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Understanding how to protect against Electrostatic Discharge (ESD)​

August 31st, 2023

For the month of July 2023 we ran an Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) Protection awareness campaign with all our Chiptech team members. This included posters and little tips strategically placed throughout our facility on interesting facts and best practice relating to static damage. The end of the campaign culminated in a group quiz, with winners taking home exciting prizes. We are proud that all teams scored highly and there was only a small variation in results between the ten groups. 

At Chiptech we regularly talk about static electricity, it’s potential to impact the electronic products we manufacture and the steps and testing that we undertake in our factory to prevent damage from occurring.  In this blog we share some of the common approaches that can be applied in your own operations for servicing Chiptech products, or when working with other electronics. 

Chiptech New Zealand uses Anti-Static Mats, Wrist-straps, and foot-straps for grounding when producing their tech products

What is static electricity and why is it bad for electronics?

The classic demonstration of static electricity occurs when you rub a balloon on your hair and then stick it to your top or the wall. Static electricity is an imbalance of electric charges within or on the surface of a material. It occurs when two materials come into contact and then separate, causing the transfer of electrons from one material to another. This accumulation of electric charge can result in a sudden discharge, known as electrostatic discharge (ESD). A common example of electrostatic discharge is when you shuffle your feet on carpet and then ‘zap’ someone when you touch them.

When manufacturing and handling electronics, especially where intricate circuits and sensitive components are prevalent, static electricity poses a risk. Electronic components have become incredibly small and operate on lower voltage levels, which makes them more sensitive to static discharges. This largely unseen phenomenon can cause irreparable damage to electronic components, leading to defects, and has the potential to reduce a products a lifespan. To mitigate these risks, Chiptech actively use anti-static protection in all parts of our manufacturing and servicing processes. Below are some of the key steps we follow. Which could be applied to your own operations.

Anti-Static Steps

To prevent the negative effects of static electricity, anti-static protection measures are employed including anti-static workstations, wearing special clothing and footwear that dissipate static charges, grounding equipment and using anti-static packaging for components and parts as they are handled and moved.

Workstations and grounding equipment

An anti-static workstation is recommended when opening Chiptech products and directly touching the printed circuit board (PCB).

There are a few key considerations when setting one up to ensure it works well for servicing. Select a clean, dry, and non-carpeted area for your workstation. Avoid places with high humidity, as this can increase the risk of static buildup. Place an anti-static mat on the table or workspace. This mat should cover the entire area where you’ll be handling electronic components. Use a grounding cord or wire to connect the grounding point on the anti-static mat to a reliable earth ground. This ground could be a grounding plug in a wall outlet or a dedicated grounding point in your facility. Once the anti-static mat is grounded you can connect a wrist strap between the mat and yourself.

At Chiptech, we typically use foot straps as we have grounded floors, and this is a more convenient option for staff, but we also use wrist straps for those sitting while working, as pictured.  

Clothing Material and Anti-Static Tops

Certain clothing materials are more likely to produce static electricity. These materials include:

  • Synthetic fabrics such as polyester, nylon, and rayon. These materials have low moisture retention and can build up a static charge easily.
  • Wool and fleece fabrics can generate static electricity due to their insulating properties. The rubbing or friction between these materials and other surfaces can lead to static buildup.
  • Silk is a natural fabric that has a smooth surface, which can create friction and result in the accumulation of static charge.

Wearing clothing made from natural fibres like cotton or linen can help reduce the likelihood of static buildup since these materials tend to have better moisture absorption properties and are less likely to generate static charges.

Chiptech supply our production staff and those working in manufacturing spaces with anti-static tops or jackets to wear over their clothing to prevent electrostatic discharge. If you are servicing electronic products, it is a good to invest in clothing that will prevent inadvertent damage.  

Packaging

When storing and transporting electronic components or PCBs it is good to use anti-static bags and containers to shield them from external static charges. We employ this process throughout or supply chain, in house, when moving products around during the manufacturing process and when we ship specific PCB only products to customers.

If you are planning to open cases and store any Chiptech products outside of their cases, then we recommend storage in sealed anti-static bags.

Anti-Static Testing

While there are several protective measures that can be applied, it is also important to regularly test their effectiveness. Within our manufacturing facility we have staff daily test that they are grounded correctly and that they are wearing the correct clothing for their work environment. Putting these checks in places ensures that the proactive measures taken are having the desired effect.

 

Conclusion

In summary, the realm of electronics manufacturing, servicing of miniature and ultra-low power components, and where reliability in product behaviour is paramount, the threat of static electricity cannot be underestimated. Incorporating and regularly testing the effectiveness of anti-static protection measures are necessary to ensure product quality and uphold industry standards. By ensuring our whole Chiptech team, the people servicing our products and visitors onsite understand the potential risks of static electricity and implementing appropriate safeguards, we steer clear of the shocking consequences that electrostatic damage can bring.

 

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