Category Archives: Wrist Straps and Coiled Cords

How to neutralise a charge on an object that cannot be grounded

We have learnt in a previous post that within an ESD Protected Area (EPA) all surfaces, objects, people and ESD Sensitive Devices (ESDs) are kept at the same electrical potential. We achieve this by using only ‘groundable’ materials. But what do you do if you absolutely need an item in your EPA and it cannot be grounded? Don’t sweat, not all hope is lost! There are a couple of options which will allow you to use the item in question. Let us explain…

Conductors and Insulators
In ESD Control, we differentiate conductors and insulators.
Materials that easily transfer electrons are called conductors. Some examples of conductors are metals, carbon and the human body’s sweat layer.

ConductorA charged conductor can transfer electrons which allows it to be grounded

Materials that do not easily transfer electrons are called insulators and are by definition non-conductors. Some well-known insulators are common plastics and glass.

InsulatorInsulators will hold the charge and cannot be grounded and “conduct” the charge away

Both, conductors and insulators, may become charged with static electricity and discharge.
Electrostatic charges can effectively be removed from conductors by grounding them. However, the item grounded must be conductive or dissipative. An insulator on the other hand, will hold the charge and cannot be grounded and “conduct” the charge away.

Conductors and Insulators in an EPA
The first two fundamental principles of ESD Control are:

  1. Ground all conductors including people.
  2. Remove all insulators.

To achieve #1, all surfaces, products and people are bonded to Ground. Bonding means linking, usually through a resistance of between 1 and 10 megohms. Wrist straps and work surface mats are some of the most common devices used to remove static charges. Wrist straps drain charges from operators and a properly grounded mat will provide path-to-ground for exposed ESD susceptible devices. Movable items (such as containers and tools) are bonded by virtue of standing on a bonded surface or being held by a bonded person.

However, what if the static charge in question is on something that cannot be grounded, i.e. an insulator? Then #2 of our ESD Control principles will kick in. Per the ESD Standard, “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.”

[IEC 61340-5-1:2016 clause 5.3.4.2 Insulators]

Always keep insulators a minimum of 31cm from ESDS itemsAlways keep insulators a minimum of 31cm from ESDS items

“Process-essential” Insulators
Well, we all know that nothing in life is black and white. It would be easy to just follow the above ‘rules’ and Bob’s your uncle – but unfortunately that’s not always possible. There are situations where said insulator is an item used at the workstation such as a hand tools. They are essential – you cannot just throw them out of the EPA. If you do, the job won’t get done.
So, the question is – how do you ‘remove’ these vital insulators without actually ‘removing’ them from your EPA? There are 2 options you should try first:

1. Replace regular insulative items with an ESD protective version
There are numerous tools and accessories available that are ESD safe – from document handling to cups & dispensers and brushes and waste bins. They are either conductive or dissipative and replace the standard insulative varieties that are generally used at a workbench. For more information on using ESD safe tools and accessories, check this post.

2. Periodically apply a coat of Topical Antistat
The Reztore® Topical Antistat (or similar solution) is for use on non-ESD surfaces. After it has been applied and the surface dries, an antistatic and protective static dissipative coating is left behind. The static dissipative coating will allow charges to drain off when grounded. The antistatic properties will reduce triboelectric voltage to under 200 volts. It therefore gives non-ESD surfaces electrical properties until the hard coat is worn away.

If these two options are not feasible for your application, the insulator is termed “process-essential” and therefore neutralisation using an ioniser should become a necessary part of your ESD control programme.

Neutralisation
Most ESD workstations will have some insulators or isolated conductors that cannot be removed or replaced. These should be addressed with ionisation.
Examples of some common process essential insulators are a PC board substrate, insulative test fixtures and product plastic housings.

Electronic enclosures are process-essential insulators
Electronic enclosures are process-essential insulators

An example of isolated conductors can be conductive traces or components loaded on a PC board that is not in contact with the ESD worksurface.

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 on an insulator in a matter of seconds, thereby reducing their potential to cause ESD damage.
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.

Ioniser ExampleInsulators and isolated conductors are common in ESD Sensitive (ESDS) Devices – Ionisers can help

For more information on ionisers and how to choose the right type of ioniser for your application, read this post.

Summary
Insulators, by definition, are non-conductors and therefore cannot be grounded. Insulators can be controlled by doing the following within an EPA:

  • Keep insulators a minimum of 31cm from ESDS items at all times or
  • Replace regular insulative items with an ESD protective version or
  • Periodically apply a coat of Topical Antistat

When none of the above is possible, the insulator is termed “process-essential” and therefore neutralisation using an ioniser should become a necessary part of your ESD control programme.

Advertisements

Effective ESD Control in a Service or Repair Centre

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.

Charge Generation Unwinding a Roll of Tape

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 MeterStatic 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.

Workstation Grounding

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.
    Working-Surface-Matting

    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.

Personnel Grounding

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:

Personnel Grounding ChecklistThe Personnel Grounding Checklist

Summary

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.

The importance of Personnel Grounding Testers

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.

Personnel Grounding ChecklistYour Personnel Grounding Checklist

Your Personnel Grounding Checklist:

  1. Both wrist straps and footwear need to be tested at least daily before handling ESD sensitive devices and should be worn while checking.
  2. Verify your personnel grounding system using a wrist strap and/or footwear tester.
  3. Remember that a record of each test should be kept for quality control purposes.
  4. 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 4.7.2.4.4 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).

Wrist Strap TesterExample 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.

Footwear testing:
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.

How to reduce the risk of damaging ESD sensitive devices in critical applications

Do your employees handle ESD sensitive high-end components that would be extremely expensive to replace if they failed? If so, you want to make sure that the risk of ESD damage is as low as possible. Today’s blog post will look at an option of protecting your critical applications: dual-wire wrist straps.

Introduction

In an ESD Protected Area (EPA) all surfaces, objects, people and ESD sensitive devices (ESDs) are kept at the same potential. This is achieved by simply using only ‘groundable’ materials that are then linked to ground.

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 coil cord that connects the band to an Earth Bonding Point (EBP).

Wrist Strap
Components of a Wrist Strap

Advantages of Dual-Wire Wrist Straps

Dual-wire wrist straps have two conductors (compared to single-wire monitors which have only one conductor inside the insulation of the coil cord). They offer a reduced risk of damaging ESD sensitive devices because even if one conductor is severed, the operator still has a reliable path-to-ground with the other conductor. For that reason, they are generally used in critical applications. Dual-wire wrist straps:

  • eliminate intermittent failures and
  • extend the lifespan of wrist straps.

MagSnap 360 Dual-Wire Metal Wrist StrapExample of a Dual-Wire Wrist Strap – more information

Using Dual-Wire Continuous Monitors

For maximum benefits dual-wire wrist straps should be used together with dual-wire continuous monitors. So instead of connecting your coil cord to an Earth Bonding Point, you would connect it to your Continuous Monitor. The operator will be grounded and at the same time monitored. Continuous Monitors provide operators with instant feedback on the status and functionality of their wrist strap and/or workstation. They detect split-second failures when the wrist strap is still in the “intermittent” stage. This is prior to a permanent “open” which could result in damage to ESD sensitive components.
Since people are one of the greatest sources of static electricity and ESD, proper grounding is paramount. One of the most common ways to ground people is with a wrist strap. Ensuring that wrist straps are functional and are connected to people and ground is a continuous task.” “While effective at the time of testing, wrist strap checker use is periodic. The failure of a wrist strap between checks may expose products to damage from electrostatic charge. If the wrist strap system is checked at the beginning of a shift and subsequently fails, then an entire shift’s work could be suspect.” “Wrist strap checkers are usually placed in a central location for all to use.  Wrist straps are stressed and flexed to their limits at a workstation.  While a wrist strap is being checked, it is not stressed, as it would be under working conditions.  Opens in the wire at the coiled cord’s strain relief are sometimes only detected under stress.“ [ESD TR 12-01 Technical Report Survey of Constant (Continuous) Monitors for Wrist Straps]

Example of a Dual-Wire Continuous MonitorExample of a Dual-Wire Continuous Monitor – more information

Dual Polarity Technology provides true continuous monitoring of wrist strap functionality and operator safety according to accepted industry standards. Dual-wire systems are used to create redundancy. In critical applications you build-in redundancy in order to have a backup if your primary fails. That’s the concept. With dual-wire wrist straps the redundancy is there as a protection rather than an alternative. If you are monitoring your dual-wire wrist strap and one wire fails, then the unit will alarm. You will still be grounded by the other wire, so there will be a significantly reduced risk of damaging ESD sensitive components if you happen to be handling them when the wrist strap fails. The wrist strap would still need to be replaced immediately.
Resistance (or dual-wire) constant monitors are “… used with a two wire (dual) wrist strap. When a person is wearing a wrist strap, the monitor observes the resistance of the loop, consisting of a wire, a person, a wristband, and a second wire.  If any part of the loop should open (become disconnected or have out of limit resistance), the circuit will go into the alarm state.” “While the continuity of the loop is monitored, the connection of the wrist strap to ground is not monitored.” “There are two types of signals used by resistance based constant monitors; steady state DC and pulsed DC.  Pulsed DC signals were developed because of concerns about skin irritation.  However, pulse DC units introduce periods of off time (seconds) when the system is not being monitored.“ [ESD TR 12-01 Technical Report Survey of Constant (Continuous) Monitors for Wrist Straps]

Conclusion

And there you have it: if you do have a critical application, make sure you use dual-wire wrist straps together with dual-wire continuous monitors.

4 Benefits of Continuous Monitoring

We have previously learnt that wrist straps are considered the first line of ESD Control. They are used to link people to ground which ensures that that the operator is kept at the same potential as surfaces, objects and ESD sensitive devices. We’ve also discovered that wrist straps need to be visually inspected and checked (while worn) on a daily basis – BEFORE handling any ESD sensitive item. This will alert the operator if their wrist strap has developed a fault and as a result does not ground them any longer.
An alternative to periodic testing is the use of continuous monitors. Per ESD Handbook TR 20.20 paragraph 5.3.2.4.4 Test Frequency, “Because wrist straps have a finite life, it is important to develop a test frequency that will guarantee integrity of the system. 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 knowledge of a continuous, reliable ground is needed, then continuous monitoring should be considered or even required.

In today’s post we will highlight 4 benefits of continuous monitoring which may help you decide to move away from daily wrist strap checks.
But first a little reminder of what continuous monitors actually are: Continuous monitors come in different styles and sizes but are intended to be kept on your workstation. Some units just ‘sit’ on your bench; others are attached to your working surface matting; some can even be attached underneath the workbench so they don’t take away valuable workspace. Operators connect their wrist strap to the unit to allow for real-time continuous monitoring. If the wrist strap fails, the unit will alarm. Many continuous monitors also feature a parking stud providing a means for the operator to disconnect when leaving their workstation.

There are two different types of continuous monitors available:

  • Single-wire continuous monitors allow the use of any standard, single-wire wrist strap and coil cord. The monitor / wrist strap system life-cycle costs are significantly lower than dual-wire systems. While they would not be suitable for the most critical applications, single-wire continuous monitors are an economical way to monitor both the operator’s wrist strap and/or workstation surface.
  • Dual-wire constant monitors provide true continuous monitoring of wrist strap functionality and operator safety according to accepted industry standards. Dual-wire continuous monitors provide redundancy because even if one dual-wire wrist strap conductor is severed, the operator still has a reliable path-to-ground with the other conductor.

1. Instant Feedback

Imagine this scenario: you come to work in the morning, you test your wrist strap, it passes and you start work on your ESD sensitive devices. 3 hours later, when you come back from your tea break, you test your wrist strap again and it fails. What to do? You don’t know if the wrist strap only just failed or if it failed right after your first test in the morning. How do you know if the devices you worked on all morning have been damaged? You don’t – after all, latent defects are not visible and failures may only occur at a later time. Using continuous monitoring while working on those ESD sensitive devices will alert the operator as soon as their wrist strap fails. The faulty wrist strap can be replaced with a new model from stock and everyone is happy – no ESD sensitive devices damaged and no unhappy customers.

Zero Volt Monitor SoloThe EMIT Zero Volt Monitor (50579) in Use

Continuous monitors provide operators with instant feedback on the status and functionality of their wrist strap. The instant an operator’s wrist strap or cord fails, the monitor will issue audible and visual (LEDs) alarms alerting the user and supervisor of the problem. Full time continuous monitoring is superior to periodic or pulsed testing, and can save a significant amount of money in testing costs and rejected product. Periodic testing only detects wrist strap failures after ESD susceptible products have been manufactured. The costs of dealing with the resulting catastrophic failures or latent defects can be considerable. “A properly grounded wrist strap will keep a person’s body voltage to approximately + 10 V. The main advantage to a constant [or continuous] monitor is the immediate indication that the employee receives if the wrist strap falls open. With an unmonitored system, the employee will not be aware of a wrist strap failure until the start of the next shift. This has reliability benefits for an ESD program as it might help reduce or eliminate ESD damage.” [CLC/TR 61340-5-2:2008 User guide Annex B.1.3 Constant monitors].

2. Monitor Operator AND Workstation

An option available with most continuous or constant monitors is the ability to monitor working surface ground connections. “Some continuous monitors can monitor worksurface ground connections. A test signal is passed through the worksurface and ground connections. Discontinuity or over limit resistance changes cause the monitor to alarm. Worksurface monitors test the electrical connection between the monitor, the worksurface, and the ground point. The monitor however, will not detect insulative contamination on the worksurface.” [ESD TR 12-01 Technical Report Survey of Constant (Continuous) Monitors for Wrist Straps]
When the monitor is connected to an ESD Mat working surface, the amount of current that flows is a function of the total resistance between the monitor and through the working surface to ground. When the resistance of the working surface is below a pre-set threshold*, the monitor will indicate good. Conversely, if the resistance level is high when compared to the monitor’s reference*, the unit will alarm. This is an integrating resistance measuring circuit, therefore it is relatively insensitive to externally induced electromagnetic fields.

Installing the Multi-Mount Monitor to Ground the WorksurfaceInstalling the Vermason Multi-Mount Monitor (222608) to ground the worksurface

For units that also monitor the connection of a worksurface to protective earth, it is also possible to reduce or eliminate the checking of the worksurface as part of the periodic audit of the process.” [CLC/TR 61340-5-2:2008 User guide Annex B.1.3 Constant monitors].

*The resistance threshold limits can vary between brands and models (and can sometimes also be adjusted by the user) so make sure you do your homework before committing to a particular unit and check the limit meets your individual requirements.

3. Detect Initial Flex Fatigue

Unlike wrist strap testers, continuous monitors detect split-second failures when the wrist strap is still in the “intermittent” stage. This is prior to a permanent “open” which could result in damage to ESD sensitive components.

Using ESD shielding bagsThe Jewel Mini Workstation Monitor (222603) in Use

Wrist strap checkers are usually placed in a central location for all to use. Wrist straps are stressed and flexed to their limits at a workstation. While a wrist strap is being checked, it is not stressed, as it would be under working conditions. Opens in the wire at the coiled cord’s strain relief are sometimes only detected under stress.” [ESD TR 12-01 Technical Report Survey of Constant (Continuous) Monitors for Wrist Straps]

4. Eliminate Need for Periodic Testing

Many customers are eliminating periodic touch testing of wrist straps and are utilising continuous monitoring to better ensure that their products were manufactured in an ESD protected environment. Continuous monitors eliminate the need for users to test wrist straps and log the results; by their function, these monitors satisfy the EN 61340-5-1 test logging requirements. “There are also other process benefits from using constant monitors such as the elimination of the need to maintain daily test logs and a reduction in the time for employees to make the daily test.” [CLC/TR 61340-5-2:2008 User guide Annex B.1.3 Constant monitors].

No more Paper LogsNo more Paper Logs!

So when using constant monitoring, operators:

  • Don’t have to waste time queuing at a wrist strap test station before each shift.
  • Don’t have to remember to complete their daily test logs.

It’s also harder to ‘cheat’ with continuous monitors. We’re not saying, your employees would do naughty things like that but we’ve seen it all before: operators ‘pretending’ to perform a wrist strap check, operators failing a wrist strap test and still recording a pass etc. There are always options to bypass a system, but it’s definitely harder when continuous monitors are used.

So should you now run-out and equip all your users with continuous monitors? As with most things in life, the answer is not that simple: it depends! If your company manufactures products containing ESD sensitive items, you need to ask yourself “how important is the reliability of our products”? Sooner or later a wrist strap is going to fail. If your products are of such high value that you need to be 100% sure your operators are grounded at all times, then you should consider a continuous monitoring system.

Checking your ESD Control Products – Part 1

Today we want to talk about a subject many users forget about when it comes to ESD protection: periodic verification.
Whilst many people understand the basic concepts of ESD and as a result insist on a properly equipped ESD Protected Area (EPA), they then forget all about it. They use the same products day-in, day-out, year after year, without knowing if their products are actually still working properly.
So today we want to look at the most common products in your EPA that you should be checking on a regular basis. And because there are quite a few product groups to discuss, we have split this post in 2 parts – we don’t want to scare you away with a never-ending blog post…

Why periodic verification?
Each component in an ESD protected area (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 money. The problem with many ESD protection products (think wrist straps!) is that you can’t always see the damage. Just by looking at a coiled cord that has no visibly damage to the insulation you would not know if the conductor on the inside is damaged. That’s where periodic verification comes into play.
ESD protected area (EPA) products should be tested:

  1. Prior to installation to qualify product for listing in user’s ESD control plan.
  2. During initial installation.
  3. For periodic checks of installed products as part of IEC 61340-5-1 Edition 1 2007-08 clause 5.2.3 Compliance verification plan.

It’s #3 we will be focusing on in this 2-part series.

Worksurface Matting
The purpose of ESD bench matting is to ensure that when charged conductors (conductive or dissipative) are placed upon the surface, a controlled discharge occurs and electrostatic charges are removed to ground. However, this only occurs if the ESD work surface is actually connected to ground. If the matting is out-of-spec, not grounded at all, the stud on the mat has become loose or the ground cord has become disconnected, charges cannot be removed.
Many companies use a daily checklist, which includes the operator having to verify that ground cords are firmly connected.
Remember to regularly clean your bench matting to maintain proper electrical function (e.g. Reztore Surface and Mat Cleaner). Do not use cleaners with silicone as silicone build-up will create an insulative film on the surface.
The company’s compliance verification plan should also include periodic checks of work surfaces measuring:

  • Resistance Point-to-Point (Rp-p) and
  • Resistance-to-ground (Rg).

222643UseTesting a working surface using 222643

Surface resistance testers can be used to perform these tests in accordance with EN 61340-5-1 Electrostatics and its test method IEC 61340-2-3; if these measurements are within acceptable ranges, the worksurface matting and its connections are good.

Wrist Straps
As discharges from people handling ESD sensitive devices cause significant ESD damage, the wrist strap is considered the first line of ESD control.
Before handling ESD sensitive items, you should visually inspect the wrist strap to see if there are any breakages etc. The wrist strap should then be tested while worn using a wrist strap tester. This ensures all three components are checked: the wrist band, the ground cord (including resistor) and the interface with the wearer’s skin. Records of each test should be kept. Wiggling the resistor strain relief portion of the coil cord during the test will help identify failures sooner. Analysis and corrective action should take place when a wrist strap tester indicates a failure.

222566useChecking wrist straps using 222566

It is recommended that wrist straps are checked at least daily. An even better solution to daily wrist strap checks is the use of continuous monitors. They will alarm if the person or work surface is not properly grounded.

A note on worksurface matting and wrist straps: if you are using earth bonding points, earth bonding bars etc. to ground the operator and/or bench matting, remember to inspect and test those regularly as well (every 6 months for example).

Make sure you read the follow-up post here.

 

 

Continuous Monitors and ESD Control

Most of you have probably heard of continuous monitors before but do you know:

  • what exactly they do or
  • why you should be using a continuous monitoring system?

If your response to one (or both) of the above questions is ‘no’, you’re lucky because we’ll be answering them here today. If you already know the answers, why not read on anyway? You never know: you might be learning something new…

What are continuous monitors?

When talking about wrist straps a couple of weeks ago, we mentioned the need for periodic testing. Every day before each use, wrist straps need to be checked (while worn) to ensure they ground the operator correctly.

So imagine this scenario: you come to work in the morning, you test your wrist strap, it passes and you get to working on your ESD sensitive devices. 3 hours later, when you come back from your tea break, you test your wrist strap again and it fails. What to do? You don’t know if the wrist strap only just failed or if it failed right after your first test in the morning. How do you know if the devices you worked on all morning have been damaged? You don’t – after all latent defects are not visible and failures may only occur at a later time. That’s where continuous monitors come into play.

Continuous monitors provide operators with instant feedback on the status and functionality of their wrist strap. They detect split-second failures when the wrist strap is still in the “intermittent” stage. This is prior to a permanent “open” which could result in damage to ESD sensitive components.
Continuous monitors come in different styles and sizes but are intended to be kept on your workstation. Some units just ‘sit’ on your bench; others are attached to your working surface matting; some can even be attached underneath the workbench so they don’t take away valuable workspace. Operators connect their wrist strap to the unit to allow for real-time continuous monitoring. If the wrist strap fails, the unit will alarm. Many continuous monitors also feature a parking stud providing a means for the operator to disconnect when leaving their workstation.

In our scenario above, had our operator used continuous monitoring while working on those ESD sensitive devices, they would have been alerted as soon as their wrist strap failed. The faulty wrist strap could have been replaced with a brand spanking new model from stock and everyone would have been happy – no ESD sensitive devices damaged and no unhappy customers.

Using continuous monitorsUsing continuous monitor 222603

Some continuous monitors even provide the ability to monitor working surface ground connections. “Discontinuity or over limit resistance changes cause the monitor to alarm. Worksurface monitors test the electrical connection between the monitor, the worksurface, and the ground point. The monitor however, will not detect insulative contamination on the worksurface.1

These days you can even find a number of ‘smart’ monitors on the market. They are connected to a computer and software records and displays failures to notify supervisors or engineers when a device needs attention (see the EMIT software as an example).

When and why you should be using continuous monitors

If your company manufactures products containing ESD sensitive items, you need to ask yourself “how important is the reliability of our products”? Sooner or later a wrist strap is going to fail. If your products are of such high value that you need to be 100% sure your operators are grounded at all times, then you should consider a continuous monitoring system.

The ESD Association produced the ESD TR 12-01 technical report which is entitled “Survey of Constant (Continuous) Monitors for Wrist Straps“. It contains some useful information: “Since people are one of the greatest sources of static electricity and ESD, proper grounding is paramount. One of the most common ways to ground people is with a wrist strap. Ensuring that wrist straps are functional and are connected to people and ground is a continuous task.” “While effective at the time of testing, wrist strap checker use is periodic. The failure of a wrist strap between checks may expose products to damage from electrostatic charge. If the wrist strap system is checked at the beginning of a shift and subsequently fails, then an entire shift’s work could be suspect.” “Wrist strap checkers are usually placed in a central location for all to use.  Wrist straps are stressed and flexed to their limits at a workstation.  While a wrist strap is being checked, it is not stressed, as it would be under working conditions.  Opens in the wire at the coiled cord’s strain relief are sometimes only detected under stress.1

Types of continuous monitors

The impedance (or single-wire) constant monitor “… uses a detection circuit designed to reduce false alarms and eliminate adjustments. [It] use[s] the phase difference between current and voltage to detect changes in impedance of the cord, band and person. A very low AC voltage is used for constant sensing. Any standard [single wire] wristband and coiled cord can be used.”1

Single-wire monitorsExamples of single-wire monitors

Single-wire monitoring allows the use of any standard, single-wire wrist strap and coil cord. The monitor / wrist strap system life-cycle costs are significantly lower than dual-wire systems. While they would not be suitable for the most critical applications, single-wire continuous monitors are an economical way to monitor both the operator’s wrist strap and/or workstation surface.

Resistance (or dual-wire) constant monitors are “… used with a two wire (dual) wrist strap. When a person is wearing a wrist strap, the monitor observes the resistance of the loop, consisting of a wire, a person, a wristband, and a second wire.  If any part of the loop should open (become disconnected or have out of limit resistance), the circuit will go into the alarm state.” “While the continuity of the loop is monitored, the connection of the wrist strap to ground is not monitored.” “There are two types of signals used by resistance based constant monitors; steady state DC and pulsed DC.  Pulsed DC signals were developed because of concerns about skin irritation.  However, pulse DC units introduce periods of off time (seconds) when the system is not being monitored.1

Examples of dual-wire monitorsExamples of dual-wire monitors

Dual-polarity technology provides true continuous monitoring of wrist strap functionality and operator safety according to accepted industry standards. Dual-wire continuous monitors provide redundancy; even if one dual-wire wrist strap conductor is severed, the operator still has a reliable path-to-ground with the other conductor.

 

Need help choosing the correct continuous monitor for your application? Make sure you check our continuous monitor selection chart.

 

 

1 ESD TR 12-01 Technical Report Survey of Constant (Continuous) Monitors for Wrist Straps

Wrist Straps – Q&A – Part 2

Today’s blog post is a continuation of last week when we covered the basics of wrist straps – what they are, what different styles there are etc. Missed the first post? Catch-up here!

Today we’ll be taking a closer look at queries we receive in connection with using wrist straps. So without further ado, let’s jump right in!

What is the 1 megohm Resistor for?
The purpose of the 1 megohm resistor found in series with wrist straps is solely to provide safety to the human body by limiting the amount of current that could be conducted through the body. The 1 megohm resistor is designed to limit the current to 250 microamps at 250 Volts rms AC. This is just below the perception level (and a bit before the nervous system goes awry) of most people. Physical perception of current traveling in/on the body varies depending on size, weight, water content, skin conditions, etc. Remember that the termination of the coil cord with the 1 megohm resistor must always be connected to the operator.

Can I connect to ground via a bench mat?
Many wrist strap users connect the wrist cord to a stud on their ESD protective mat. This process is not recommended as it can increase the total system resistance to ground to over the 35 megohm limit required by EN 61340-5-1 table 1.

Connecting a wrist strap to an Earth Bonding PointIt is recommended to connect a wrist strap to an Earth Bonding Point (EBP)

Can I buy a wireless wrist strap?
Passive “wireless” or “cordless” wrist straps have severe limitations. Assuming you were tribocharged to 10 KV and wearing the “wireless” wrist strap, it would take many hours (days even depending on the ambient relative humidity) to get you below 5 KV, nevertheless 10 Volts. Most (if not all) of the charge reduction would be due to natural recombination of the charges on your skin with the air molecules and the natural conductance of the air through water vapour content.
At this point there is no “cordless” wrist strap system on the market that works at all. In fact “cordless” wrist straps will damage ESDS devices because you will not be grounding your body.

Do I need to wear a wrist strap on both hands?
Good question, since the concept of grounding an individual is not very intuitive. The skin is one of the largest organs of the human body. The resistance of the human body is averaged to 1,500,000 ohms (or 1.5 x 103 ohms) from the ESD-STM5.1 [ESDA Standard for Human Body Model]. The resistance of an individual may vary from 1 kilohm to over 1 megohm. In either case, the skin is conductive in the sense it can conduct electrical current. Therefore, since the skin is (for the most part) continuous, i.e., the ball of your foot is electrically connected to your index finger, then grounding the skin at any point will in fact ground all of the skin. So you can in good conscious say that if you properly wear one grounded wrist strap, then both hands are grounded as well as other exposed skin areas.

Do wrist straps need to be tested?
Yes, wrist straps need to be checked regularly to ensure they are faultless and ground the operator properly. 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 need to be checked before each use. Periodic testing is not required if continuous monitors are used. They provide instant feedback should the wrist strap fail while handling ESD sensitive devices.

Example of a Wrist Strap TesterExample of a Wrist Strap Tester

What should I do if I fail my wrist strap test?
If the wrist strap tester outputs a FAIL test result, stop working. Test the wrist band and cord individually to find out which item is damaged. There are some methods to troubleshoot your wrist straps. First make sure your tester is properly adjusted and calibrated.

If the operator and wrist strap system fails low:

  • Make sure that the person is not directly connected to ground via another path, i.e., touching a grounded metal structure.
  • The most common cause of a fail low is a shorted resistor in the wrist strap coil cord. Replace the coil cord with a new one and repeat the test.

If the operator and wrist strap system fails high:

  • Make sure the coil cord has a secure connection both the banana jack/socket to tester and the stud snap to wrist strap buckle.
  • Ensure there is continuity in the coil cord (you can test with an ohmmeter).
  • Remove the wrist strap and hold the bottom part of the band tightly between the operator’s thumb and index finger and test. If the test fails high, the band may be soiled and needs cleaning or the buckle to band connection may be suspect. Either replace the band or clean and then retest.
  • If the above test is okay, then the skin of the operator’s wrist may be too dry. Apply ESD lotion to the wrist to re-moisturise the skin thereby increasing its conductivity. Retest. Operators with dryer skin should wear metal banded wrist straps to minimise the contact resistance. If their skin is very dry, application of an ESD lotion may be required as part of their donning process.

You need to obtain a PASS test result before beginning work.

 

Did we miss any question(s)? Let us know in the comments!

Wrist Straps – Q&A – Part 1

We get a lot of inquiries in regards to wrist straps: what they do, why the different types, how they are used, etc. So we thought it might be helpful for you to collect the most common queries in a Q&A style blog post. There is quite a bit of ground to cover in regards to wrist straps so to make it easier on your eyes and head, we spread the information over 2 blog posts. The first post will cover the basics from what a wrist strap is to introducing the different styles. The second post will focus on the correct use of wrist straps. Let’s get started!

What is a wrist strap?
A wrist strap is made up of two components:

  • a wrist band that is worn comfortably around your wrist and
  • a coil cord that connects the band to an Earth Bonding Point (EBP).

Wrist band and coil cord of a wrist strap

Why do I need a wrist strap?
In an ESD Protected Area (EPA) all surfaces, objects, people and ESD sensitive devices (ESDs) are kept at the same potential. This is achieved by simply using only ‘groundable’ materials that are then linked to ground. 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 (see question below).

Are wrist straps necessary?
Wrist straps are not necessary if an operator is wearing two foot grounders on a conductive grounded floor and doesn’t lift both heels/toes at the same time. As some people lift both feet off the ground while seated, wrist straps are essential for sitting personnel.

Does a wrist strap work if it’s near your forearm?
Yes. The key to the wrist strap is the intimate contact of the conductive band to your skin and of course the coil cord connecting it to ground. It doesn’t matter if the contact point to your body is on you wrist, finger, forearm, ankle, etc., as long as it is in direct contact with your skin. The skin is electrically continuous over you whole body. The wrist is just a convenient place to couple the band to.

What styles of wrist bands are available and how do they differ in their effectiveness?
Operators can choose between elastic and metal wrist bands:

  • Elastic wrist bands are the most popular wrist band as they are comfortable to wear and easy to adjust. Compared to metal wrist bands they are also less expensive.
  • Some people prefer metal wrist bands as they are generally longer lasting and easier to clean.

The key to personal grounding is to have an adequate path to ground so that there is never a potential difference with respect to ground on the human body for longer than 150 milliseconds (ms) body movement time. Such rapid grounding is accomplished well by elastic or metal wrist straps. So in terms of their effectiveness to protect against ESD, there is no difference between elastic and metal wrist bands.

What size wrist band do I need?
Both elastic and metal wrist bands are (to a certain degree) adjustable. Metal wrist bands offer less adjustment, so you will find those are generally available in different sizes depending on the circumference of your wrist. However, you are still able to adjust metal wrist bands if you needed a tighter/looser fit.

To adjust your wrist band, follow the below steps:

1. Elastic wrist bands:

  • Place the wrist band on the wrist.
  • Pull the “tail” of material that extends out from the clasp to tighten the elastic material until the wrist band fits snugly but comfortably.

Adjusting an elastic wrist bandAdjusting an elastic wrist band

2. Metal wrist bands:

  • Insert the link end of the wrist band into the slotted opening on the cap. Insert it at a downward angle to allow the links to slide inside the channel in the backplate.
  • Change the size of the band by sliding the links in or out of the stainless steel backplate. For extra small you can cut off excess links with cutters.
  • Lock the links into place by pulling down on the band, seating the band securely over the lip on the edge of the backplate.

Adjusting a metal wrist band
MetalBand2
Adjusting a metal wrist band

Adjusting a metal wrist band

What is the difference between single-wire and dual-wire wrist straps?
Single-wire wrist straps have one conductor inside the insulation of the coil cord. They offer significantly lower life-cycle costs compared to dual-wire wrist straps. While they would not be suitable for the most critical applications, single-wire wrist straps are an economical way to ground an operator.
Dual-wire wrist straps have two conductors. They offer a reduced risk of damaging ESD sensitive devices because even if one conductor is severed, the operator still has a reliable path-to-ground with the other conductor. For that reason they are generally used in critical applications. For maximum benefits dual-wire wrist straps should be used together with dual-wire continuous monitors.

Find part 2 of this series here.

Which Single-Wire Monitor is Best for your Application?

Continuous Monitors provide operators with instant feedback on the status and functionality of their wrist strap and/or workstation. They detect split-second failures when the wrist strap is still in the “intermittent” stage. This is prior to a permanent “open” which could result in damage to ESD sensitive components. Continuous Monitors verify the ground integrity of both the operator and ESD workstation and eliminate the need for periodic testing (and record keeping).

Single-Wire Monitoring allows the use of any standard, single-wire wrist strap and coil cord. The monitor / wrist strap system life-cycle costs are significantly lower than dual-wire systems. While they would not be suitable for the most critical applications, Single-Wire Continuous Monitors are an economical way to monitor both the operator’s wrist strap and workstation surface.

222608
The Multi-Mount Monitor continuously monitors:
• One operator wearing a wrist strap
• One ESD worksurface

Its small package and mounting tabs with holes make it highly suitable to install on most equipment or work bench surface.222603

 

The Jewel® Mini Monitor continuously monitors:
• One operator wearing a wrist strap
• One ESD worksurface

This unit is ideal for individual workstations for assembly, test, packaging or other applications.

222744

 

The Dual-Operator Monitor continuously monitors:
• Two operators wearing a wrist strap
• Two ESD worksurfaces

This unit is ideal for workstations that are shared by two operators.

 

To determine the correct monitor for your application, make sure you check our Continuous Monitor Selection Chart.

%d bloggers like this: