Blog Archives

What you need to set-up an ESD Protected Area

Twitter   LinkedIn   YouTube  Follow us on WordPress

An ESD Protected Area (EPA) is a defined space within which all surfaces, objects, people and ESD Sensitive Devices (ESDs) are kept at the same potential. This is achieved by simply using only ‘groundable’ materials, i.e. materials with an electrical resistance typically of less than 109 ohms, for covering of surfaces and for the manufacture of containers and tools. All surfaces, products and people are bonded to Ground. Bonding means linking, usually through a resistance of between 1 and 10 megohms. Movable items, such as containers and tools, are bonded by virtue of standing on a bonded surface or being held by a bonded person. Everything that does not readily dissipate charge must be excluded from the EPA.

Example of an EPA Area:

EPA Area

1. Bench Top Ionisers 8. Ground Cords 15. Floor Mats
2. Packaging Containers 9. Overhead Ionisers 16. Wrist Straps
3. Earth Bonding Point Bar 10. Shielding Bags 17. Foot Grounders
4. Testers and Monitors 11. Data Acquisition 18. Lab Coats
5. ESD Tape 12. PCB Storage 19. Floor Maintenance
6. Worksurface Mats 13. Signs and Labels 20. Waste Bins and Liners
7. Surface Resistance Meters 14. Floor Marking Tape 21. Document Handling

Vermason Continuous Monitors and ESD Control

Vermason Continuous or Constant Monitors pay for themselves by improving quality, productivity, eliminating wrist strap daily testing and test result logging. EN 61340-5-1 specifies wrist strap standard ANSI/ESD S1.1 which states “The wrist strap system should be tested daily to ensure proper electrical resistance. … Daily testing may be omitted if continuous monitors are used.“(1)

Companies manufacturing products containing ESD sensitive items need to ask themselves “how important is the reliability of our products”?
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 a guarantee of a continuous, reliable ground is needed then continuous monitoring should be considered or even required.“(2)

The wrist band will normally be worn for several hours at a time so it needs to be comfortable while making good contact with the skin. It is a good idea to check the wrist strap every time it is applied. Constant on line monitors can be used so that any breaks will be immediately found.“(2)

The ESD Association produced the ESD TR 12-01 technical report which is entitled “Survey of Constant (Continuous) Monitors for Wrist Straps”(3). It contains 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.

The goal remains consistent; electrical connections are tested between the ground point, coiled cord, wrist band, and body while the wearer performs operations on static sensitive items.

In many EPAs [ESD protected areas] constant monitor wrist straps are used. These fall into two categories, dual wrist band and single wrist band. The dual wrist strap type using a split band is used with a two core cord. The dual wrist strap type normally works using the resistance bridge method. The single wrist strap type uses a single strap for both grounding and monitor purposes and has an a.c. signal injected which is used for monitoring purposes. This type has the advantage of using the simpler single wrist strap.“(4)

Impedance (or single wire) constant monitors:
The impedance 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.

Impedance Wave Distortion Technology used in Vermason Single Wire Continuous Monitors utilises AC analysis to determine if the correct conditions exist. A steady state 1 volt AC signal is sent out and the impedance (combination of resistance and capacitance) of the system will distort the signal wave. The acceptable distorted wave consists of a 1 megohm resistor and the impedance ranging from a 90 lb., 5 foot tall person on the low end and a 250 lb., 6 foot, 5 inch tall person on the high end. If the 1-megohm resistor is not there, the alarm will sound. If the resistive component of the path to ground exceeds 18 megohms, the alarm will sound. Vermason has never received a skin irritation complaint using impedance wave distortion technology Continuous Monitors.

Resistance (or Dual Wire) constant monitors:
This type of monitor is 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.“(3)

Vermason Dual Wire Continuous Monitors utilise a steady state DC signal and never have received a skin irritation complaint. Vermason Dual Wire Wrist Straps passed the ANSI/ESD S1.1 flex test at over 1,000,000 cycles vs. the 16,000 requirement while the top competitor has touted their dual wire wrist strap life at only 200,000 cycles. Some brand dual wire wrist straps do not meet the ANSI/ESD S1.1 Breakaway Force requirement of less than five pounds but greater than one pound force.

Resistance Dual Wire continuous monitors, using the same technology as on demand touch testers, is easily understood. An important feature of the Dual Wire Wrist Strap is that even if one conductor is severed, the operator has reliable path-to-ground with other wire. The electrical signal does place that amount of charge on the operator. Vermason Zero Volt Monitor utilises a steady state DC dual polarity signal, with a plus signal sent via one wire and a minus signal sent via the other wire balancing and leaving virtually zero voltage on the operator. A Programmer is available to quickly and accurately set the upper and lower resistance levels to be monitored while the Continuous Monitor is installed at the workstation.

Working surface monitors:
An option available with some 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.“(3)

Most Vermason Continuous Monitors do monitor the working surface ground. Note: the working surface must have a conductive layer such as Dual Layer Rubber or Dissipative 3-Layer Vinyl or Micastat® Dissipative Laminate with conductive buried layers. Vermason Continuous Monitors are not recommended for use with homogeneous matting.

Selection Considerations:
When considering constant monitors, the equipment cost including the wrist strap, maintenance and training cost, labor time for performing wrist strap tests, and the potential failures due to non-functional wrist straps should be considered. A broken wrist strap may expose products to ESD over an entire shift if it is checked only at shift change with wrist strap checker. Constant monitors may reduce the time people spend testing wrist straps before each shift.“(3)

(1) ANSI/ESD S1.1 Annex A3 Frequency of System Testing
(2) User guide CLC/TR 61340-5-2 Wrist Strap clause Test frequency
(3) ESD TR 12-01 Technical Report Survey of Constant (Continuous) Monitors for Wrist Straps

(4) IEC 61340-5-1 Electrostatics – Part 5-1: Protection of electronic devices from electrostatic phenomena – General requirements

ESD Control – Other Considerations

Application Photo of Surface Resistance Test Kit

A significant increase in the discipline of implementing the fundamentals of ESD control noted in ANSI/ESD S20.20 Foreword, calls for:

  • Ground all conductors in the EPA including people
  • Remove all insulators from the EPA or use ionizers for process necessary insulators
  • Package ESD sensitive items going outside the EPA in packaging that provides electrostatic discharge shielding

We encourage developing a hatred for insulators. The alternatives are:

    Remove the insulative item from the EPA

  • Substitute the item with an ESD protective version (such as tape, document holders, material handling containers, plastic bottles, etc.)
  • Periodically treat insulative surface with a topical antistat
  • Neutralize electrostatic charges using ionization

Other ESD Control Items
Other EPA ESD control items to add to the ESD control program might include shelving, mobile equipment (carts), gloves, and/or seating.

Improve Compliance Verification Plan

  • Consider greater frequency of internal audits per ESD TR53
  • Use of computer data collection system for wrist straps and footwear testing, continuous monitors, and ionizers
  • Use of ground continuous monitors for worksurfaces and other ESD elements
  • Test ionizers more frequently, consider self monitoring ionizers, consider computer based data collection
  • Increased testing using static field meter to verify that automated processes (like auto insertion, tape and reel, etc) are not generating charges above acceptable limits.

Application Photo of Volt Meter and Software in Factory STM97.2 Testing Voltage Charge on Person (Photograph courtesy of TREK, INC.)

Improve Training

  • ESD awareness training for all in the EPA or who may come into the EPA including suppliers
  • Testing to verify comprehension and training adequacy
  • Training on the proper use of test equipment
  • Training on proper compliance verification test procedures

Application Photo CD-ROM ESD Training

Just to maintain a company’s current level of quality and reliability may require a substantial improvement in a company’s ESD control program. Now is the time for improvement as ESD sensitivity withstand voltages continue to get lower and companies may soon be handling class 0A HBM items. To combat HBM failures improved personnel grounding is required. For example, heel grounders should be replaced with full coverage foot grounders. However, most failures are CDM. To combat CDM failures, ionization should be added or improved, and conductive surfaces should be covered with dissipative material. In general, disciple should be enhanced implementing ESD control fundamentals, compliance verification testing should be increased, and training should be improved.

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

ESD Control, Return on Investment

Ryne C. Allen

Desco Industries Inc. (DII), Employee Owned

November 1999

Reproduced with Permission, EE-Evaluation Engineering, November, 1999


I. Introduction to ESD Control Programs

ESD Control programs are an essential part of a quality process and are always needed when handling ESD sensitive electronic/semiconductor devices. The extent of the ESD Control program is determined by the ESD Sensitive (ESDS) devices themselves and how they are handled. Refer to article “How to Set Up an ESD Control Program” [1] for additional information.

One of the main reasons that companies deploy ESD Control programs is to save money. Increased throughput and decreased scrap can yield a Return On Investment (ROI ) of up to 1,000% per [2]. A secondary reason is to comply with their customers’ and ISO 9000 type programs’ requirements. Whatever reason, setting up and implementing an ESD Control program will almost always produce favorable financial results.

II. Cost Reduction via ESD Control Programs

Having ESD awareness and following through with an ESD Control program is essential in reducing quality failures due to ESD. ESD can affect product reliability with catastrophic damage which is readily apparent to latent degradation. Latent degradation is particularly expensive requiring costly inspection and rework cycles in-house or product failure in the field. Maintaining good ESD controls will improve product throughput or yield, increasing reliability in the field which improves customer satisfaction leading to increased future business.

One test equipment manufacturer noted that GMR heads were being damaged during or after testing. These heads are extremely sensitive to ESD, and require additional handling precautions.

It is very important when designing and implementing an ESD Control program to know the ESD susceptibility of the ESD Sensitive (ESDS) devices you are trying to protect. Classification of these devices should include all simulation models human body model (HBM), Machine Mode (MM), and Charged-device Model (CDM) that will properly characterize the devices’ sensitivity when handled at various locations within the facility [6]. This will allow for the most economical program design.

Gene Chase, an ESD Consultant with ETS Inc., is quoted as saying “Millions of dollars are lost every year due to ESD [4]. Many of these incidents occur within the computer and communications industry.” Examples of losses from ESD may be any of the following:

  • Lost Time
  • Loss of Connection
  • Loss of Data
  • Shocks to Personnel
  • Upset to A System Requiring A Re-Boot
  • Damage to Equipment
  • Equipment Hardware Failure

To properly determine the return on investment (ROI) from your ESD Control program, you must collect return, repair and scrap cost data before and after implementation.

To continue reading ESD Control, Return on Investment Click Here.

%d bloggers like this: