Have you ever been working in your garage and accidentally made contact with a metal part of an ungrounded electrical appliance, like a box fan or a badly wired junction box? The jolt you receive wakes you up faster than a cup of coffee or one of those 5-hour energy drinks. Now imagine what that could do to sensitive electronics—devices and circuit boards with a much lower resistance than your skin.
Considering just the physical activity of moving your arms and legs can build up relatively large electrostatic discharges (ESD) that we may never notice, there’s very little activity that isn’t dangerous to electronic components – even their assembly. But there are steps you can take and tools that have been developed to protect your sensitive electronics. One simple, popular tool is an antistatic or ESD mat.
How Does an ESD Mat Work?
Antistatic or ESD Mats have a high electrical resistance, which allows the electrostatic discharge to “flow” across the surface of the mat at a slow rate – enough to get the ESD away from your electronics, while at the same time neutralizing what little charge inevitably does build up.
The simplest form of an ESD mat is simply that – a tabletop mat, about the size of a placemat, that you use on a desk, table or any flat surface. They typically connect with a personal grounding wrist strap – adding additional protection by drawing any ESD charge away from the person working on the device.
ESD mats also use a common ground to draw the electrostatic discharge away from offending areas. Without that ground, the mat could, in theory, protect the item being worked on at first, but would then transfer the ESD to the very next thing it comes into contact with – the next item, the person holding it (and then to the item), or even right back onto the item it was originally meant to protect.
For larger workspaces, or dedicated ESD workstations, you can invest in rolls of ESD matting or custom-sized mats. You can even get ESD matting with built in static control monitors and self-adhesive backing. Just make sure, regardless of the size or quantity used, that all of the mats are grounded.
You can also increase protection as well as worker safety by investing in ESD flooring mats, which not only act as further neutralization of potential electrostatic discharge, but also can provide cushioning, easing the fatigue of the person standing while working on the electronic devices. The hazard of slippery floors is also alleviated by an ESD flooring mat.
Bear in mind that not all ESD matting is tested to the same level. We recommend checking to make sure the mats you are buying are properly assessed to ensure you are getting the protection you need, and ideally, include ISO certification for your company’s protection.
We would love to be your full service, seamless ESD solution provider. Contact us today for more information.