15 Aug

Taming the Electrostatic Discharge Beast

Taming the Electrostatic Discharge Beast

Electrostatic discharge, the rapid (and often unforeseen) flow of electricity that results when two electrically charged objects come into contact with one another, is an incredibly common phenomenon that wreaks havoc to the tune of billions of dollars each year in costs.

Whether your business produces ESD-sensitive equipment, or uses ESD-sensitive equipment in your operation, chances are you are dealing with significant costs associated with ESD—whether you’re aware of it or not.

Most electronic equipment has some degree or another of sensitivity to electrostatic discharge, and of course it’s hard to imagine many situations in which we do not come into contact with electronics on a daily basis. In fact, we’re often not aware of the most basic scenarios in which we generate an electrostatic discharge in everyday life, including plugging a charged USB cable into a laptop or even touching a cellphone when we carry a charge.

The manufacturers of the most ubiquitous devices have been working for decades to reduce vulnerability to ESD, and yet the costs associated with it continue to skyrocket.

The Costs of ESD

Sometimes the costs associated with Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) are obvious. For manufacturers who produce integrated circuits (ICs) or any products that contain them, product failures are perhaps the most significant source of ESD costs.

Cisco estimates that the costs of ESD damage are:

  • 1x the cost of assembly and labor if found during assembly,
  • 10x the cost of assembly and labor if found during testing, and
  • 100x the cost of assembly and labor if found at the customer site.

The problem is that ESD damage can be hard to detect. Even with more than $5 billion in costs associated with ESD each year, it is likely that the majority of true costs are not properly attributed to ESD.

In the event of catastrophic or complete failure of a given device subsequent to a known ESD event, responsibility for the failure is easy to discover. The problem is that human beings cannot detect the familiar ESD “arc” until approximately 3000 volts. The threshold for damage to sensitive circuits can be as low as 100 volts, meaning that the vast majority of electrostatic discharge events may be going unnoticed.

Even more insidious, however, is the latent damage that can be caused by electrostatic discharge. Often the damage produced by ESD isn’t discoverable until much later, meaning that the true cause of a product or system failure may not be known, and therefore cannot be accounted for in any meaningful way.

Killing ESD at the Source

Often, companies invest in reducing the effects of ESD rather than trying to stop the causes of it. Even so, return on investment can be measurably very high.

To truly gain a significant ROI, however, the investment must be made in preventing ESD by eliminating the causes of it, not just mitigating its effects.

In manufacturing or handling sensitive electronic equipment, creating an Electrostatic Discharge Protected Area is a great starting point, with all manner of ESD protection, including:

  • ESD flooring
  • Grounding devices like wrist straps
  • Grounded static dissipative work surfaces
  • ESD clothing and shoes
  • ESD packaging
  • Signage

Whether you’re designing manufacturing facilities, operating a production line, or interacting with electronic circuits at any level, we’re here to assist you with any and all of the questions you deal with. As experts in the prevention and elimination of ESD for more than 15 years, we have the expertise, know-how, and depth of products to help you solve any of your ESD challenges.

In the coming weeks and months, we’re excited to be able to begin to share our expertise with you via this blog, and we look forward to interacting with you here!

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