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28 Jul

5 Reasons Why Static Programs Fail

Why Static Programs Fail

On May 6, 1937, the German passenger airship LZ 129 Hindenburg caught fire and was destroyed, killing 36 people in front of national news cameras and effectively ending the Zeppelin flying experiment.

The Hindenburg was larger than 4 Goodyear blimps combined, or about as long as 2/3 the height of the Empire State Building.

It was rainy that day, and the mooring ropes dragged along the ground as the airship came down to dock in Manchester Township. The prevailing theory is that the wet dragging ropes generated a static charge that traveled up them onto the ship.

There the charge ignited the Hydrogen fuel and… boom. Once considered the future of air travel, flying airships would not be utilized, either commercially or for military use until the end of World War II.

All caused by a single spark.

Much like the Hindenburg disaster, your company’s program to control electrostatic discharge (ESD) can be toppled with a few small errors that blossom into larger problems if they aren’t properly accounted and planned for.

So today, let’s look at the 5 common reasons why your static control programs could fail.

Sure! We have ESD Protocols, Right?

Most companies that deal with sensitive electronics and circuit boards also require that their vendors, third party suppliers, and subcontractors have an ESD program in place. Often even before signing a contract, an engineer is sent in to audit the ESD practices. And from time to time they will do spot-checks to verify that those practices are still in place.

Some companies, in an effort to hold on to their contract or cut expenses, will simply throw together a minimum program that can be audited. It’s done as inexpensively as possible and often doesn’t have any true protocols – training, preventative maintenance, and enforcement fall by the wayside.

You’d never do that, right? Well, except…

This is Gonna Cost How Much?

Top management are always looking at ways to work more economically. Unfortunately, if they are not properly briefed on the importance of proper ESD protection protocols, they may see many aspects of the ESD program as expensive and possibly unnecessary.

This isn’t their fault, they just need to be better educated. Which may be your job. The fact is, the expense for good, well-developed ESD protection protocols is dwarfed by the cost to replace or repair non-functioning components, not to mention the company’s reputation.

Excellent ESD companies are led from the top down, with company leadership not only showing financial support for ESD preventative programs, but also making time to attend training themselves, praise persons and departments with the best implementation, and allocate time and funds for ongoing training and improvement of existing programs.

Otherwise, you might end up in a pinch…

Here’s a Band-Aid for that Severed Limb!

You might have heard the old saw, ‘if there’s no time to do it right the first time, how are you going to find time to fix it later?’

Unfortunately, many companies appear to follow a different maxim – there’ll always be time to do it over.

Like our last reason, the problem is often financial. Momentary solutions that can be quickly applied to fix individual problems becomes the norm, despite the fact that the long term expense is much higher.

The best, most cost-effective solutions are applied right the first time and “solve” lots of problems by the fact that they prevent so many of them for happening. Then you don’t get into a situation where you’re spending a lot more to fix what could have been an easily avoided minor problem, but is now mission critical.

But that’s not going to help unless…

Training?  We Don’t Need no Stinking Training!

Proper ESD prevention is a team effort, but many companies underestimate the size of the team involved. As mentioned before, upper level management should take an interest in training, and in fact, every employee should be given at least a rudimentary class or video in how to follow the company’s practices.

It’s not enough to train the engineers of you haven’t informed the janitorial staff that cleans their sensitive work areas after they leave for the day how to properly do so.

Secretaries, interns, sales people – everyone who has the potential to walk into or affect an Electrostatic Protection Area (EPA) needs to know how to properly behave to minimize risk.

And finally…

We Only Use the Best – the Best We Can Afford, That Is.

Yes, it keeps coming back to price. But price should not be the only factor in deciding who to buy your ESD supplies from. Not all companies are created equally. Not all ESD products are held to the highest standard.

You want to find a vendor that can supply your ESD needs who can guarantee all of their products are properly tested, meet or exceed industry standards, and have the certification to prove it.

Always be sure to properly vet your chosen vendor, making sure they meet these requirements and be willing to ask for clients you can speak to and recommendations you can verify. If they’re reputable, they’ll be more than willing to have you check them out with their existing happy clients.

ESD prevention is no casual task. Your company may not have the risk of ending 36 lives, but putting best practices into place can certainly save jobs, computers and your clients.

We’d love to be the experts you can count on for your full service, seamless ESD solutions. For more information or advice on your specific ESD prevention needs – or any other ESD questions, please contact us today.

21 Jul

Can New Flooring Be Installed Over Old?

Can New Flooring be installed over Old Flooring?

Whether your company has just invested in a new to them facility or is upgrading their current locations due to time or elevated ANSI/ESD standards, one of the largest expenses they will face is replacing the existing flooring.

Based on the existing installation, this can be a very time consuming task – days to strip off the old flooring, etch or acid burn off any leftover adhesive residue.  Plus the very real possibility of damaging the concrete itself or a pre-existing moisture barrier.

Which leads to a popular question from facility and production managers – can new ESD flooring be installed over existing flooring?

And depending on who you talk to, the answer is: Yes. No. And, of course, Maybe.

Yes.

If an existing floor is well-bonded, ANSI/ESD 20.20 compliant and in reasonably good condition, theoretically, the answer is yes.

Certain flooring options pose a lower risk and are considerably easier to install over an older floor. Vinyl, for example, generally can be installed over top existing vinyl. Generally.

Problems arise when the old floor has become hard and stiff.  It may be harder to install over it, and if the initial bond doesn’t take, vinyl is unforgiving and may delaminate – requiring a complete stripping and reinstallation that is likely to cost more than the initial money saved, not to mention the time lost during the removal and reinstallation.

An additional choice to consider is installing carpet tiles over old vinyl. Carpet has become a popular choice to install over existing floors because the irregularities of the surface below the carpeting are virtually hidden behind its barely reflective surface.

Another option is Zero Stat Crete – a state of the art water-based epoxy coating – which can, after proper testing, be applied over an area that has had the previous vinyl or carpeting tile removed – often without needing to strip off any leftover adhesive.

No.

Some experts caution that you should NEVER install a new floor covering over an old one. Along with the warnings above, the old flooring might hide structural defects, might not be properly bonded or might result in a plasticizer contamination of the new flooring, which could radically affect the quality and effectiveness of its ESD prevention.

Also, by not removing the old flooring, moisture concerns that need to be addressed may not be discovered.

Additionally, depending on the age of the old flooring, it might have been made with asbestos, a manufacturing material that causes severe respiratory problems and may lead to death.

Maybe.

Experts say that almost any floor can be installed over an old floor as long as the old floor is in good condition and well-bonded to the sub floor. BUT…

There are just too many variables to accurately consider or discuss every flooring replacement or recovering option in a single posting.

Even if your scenario is similar one of the ones we’ve elucidated above, there may be additional factors in your specific facility that are not taken into account in our hypothetical illustrations.

Which is why we always recommend speaking to a qualified flooring professional before making any final decisions. There is not usually a financial cost associated with their consultation and/or site visit, but the preventative savings far outweigh any nominal up front cost.

For a free consultation – or any other questions you may have, please contact us.  We would love to be your full service, seamless ESD solution provider!

14 Jul

Monitors & Meters: Which One Do You Need?

ESD Monitors and Meters

Monitors and meters may seem like merely a question of semantics. And in most of the world it is, monitors are analogous with meters and vice versa.

But when you’re dealing with electrostatic discharge (ESD) prevention, both have specific purposes and uses that set them apart from one another. And it’s important you know which is which before you start or continue your work with items that can be harmed by ESD.

Monitor: What’s Happening in the Room?

In plain language, in an ESD Prevention situation, the Monitor (noun) keeps known sources of ESD in systematic reviews. It monitors (verb), the ‘progress’ or quality of ESD buildup over a period of time.

So we have monitors for people, that connect to their personal wrist straps, or connect between them and the ESD matting that they are using – in effect, monitoring both.

The key to a good ESD monitor is make sure they provide constant monitoring of the potential ESD in the room.  If the monitor fails, a single spark of static electricity can cost hundreds of dollars in damage before it’s quelled.

Meter: Where Is It?

Meters, in an ESD prevention situation, operate more as the means to locate the sources of ESD build up.

Much like the meters used for testing in construction situations, meters will show the relative ESD levels, allowing the user to pinpoint the exact spot where ESD is being generated or not dispersed properly.

This can be on ESD mats, clothing, people and flooring.

Specialty meters can detect and pinpoint ESD specifically in a cleanroom or ionized area.

There are meters that look at a wide variety of potential ESD buildups and smaller units that check select areas only. And meters that check the humidity, temperature, electrical resistance, and any or all of these at once.

There is a secondary subset of meters that you should also be aware of – Testers.

Testers check the grounding of electrical receptacles to ensure they are actually grounded. Imagine the problems and expense of not realizing your electrical plugs were not grounded and subsequently having to discard or repair any sensitive electronics that had been worked on or assembled during the time the ground was inactive.

There are also testers for personal wrist straps and grounding cords.

Are You ESD Aware?

So, the answer to our question above is YES.

It’s not an either/or situation. It’s both. Each tool has its purpose within your ESD control situation, and both are effective in their job – which is generating awareness of ESD.

We would love to be your full service, seamless ESD solution provider; contact us today for more information.

07 Jul

Is Bare Concrete Really the Best “Anti-Static” Flooring?

Is Concrete Really Anti-Static?

There used to be an old wives’ tale that standing on bare concrete for too long caused varicose and spider veins.  In the 60’s, that idea was largely supplanted by the hippie movement that believed standing shoeless on bare concrete allowed the body to become more grounded.

Unfortunately, it seems that the once-held hippie belief has permeated into the world of electrostatic discharge (ESD) prevention.  But nothing could be further from the truth. Because while bare, unsealed concrete floors that are allowed to ‘breathe’ have anti-static tendencies, they are definitely NOT grounded.

Nothing to Cling To

While the lower expense of a bare concrete floor makes it appear like a desirable remedy, there are several reasons it is not classified as a true ESD flooring solution.

First there’s that word – tendencies. Bare concrete floors tend to be anti-static, but they are not reliably so. That’s because anti-static characteristics are not inherent in concrete like they are in a carbon-filled material or a poured ESD epoxy.

To further complicate the issue, the measure of how anti-static concrete is, is dependent on many variables – the most significant of which is its permeability to moisture. If you’ve explored our website at all, that should immediately raise a red flag.  In an earlier post, we talked about why moisture is the #1 enemy to your ESD flooring.

A Shift in Standards

If that doesn’t scare you away, we discussed in this post about how anti-static is not an adequate measure for ESD flooring. To summarize, the term “anti-static” refers to a material that resists generating a charge. And bare, sealed concrete does do that – most of the time. But over the past 30 years or so, ANSI and the ESD Association made the effort to remove the term from their professional industry standards because it was so overused and misunderstood.

Those standards are discussed in this post.

And for good measure, we discuss in another post the dangers of cutting corners to save money when building your ESD Protection Area (EPA). Some up front expenses are definitely worth the long-term benefits.

Fully Charged

So, let’s assume that the concrete floor you’ve just installed is as anti-static as it can get. You can walk across it to any other part of the room and there will be no static buildup, aka triboelectric effect.

But what happens when the CEO comes down to inspect the area, and as he’s walked from his office to the EPA area, he’s built up a static charge. It’s on his body, on his clothes; we know that even the slightest movement in a conductive area builds a charge that can damage sensitive electronics.

When he hits that concrete floor, the charge doesn’t just disappear. It stays with him. Because while concrete has the tendency to avoid building up a static charge, it does nothing to dissipate an existing charge. And this is the biggest problem with the use of concrete as an ESD floor. It cannot act as a ground.

The CEO touches a circuit board, it gets the electrostatic discharge, ruining it – and he blames you. And then you have to install a true ESD floor anyways. Why not just do it right the first time?

We would love to be your full service, seamless ESD solution provider.  Contact us today for more information.