The “Real” Cost of ESD Damage – Written by Terry Welsher, Dangelmayer Associates/ESD Association
Anyone who has worked in Quality or Reliability in a large corporation knows that developing and presenting credible failure cost information can be difficult. This is particularly true for ESD, where the events are invisible and not nearly as well understood as other more obvious classes of failure, such as mechanical or contamination. The “real” cost of ESD can be a hot topic of discussion each year when program budgets are being developed for manufacturing and R&D programs. The challenge is that every year there are new high-level people in the financial and planning organizations who are not technical experts and who are asking hard questions about the justification for the ESD investment. In years when revenue is down, the questions become more difficult and better evidence is often demanded. The author was directly involved in this process for 15 years, starting in 1986. At the time the following quote was a part of many ESD funding discussions; “… in the electronics industry, losses associated with ESD are estimated at between a half billion and five billion dollars annually.” The exact original reference for this assertion has been lost, at least to this author. Nonetheless it was used many times over the next few years in presentations to the corporate check writers. Furthermore, during research for background information for this article, the exact same quote appeared (unattributed) in an article from 1992  and in a book published in 2006 . Needless to say, a well-stated assertion of value can go a long way – at least in trade literature. However, this author can also report that the usefulness of this, inside the corporation, eroded much faster. By 1990, a well-known director in Bell Labs said; “… that was then… I think this problem has been solved!” Many of us would scoff at such a declaration, knowing full well that ESD problems were continuing to occur. However, the directors’ challenge was an appropriate one. His experience came from the semiconductor process world where he had seen significant ESD sources eliminated and device thresholds (albeit HBM only) steadily increase. Corporations would like their investments to be justified by more timely and relevant data and observations. They ask, “What is the “real” cost?”
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by Rick Cardinale, Bird Electronic
Bird Electronic, founded in 1942 by J. Raymond Bird, soon became a leader in radio frequency instrumentation. Today, Bird also has moved into digital instrumentation test equipment.
With the development of digital instrumentation came the increased need for controls to prevent ESD events. Improving ESD protection has been an ongoing process since the late 1980s. In 1997, the company determined that an automated PCB production line would be installed and that the entire manufacturing area should be protected against ESD.
This decision led to an evaluation of ESD protective flooring. In 1998, 20,000 square feet of conductive floor tile were installed in the main production area. To help brighten the area, white tile was selected. The floor resistance measured less than 1.0 × 10^6 ohms.
A bright, high-gloss appearance was part of the selection criterion for the floor. While the electrical properties were unchanging, by 1999, the floor was starting to dull. It was being maintained like a regular tile floor. No waxes or finishes were used; however, the tile manufacturer did recommend using buffing pads.
After consulting with the tile manufacturer and the installer, maintenance was increased to sweeping clean and damp mopping two times per week and buffing once per month. Monthly floor maintenance was $1,700 per month, a $20,400 annual expenditure.
In late 1999, the maintenance schedule was modified to add more buffing since this was the only way to keep the floor shiny. The floor now was swept and damp mopped weekly and buffed twice per month. The floor was clean and shiny, but the cost went up 41% to $2,400 per month, a $28,800 annual expenditure.
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