.
As the name suggests, combined wrist strap and footwear testers will verify your wrist straps AND footwear.
In addition to WHAT they test, you will also be faced with a wide range of devices differing in HOW they test. Below you will find a (by no means complete) list of options:
- Continuous and split footplate: You will find testers with a continuous footplate which require each foot to be tested separately one after the other. Dual-footplate or independent footwear testers feature a split footplate which allows the unit to verify both feet independently at the same time. This can be a huge time-saver if you have a number of operators in your company who are required to check their personnel grounding devices.
- Portable, wall-mountable and fitted testers: Portable battery-powered (predominantly) wrist strap testers are perfect for small labs or for supervisors to spot-check workers and ensure compliance. Wall-mountable units are generally supplied with a wall plate which attaches to a wall; the tester is then mounted on to the wall plate. Some personal grounding devices are accompanied by a stand (and built-in footplate) which allow for a more freely positioning of the unit within a room.
- Relay terminal: A few testers on the market are fitted with a relay terminal that can be integrated with electronic door locks, turnstiles, lights, buzzers, etc. This can be of advantage if companies only want to allow personnel in an EPA that have passed their wrist strap and/or footwear test.
- Data acquisition: A growing number of personnel grounding devices allow for test activity data to be logged in a database. The units link to a computer which records operator identification, test results, resistance measurements, time and more. Paperless data can enhance operator accountability, immediately identifying problems while reducing manual logging and auditing costs.
Example of a Data Acquisition Tester – more information
3. Operation of Personnel Grounding Testers
Wrist strap testing:
If you are not using a continuous or a constant monitor, a wrist strap should be tested while being worn at least daily. This quick check can determine that no break in the path-to-ground has occurred. Wrist straps should be worn while they are tested. This provides the best way to test all three components: the wrist band, the ground cord (including the resistor) and the interface with the operator’s skin.
“Wrist straps should be tested periodically. The frequency of testing, however, is driven by the amount of usage, wear and ESD risk exposure that can occur between tests. For example, what is the quantity of product handled between test periods? Typical test programs recommend that wrist straps that are used daily should be tested daily. However, if the products that are being produced are of such value that a guarantee of a continuous, reliable ground is needed then continuous monitoring should be considered or even required.” (CLC TR 61340-5-2 User guide Wrist Strap clause 126.96.36.199.4 Test frequency)
“The operator shall wear the wrist strap in the normal position and plug the free end of the cord into the test apparatus. The hand contact plate shall be pressed to verify that the wrist strap system resistance is within acceptable parameters. The test apparatus can be an integrated, commercially available tester or other Instrumentation that is capable of measuring resistance from 5,0 x 104 ohms to at least 1,0 x 108 ohms. The tester open-circuit voltage is typically between 9 V d.c. and 100 V d.c.” (EN 61340-5-1 Annex A Test method A.1 Measurement method for wrist strap testing).
Example of a Wrist Strap Tester – more information
If the wrist strap tester outputs a FAIL test result, stop working and test the wrist band and cord individually to find out which item is damaged. Replace the bad component and repeat the test. Obtain a PASS test result before beginning work. For more information on troubleshooting failed wrist straps, check this post.
If using a flooring / footwear system as an alternative for standing or mobile workers, ESD footwear should be tested independently at least daily while being worn. Proper testing of foot grounders involves the verification of the individual foot grounder, the contact strip and the interface between the contact strip and the operator’s perspiration layer.
“The operator shall stand with one foot on the conductive footwear electrode. The hand contact plate shall be pressed to verify that the person footwear system resistance is within acceptable parameters. The test shall be repeated for the other foot. The test apparatus can be an integrated, commercially available tester or other instrumentation that is capable of measuring resistance from 5,0 x 104 ohms to at least 1,0 x 108 ohms. The tester open-circuit voltage is typically between 9 V d.c.and 100 V d.c.” (EN 61340-5-1 Annex A Test method A.2 Measurement procedure for footwear testing).
Example of a Wrist Strap and Footwear Tester – more information
If the footwear tester outputs a FAIL test result, stop working, and test the foot grounder and contact strip individually to find out which item is damaged. Replace the foot grounder. Obtain a PASS test result before beginning work.
We get a lot of customers asking us if they should use ESD foot grounders or ESD shoes in their EPA. And our answer is always the same: it depends! There really is no right or wrong when it comes to choosing but there are obviously a few things you need to consider before investing in one or the other.
In some cases, protective footwear (shoes, boots, etc.) is required to prevent foot injuries due to falling or rolling objects or from objects piercing the sole. Safety of the operator takes priority over ESD control at all times. If protective footwear with reliable ESD properties is not available or ESD foot grounders cannot be worn with the protective footwear in the ESD Protected Area, other personnel grounding devices such as wrist straps should be used. For more information on using wrist straps, check out this post.
Introduction to 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.
Example of ESD Foot Grounder – more info
Guidelines for ESD foot grounders:
- It is recommended that ESD foot grounders are worn on both feet in order to ensure that a continuous path to ground is maintained at all times (even when lifting one foot).
- Contact strips should be tucked inside the shoe with as much contact area as possible to the bottom of the stockinged foot. ESD foot grounders rely upon the perspiration layer inside of the shoe to make contact through the stocking.
- A current limiting one or two megohm resistor in series with the contact strip is recommended but not required.
- ESD foot grounders should be tested independently at least daily while being worn.
Advantages of ESD Foot Grounders
ESD foot grounders are often preferred over shoes because one size fits many foot sizes, thereby reducing stock holdings and simplifying operations.
ESD foot grounders also usually pass the mandatory resistance test as soon as worn, whereas some ESD shoes require a ‘warm-up period’ in order for the operator’s RG to drop below 35 megohms.
They are easily replaceable, quick to put on and less bulky than ESD shoes. They can also be easily taken off when leaving an EPA.
Disadvantages of ESD Foot Grounders
A common complaint with ESD foot grounders is that they don’t last very long. However, there are a few simple tricks to avoid a quick ‘burn-out’:
- The useful life of an ESD foot grounder will depend a lot on the floor and its surface roughness: the rougher the floor the greater the wear. We recommend ESD foot grounders only to be used indoors where floors are usually smoother (and where the ESD foot grounder is less likely to become wet, thereby short circuiting the resistor).
- The manner in which the wearer walks can also affect the life span of the grounder.
In summary, with reasonable care and if used only indoors, ESD heel and toe grounders can last several weeks.
Introduction to ESD Shoes
Conductive additives are blended into the sole (inside to outside) of ESD shoes and connect to the operator’s feet. ESD shoes provide an electrically conductive path from the wearer to the floor – from the operator’s socks (through the sweat layer), to the insole and then to the other outer sole.
Examples of ESD Shoes
There are a number of considerations when selecting ESD shoes:
- Does the ESD shoe meet the ESD Association (ESDA) standards?
Many manufactures of ESD shoes often reference ASTM standards for their ESD specification but state nothing about ESDA standards. The ESDA standards are written specifically for electronics manufacturing and handling. The walking test defined in the ANSI/ESD STM97.2-2006 is one of the most important methods for qualifying ESD shoes for use in ESD Protected Areas.
- Not all ESD shoes is created equal.
There are different styles of ESD shoes. In most cases the specifications of each style will vary. While one style of ESD shoes may retain its ESD properties for 6 months or longer, another will start failing within 90 days. The performance of all styles of ESD shoes should be verified at least daily on an on-going basis and records should be kept for quality control purposes.
Advantages of ESD Shoes
The major advantage of ESD shoes is that they do not require a tab to connect to the operator. There won’t be any issues with the tab not staying inside the shoe – as soon as ESD shoes are put on, the operator is grounded.
ESD shoes are unlikely to be put on incorrectly and have a lower chance of breaking compared to ESD foot grounders. They are generally more reliable and durable.
Disadvantages of ESD Shoes
A big drawback with ESD shoes is obviously the larger initial investment cost. Especially, if you have a large number of operators working in your EPA, it will be costlier to equip everyone with ESD shoes.
Now you know all the ins-and-outs of ESD foot grounders and ESD shoes, you’re probably more confused than ever. So what should you go for? Well, as we said right at the beginning of this post: it depends! It depends, e.g.
- On your budget: are you prepared to initially invest a larger amount of money or would you prefer to spread the costs evenly over time? Also consider the cost over a longer period of time (i.e. 2 or 5 years). Whilst ESD shoes are more expensive initially, ESD foot grounders have to be replaced regularly which adds up, as well.
- On your operators: When selecting your ESD grounding device, it is a good idea to consider the opinion of the operators. They may not find the style of ESD shoe being considered to be comfortable or they may become frustrated that the ESD foot grounder that has been selected does not stay secured properly. In some facilities, many operators are temporary or on a flexible schedule that would not justify certain types of ESD footwear and it is never recommended that operators share footwear due to hygiene issues.
So have a hard look at the numbers and an honest conversation with your employees and then take it from there!
Today’s post concludes our 2-part series on periodic verifcation. If you have missed the first part, you can catch-up on it here. As a reminder, it is recommended to regularely check all ESD Protected Area (EPA) products to ensure they are working correctly. After covering working surface matting and wrist straps in last week’s post, we’ll jump right in to discuss the remaining components in your EPA.
A flooring / footwear system is an alternative for personnel grounding for standing or mobile workers. Foot grounders quickly and effectively drain the static charges which collect on personnel during normal, everyday activities. Foot grounders should be used in conjunction with floor surfaces which have a surface resistance of less than 1010 ohms.
As ESD floors get dirty, their resistance increases. For optimum electrical performance, floor matting must be cleaned regularly using an ESD mat cleaner, such as Reztore™ Surface & Mat Cleaner. Do not use cleaners with silicone as silicone build-up will create an insulative film on the surface.
Dissipative floor finish can be used to reduce floor resistance. Periodic verification will identify how often the floor finish needs to be applied. As the layer(s) of dissipative floor finish wear, the resistance measurements will increase. So, after some amount of data collection, a cost effective maintenance schedule can be established.
Testing floor matting
Floor matting can be checked using a resistance meter. Surface resistance meters are designed to measure resistance point-to-point (Rp-p) or surface to ground (Rg) in accordance with EN 61340-5-1 Electrostatics and its test method IEC 61340-2-3.
ESD Shoes or Foot Grounders play an essential part in the flooring/footwear system. For more information on how to ground moving personnel effectively, check this post.
Before handling ESD sensitive devices, visually inspect your ESD footwear for any damage. Just like wrist straps, footwear should be checked while being worn using a wrist strap/footwear tester.
Checking foot grounders using 222567
Records of each test should be kept. Analysis and corrective action should take place when a footwear tester indicates a failure. Footwear needs to be checked daily.
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.
Make sure your ESD shielding bags are un-damaged
It is up to the user to determine if a shielding bag is suitable for re-use or not. The testing of every bag before re-use is not practical. Many companies will discard the shielding bag once used and replace it with a new one. Others will use a system of labels to identify when the bag has gone through five handling cycles:
- Non-reusable labels are used that require the label be broken to open the bag.
- The bag is then resealed with a new label.
- When there are five broken labels, the bag is discarded.
The same principle applies to other ESD packaging, e.g. component shippers.
Ionisers are intended to neutralise static charges on insulators thereby reducing their potential to cause ESD damage. However, poorly maintained ionisers with dirty emitter pins and out-of-balance ionisers can put a charge on ungrounded items.
Remember to clean ioniser emitter pins and filters regularly. You can now even purchase ionisers that will alarm when emitter pins need to be cleaned or the ioniser is out of balance.
Checking ionisers using 50598
The EMIT Ionisation Test Kit 50598 allows the Digital Static Field Meter 50597 to be used to measure the offset voltage (balance) and charge decay of ionisation equipment. The Test Kit also includes a Charger used to place a ±1000V charge on the 50567 Conductive Plate, making it possible to measure the discharge times of air ionisation equipment per ANSI/ESD SP3.3 Periodic Verification of Air Ionizers.
Wrist Strap/Footwear and Resistance Testers etc.
So you check your wrist straps and/or footwear and bench and/or floor matting regularly. But have you remembered the testers themselves? What good do all the checks do, if the testers you use are out-of-spec and show you incorrect results?
Yearly calibration is recommended – many manufacturers offer a calibration service or alternatively you can purchase calibration units from them and perform the calibration yourself.
So there you have it – a list of the most commonly used products in your ESD Protected Area (EPA) that you should check on a regular basis.
Questions for you: Do you have a verfication plan in place? If so, how often do you check your ESD protection products?
We thought today we could focus on ESD during storage and transport. If you have read our recent post on Tips to Fight ESD, you will remember how important it is to protect your ESD sensitive items when leaving an EPA. Yet, too often we see customers who have the perfect EPA, but when it comes to transporting and storing their precious components, it’s all falling apart.
1. Packaging required for transporting and storing ESD sensitive items
During storage and transportation outside of an EPA, we recommend that ESD sensitive components and assemblies are enclosed in packaging that possesses the ESD control property of shielding.
- In ‘shielding’ we utilise the fact that electrostatic charges and discharges take the path of least resistance.
- The charge will be either positive or negative; otherwise the charge will balance out and there will be no charge.
- Charges repel so electrostatic charges will reside on the outer surface.
2. The Faraday Cage effect
A Faraday Cage effect can protect ESD sensitive items in a shielding bag or other container with a shielding layer. To complete the enclosure, make sure to place lids on boxes or containers and close shielding bags.
Cover must be in place to create Faraday Cage and shield contents.
3. Types of shielding packaging
The below list gives a few examples of what types of shielding packaging is available on the market. This list is by no means complete; there are many different options out there – just make sure the specifications state “shielding” properties.
- Metal-In Shielding Bags
ESD bags which protect ESD sensitive items. The ESD shielding limits energy penetration from electrostatic charges and discharge. They offer good see-through clarity. Available with and without dissipative zipper.
- Metal-Out Shielding Bags
Integral antistatic and low tribocharging bags which will not electrostatically charge contents during movement. Bags have an aluminium metal outer layer of laminated film. Available with and without dissipative zipper.
- Moisture Barrier Bags
Offer ESD and moisture protection and can be used to pack SMD reels or trays. Check out this post for more information on MBB and ESD Control.
- Bubble Shielding Bags
These bags combine the “Faraday Cage” and mechanical protection. They shield about twice as well as normal shielding bags of equivalent size.
- Component/Circuit Boards Shippers
These boxes offer an efficient way of shipping or storing ESD sensitive circuit boards and other items. They provide ESD shielding with the lid closed. The foam cushioning reduces stress from physical shock.
- In-Plant Handlers/Storage Containers
Shield ESD sensitive items from charge and electrostatic discharges (with lid in place). They provide ESD and physical protection for ESD sensitive circuit boards.
4. Additional options for storing ESD sensitive items
Do you have the following in place?
- ESD flooring
- Grounded personnel (using foot grounders). Read this post for more information on how to ground moving personnel.
- Grounded racking
Operator wearing foot grounders
IF (and this is a BIIIG IF) the above requirements are fulfilled, you can use conductive bags or containers to store your ESD sensitive items. Conductive materials have a low electrical resistance so electrons flow easily across the surface. Charges will go to ground if bags or containers are handled by a grounded operator or are stored on a grounded surface.
Conductive materials come in many different shapes and forms:
- Conductive Black Bags
Tough and puncture resistant bags which are made of linear polyethylene with carbon added. The bags are heat sealable.
- Rigid Conductive Boxes
Provide good ESD and mechanical protection. Boxes are supplied with or without high density foam for insertion of component leads or low density foam which acts as a cushioning material.
- PCB Containers
Are flat based and can be stacked. They are made of injection moulded conductive polypropylene.
Again, there are many more options available on the market so make sure you do your research.
Note: we do not recommend using conductive packaging to transport ESD sensitive devices. Also, pink antistatic and pink antistatic bubble bags are not suited for storing or transporting ESD sensitive components.
5. Final thoughts
Packaging with holes, tears or gaps should not be used as the contents may be able to extend outside the enclosure and lose their shielding as well as mechanical protection.
Also, do not staple ESD bags shut. The metal staple provides a conductive path from the outside of the ESD bag to the inside. The use of a metal staple would undermine the effectiveness of the ESD bag making a conductive path for charges outside the bag to charge or discharge to ESD sensitive components inside the bag. To close an ESD bag, it is recommended to heat seal or use ESD tape or labels after the opening of the bag has been folded over. Alternatively, you can use ESD bags with a zipper.
Sealing ESD Bags the correct way
One final word of warning:
When ESD sensitive items are unpackaged from shielding bags or other containers, they should be handled by a grounded operator at an ESD workstation
A flooring / footwear system is an alternative for personnel grounding for standing or mobile workers. Foot grounders quickly and effectively drain the static charges which collect on personnel during normal, everyday activities.
- It is recommended that foot grounders be worn on both feet, in order to assure that a continuous path to ground is maintained.
- Contact strips should be tucked inside the shoe with as much contact area as possible to the bottom of the stockinged foot. Foot grounders rely upon the perspiration layer inside of the shoe to make contact through the stocking.
- Foot grounders should be used in conjunction with floor surfaces which have a surface resistivity of less than 1010 ohms. Wearing ESD footwear on a regular, insulative floor is a waste of time and money.
- A current limiting one or two megohm resistor in series with the contact strip is recommended but not required.
- ESD footwear should be tested independently at least daily while being worn.
Not sure what floor matting to choose? Check out our Floor Mat Selection Chart.
TACKLING HBM – Flooring/Footwear Systems
If grounding personnel is achieved by use of a flooring/footwear system, heel grounders should be replaced with sole or full coverage grounders. The measurement of resistance alone is not sufficient to measure the effectiveness of the operator/flooring/footwear system. We see many companies with a conductive tile floor that measures mid-10^5 ohm resistance to ground and the operators are wearing foot grounders on each foot that passes the touch-testing, but what peak voltage on the body is generated? Over the years, there have been independent studies that have shown that with conductive flooring measuring less than 1 x 10^6 ohm resistance and footwear that measure low 10^6 ohm resistance, the following body voltage spikes were recorded when ANSI/ESD STM97.2, Floor Materials and Footwear – Voltage Measurement in Combination with a Person test was performed
- Using heel grounders, body voltage spikes to ±250 volts
- Using sole grounders, body voltage spikes were reduced to ±75 volts or less
- Using full coverage grounders, body voltage spikes were reduced to ±25 volts or less.
Basically, the greater the footwear contact surface, the higher the probability that while walking, bending, kneeling, reaching, etc. the operator will be in contact with the ESD floor.
“Procedures For The Design, Analysis And Auditing Of Static Control Flooring/Footwear Systems” by Stephen L. Fowler, William G. Klein, and Larry Fromm includes: “With heel grounders his potential dropped to 250 in one installation and 450 in the other, these being the peaks when both heels left the floor, as they did with nearly every step. When care was taken not to allow simultaneous contact loss with both grounders the values were 40 and 170 volts respectively. When he used a sole grounder, which is essentially a combination of heel and toe grounders, the peak voltage in both cases dropped below 30 volts.”
Photos on Shoe of Full Coverage Grounders and Sole Grounder
Conductive flooring less than 1 megohm (1 x10^6 ohms) is often preferable. However, if the resistance upper limit is less than 1 x 10^9 ohms, end users must add the ANSI/ESD STM97.2 test method for body voltage to the qualification of their footwear/flooring operator grounding system in order to protect the sensitive devices of today and the more sensitive devices to come. It is no longer enough to know that a standing operator is grounded. When they are working, moving around with ESDS devices and assemblies, are they generating potentially harmful body voltage spikes? In addition, ESD flooring requires maintenance to keep them clean and effective. All ESD flooring should be cleaned with a good quality ESD floor cleaner that will not leave behind an insulative residue that can raise floor resistance. Many companies also want their floors to be shiny. Today, good quality dissipative floor finish can improve durability and gloss while also reducing the charge generation characteristic of the floor to less than <50 volts.
Application Photo of Statguard Floor Finish
From published article “Now is the Time for ESD Control Programs to be Improved” by Fred Tenzer and Gene Felder. See full article at InCompliance Magazine- September 2012
- One Size Fits All Adjustable Heel Grounder
- 1 Megohm resistor
- Conductive tab length = 432 ± 2mm
– Black rubber surface: 8 x 10^4 ohms nominal
– White rubber surface: 1 x 10^12 ohms nominal
- Date coded for traceability
- Made in the Philippines
|249270||Trustat™ Heel Grounder, Single Rubber, Velcro, 1 Meg||£3.31|
|249271||Trustat™ Heel Grounder, Single Rubber, Quick Release, 1 Meg||£3.03|
|249272||Trustat™ Heel Grounder, Double Rubber, Velcro, 1 Meg||£4.42|
|249273||Trustat™ Heel Grounder, Double Rubber, Quick Release, 1 Meg||£4.42|
|249274||Trustat™ Toe Grounder, Adjustable, Quick Release, 1 Meg||£4.28|
**The prices in the Vermason Online Catalogue supersede all pricing on new product announcements and may change without notice
“Most people do not stand solidly on both feet, it is important that paths to ground are made in the heel and toe area of both feet. Where toe and heel straps are used as ESD footwear, once these are worn outside the EPA, particularly on carpets, they are likely to accumulate fluff and become ineffective; this requires that they be checked or replaced on every visit to the EPA [ESD Protected Area].
When ESD footwear is used, it should be noted that ESD footwear alone cannot achieve protection, but needs to be used in conjunction ”[EN 61340-5-2 clause 5.2.8 Footwear]