ESD, or electrostatic discharge, is of great concern to anyone who deals with electronics. That’s obvious. What’s not necessarily so obvious, is that some times, you don’t even need to be all that close to the circuit board or component to damage it.
This article by Douglas C. Smith illustrates why sometimes just a wrist strap isn’t enough.
That’s why we don’t only use wrist straps, but also have a grounded conductive floor and use ESD jackets and conductive foot straps to protect the boards and components out on our manufacturing floor.
Here’s a video showing the dreaded ESD monster and us protecting your gear from him:
Greased lightning is an interesting concept
Would it reduce power line transmission losses?
Engineers these days have so many issues to worry about just in component handling alone:
- Do my parts need baking to get the moisture out before reflow soldering?
- Are my parts in stock?
- Are my parts real or are they counterfeit or secretly remanufacturerd?
- Are my parts really lead free?
- Are my passive components small enough to make it out of the holes in my salt shaker so I can put them on the PCB?
- Are my parts too small form my manufacturer to handle?
- Are my parts too complex for my manufacturer to assemble?
- Have my parts been zapped by static electricity either before or after assembly?
Static electricity is really something that no engineer should have to worry about these days. We know how it gets created. We know how to artificially create it and we know how to guard against it. There’s really no excuse – especially from those that an engineer entrusts to build his or her designs.
People can carry around a static charge anywhere from several thousand volts to more than 10,000V, just by walking around. Joe Volta would be proud. Touching an electronic component or assembly the wrong way at the wrong time can discharge much of that through the electronics. Yes, most chips are better able to handle static electricity than the old 4000 series CMOS that could get zapped just by being looked at harshly, but pretty much any active component is susceptible to static damage to some degree. What makes it so insidious is that the damage may be done in handling or in assembly but might not show up until the unit fails in the field.
The whole world knows how to keep electronics safe (that’s an exaggeration, but at least most people in the Industry know how), and the whole industry understands the risks, so why would anti-static handling or packaging be an extra cost option? If it’s you’re own stuff, then fine. It’s up to you. But someone you’re paying? I don’t get it.
Take a close look at the picture on the right. If you ever get a tour through Screaming Circuits, you’ll see a lot of this. The floor is conductive. The bright green straps on the shoes are not a fashion statement. They’re grounding straps. The blue jacket is conductive. Parts and PCBs are protected from static through these means and others all the way in and all the way back out to the customer. It’s the right thing to do and the healthy way to do it and it doesn’t cost extra. It shouldn’t cost extra. Follow good static mitigation procedures yourself and make sure that whomever is assembling your parts does the same. That’s my two cents worth.
Frankenstein was grounded through his neck bolts, so he’s okay.