04 Aug

Managing Static and ESD in Call Centers

Managing Static and ESD in Call Centers

Thanks to movies and TV, no matter how old you are, you’ve probably seen the old switchboards – whether it’s on Agent Carter or reruns of the Andy Griffith Show – and computers  that barely fit inside a room – like in The Imitation Game or the TV show Manhattan.

Nowadays, of course, we carry the switchboard and the computer in a handy-dandy pocket device.

Likewise with emergency services. When we call 9-11, we expect a prompt response, and the person on the other end of the line assures us that police, fire, or ambulance are already in route as they continue to gather our information.

Computers help planes land, monitor traffic on the freeways, and even park your car for you.

But for all the advances in technology, there have been setbacks as well.

In the old days, phone and computer systems were built “solid-state.” Everything was confined within one unit and was protected from outside forces. Internally, they were defended from ElectroStatic Discharge (ESD) by microcircuit gate protectors.

Unfortunately, these gate protectors, while highly effective, tended to slow down the machines they were protecting – kind of like how some companies’ virus protection forces their machines to crawl.

As technology progressed, emergency services, military bases, and flight control centers started abandoning these more stringent preventative measures, in favor of speed.

The end result being, while these computers and call centers are protected in buildings made to withstand hurricanes, earthquakes and power outages, they can be disabled or even rendered completely useless by the tiniest static shock.

Which is why the proper ESD protection and protocols are so important in these mission critical locations.

Another factor to consider is that these facilities are typically open 24-hours a day and have hundreds of people pass through them on a regular basis. Some of them are trained and properly equipped with ESD shoes, heel grounders and even personal wrist straps, but certainly not all of them.

And when there’s a crisis and everyone needs to scramble to get the problem solved, the first thing to go is proper ESD procedures.

The answer is to make these facilities as static proof (or charge proof) as possible.

Like your skin (the largest organ in the human body), flooring is the largest and most vulnerable area for ESD buildup and discharge, if it’s not handled properly.

There are many options for ESD flooring, as we’ve discussed in prior posts, but in this instance, there are really only one option: carbon-fiber laced carpet.

The first thing you should know is that not all ESD carpet is created equal. Some companies promote and sell an ESD carpeting that is treated with a chemical to reduce static that disintegrates over time and must be reapplied.

Avoid these – you don’t want your static protection to be subject to a random timetable. Again, these facilities are always open. You’ll want to invest in a carpet whose static-prevention comes from the permanent physical composition of the materials.

For the same reason, you’ll want to invest in an ESD carpeting that is certified by ANSI/ESDA standards and reduces static regardless of the humidity levels or footwear worn by the personnel.

As an added bonus look for ESD carpet that is low maintenance, crush resistant, able to handle heavy foot traffic and comes with a lifetime warranty.

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

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.

29 Jun

Custom Matting: A Ground Zero Specialty

Custom Matting-A Ground Zero Specialty

If you’ve ever worked with an X-Acto Knife or a box cutter, you know there are some dangers, just as there are with any knife. Remember, pay attention to what you’re doing! Never use a dull blade! Cut away from your body!

And of course, wear cut resistant gloves. Yes, we know you’re a man, and men don’t need certain protections… Okay, so both genders have their issues, but this one rule is the one we most often neglect – and that neglect leads to injuries.

You’re being careful, cutting along, everything’s going smoothly and SLICE!

Yes, that’s right, you’ve just sliced open your finger, there’s blood everywhere – you have to go to the emergency room and get stitches.

It kind of ruins your day.

OSHA reports that nearly 40 percent of all injuries attributed to manual workshop tools in the US involve knives with retractable blades.

And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, around 250,000 serious hand, finger and wrist laceration occur annually in the private industry.

So that scenario we described above?  It’s far more common than you might think. And, in the interest of your safety and our bottom line, we took action.

A Cut Above

So what did Ground Zero do to help insure your workplace safety?

In an earlier post, we talked about ESD mats – what they are and how they work, but today we’d like to get… a little personal, if that’s okay with you.

Most table and bench mats are built with either two or three layers. The top layer is resistant to chemicals, solder and flux, making it usable and easy to clean. The bottom layer is either a durable anti-skid surface and/or an adhesive backing, both to ensure safety on the work area.

Three-layer mats have the added bonus of a conductive scrim layered in the center that can coordinate with your personal wrist-strap constant monitors.

As you can imagine, all of these layers make the mats a little thicker than cardboard or just a vinyl mat. And, as you know, when cutting with an X-Acto knife or box cutter, the thicker the material you’re trying to cut is, the more prone the blade is to slipping, leading to that ER visit.

So to help promote the safety of our customers’ workplaces, we decided to offer custom cut matting.

That’s right, any of the mats we sell can be custom cut to your specifications (with a small margin of +/-1/8th of an inch). Plus, each and every custom cut mat comes with an ISO certification showing it has been tested and met the latest professional standards.

So which would you prefer, a trip to the emergency room, or the ability to get to work on with your new ESD mat right out of the box – with all of your fingers intact?

Oh, and finally: a little safety advice, whether you want it or not. When using a knife or blade of any sort, stay sharp! Follow all of those rules we mentioned above, ‘cause we all know a lot of us do ignore them and they were created for our safety.

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

22 Jun

Are You Grounded: A Look at Cables, Clamps, and Drums

A closer look at cables, clamps, and drums

Do you remember the cell phone gas fire scares of the early 2000’s? Because of a couple of erroneously spread Internet rumors, people all across the world became convinced that use of their cell phones while at the gas pump could lead to explosions, injuries, even death!

Despite the fact that the rumors were all proven to be false, several gas station chains, including the one whose safety report was misquoted to create the rumors, posted stickers warning against cell phone use. One Chicago suburb even passed a law banning the use of cell phones at gas stations.

If you look closely, those stickers are still on a majority of gas pumps, at least in the US and Canada. But while there has never been a case where cell phones caused gas fires, the same is NOT true for static electricity.

We’ve talked a lot in the past about the danger even a small electroStatic discharge (ESD) can pose to sensitive electronics. But in a combustible atmosphere, that tiny spark can cause a lot more damage than the cost of replacing a damaged circuit board.

Static is Everywhere

Walking across a room, rustling your clothing, even just the act of raising your arm to scratch your nose can generate a sufficient static buildup to create a subsequent ESD if not dissipated. Under normal conditions, you won’t even notice the buildup until you feel the shock of the discharge being released.

When you’re not working with sensitive electronics, you probably don’t even consider this to be a problem, certainly not in your home or driving in your car. But like all charges, if it’s not given a route to ground, the charge continues to build, increasing the voltage. And if you happen to be in an area with flammable liquids, vapors and even dust, that static charge can cause explosive consequences.

The first step to avoid incidents in any environment conducive to these volatile exposures is to eliminate as many potential ignition sources as possible. But there are often unconsidered, hidden dangers, especially in an industrial setting that can act as accidental ignition switches.

Isolated Conductors = Hidden Dangers

Isolated conductors are conductive objects – metal flanges, fittings or valves in pipework systems, portable drums – which are either inherently or accidentally insulated from being grounded. Because of this, any static charge they generate becomes a potential ignition point.

The best way to avoid this problem is by utilizing bonding and grounding. Bonding is the process of joining two or more objects or containers with electrically conductive wires to neutralize the potential charge between them.  Grounding is a more specific form of bonding where an object or container is connected to the ground.

There are a variety of ways to effectively employ bonding and grounding. While OSHA does not give clear directives on how to ground, they do specify when and where grounding as well as bonding procedures should exist.

Getting Grounded

The most obvious example to point to is the common ground, seen in every building – a metal rod is attached to the outside of a building and literally grounded a few inches into the soil. While this method works great for homes, the size of large industrial expanses, such as warehouses or factory floors, means other methods may be more suitable.

For manufacturing or large storage areas, there are a few options. They all involve grounding clamps connected to grounding cables.

If the area has access to the building’s main cold water pipe, a very common semi-permanent solution is to use a bronze pipe clamp as an alternative to the direct building ground. C-Grounding clamps are another popular semi-permanent solution. Of course, always check the reliability of the ground conductivity in these instances.

If you’re like many industrial complexes, though, the isolated conductors are often temporary items, like drums, containers and vessels that come and go as needed. For these instances, you can get a variety of steel- or aluminum-constructed clamps that attach to the container, connecting it through a stainless steel cable to a grounding point, making the drum or vessel safe.

Depending on the environment, you can also effectively ground using the drop valve of a mixing tank or connecting your ground cable to a previously grounded surface – a table or workstation that is already connected to the grounding apparatus.

Whatever method you choose, bonding and grounding are essential for the safety of everyone working in an industrial environment, whether they’re piecing together circuit boards, helicopters… or gas pumps.

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

08 Jun

Edison vs Tesla: The Battle for Electric Power–Part 2

The battle of Edison vs Tesla

So, what exactly changed on May 1, 1893?

Lighting up Chicago

Westinghouse had managed to win the bid to illuminate the Chicago World’s Fair, the first all-electric fair in history. The previous year, financier JP Morgan had facilitated the merger of Thomas Edison’s various companies into the General Electric Corporation. GE also bid on the World’s Fair, but lost out because of the high cost of laying copper wire to accommodate DC power transmission.

27-million people witnessed President Grover Cleveland push a button bringing the fair to life and from that point forward, 80% of all electrical devices sold used AC power.

And New York…

Later that year, Westinghouse was awarded the contract to harness the power of Niagara Falls and when the plant came online in 1896, even the remaining Edison systems were forced to convert to AC power.

But the War of Currents cost everyone involved. JP Morgan, hoping to wrest full control of all hydroelectric power, manipulated the stock market to try and force Westinghouse to sell Tesla’s patents. Tesla saved Westinghouse, grateful for his patron, and asserted his own nobility over profits by tearing up his contract.  Westinghouse would survive, but Tesla would forever after be in debt and mostly forgotten…

Forgotten Genius

Despite his remarkable achievements in electrical power, including radical experiments designed to transmit unlimited power wirelessly through the air to consumers – for free – Tesla is generally only remembered as the inventor of the Tesla Coil, which you probably recall best from those old Frankenstein movies. The Tesla Coil builds up lots of high voltage electricity quickly and efficiently and is also a powerful radio transmitter.

While Edison is memorialized for his inventions and quotes, Tesla is all but forgotten by the average person, even though many of the theories he proposed inspired the work of physicists like Einstein, Hawking and Heisenberg (the scientist, not Walter White’s alter ego). He also had breakthroughs in radio, radar, x-rays, solar energy, and even robotics. His technological advances were years ahead of his time, even today.

To be fair, Edison wasn’t completely wrong. DC power is still used very prevalently today – especially in computers. That thick brick in your laptop, printer and desktop cable? It’s constantly converting AC to DC to protect your sensitive electronics from the “raging waves” of alternating current.

Who knew electricity had such a “shocking” history?

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

25 May

What Are the Standards for Electrostatic Protection?

Standards for Electrostatic Protection

So, you’ve just been tasked with building or designing your first Electrostatic Protection Area (EPA). You’ve started doing your research, but there are so many choices, from so many different companies. Suppliers, manufacturers, third party providers… If only there was some established standard for judging the efficacy and reliability of all those pieces and parts.

Well, you’re in luck! In 2007, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in cooperation with ElectroStatic Discharge Association (ESDA) released a unified set of standards for the design, implementation and maintenance of ElectroStatic Discharge control programs.

In the midst of World War I, five engineering organizations recognized the need to develop standards that could eliminate confusion and could be adhered to across all disciplines, without regard to politics, profits or personal preferences. These groups reached out to the U.S. Departments of War, Navy, and Commerce to form an impartial third party non-profit organization, then known as the American Engineering Standards Committee.

Following the war, the organization spent the next 20 years establishing several safety protocols still observed today, like eye protection, hard hat standards and in-house electrical safety while at the same time reaching out to other similarly tasked international organizations.

When the United States entered World War II, the organization, which would eventually come to be known as ANSI, helped to accelerate the war effort and productivity, created more effective quality control measures, as well as helping to advance photography, radio, and even the development of Velcro.

In 1970’s, ANSI established a public review process and began the herculean effort of moving the United States to the metric system. While the general public never really connected with the metric system, the effort did bring ANSI to the forefront of private sector companies who discovered standardization was a way to stay more competitive in an increasingly global economy.

With the advancement of personal computers in the late 70’s and early 80’s, engineers at several companies recognized a need for more understanding of electrostatic discharge and its prevention. They formed the ESD Association, a non-profit, voluntary professional organization that for almost 35 years has sponsored educational programs and developed standards to help eliminate losses due to electrostatic discharges.

Together, leaning on the historical experience of both military and several commercial organizations, ANSI and ESDA developed the definitive standard for ESD protection, the very cleverly named ANSI/ESD S20.20-2007.

Covering about every conceivable area of ElectroStatic Discharge, the ANSI/ESD S20.20-2007 utilizes both the human body model and the machine model to provide a broad set of guidelines for ESD protection.

The Human Body Model is the military standard that defines and rates the vulnerability of an electronic device to the ESD generated by a human being touching it. The Machine Model works similarly, except it rates the vulnerability of a device receiving a machine discharge into ground. It was originally developed by car manufacturers as their plants moved to more mechanized production technology.  The Human Body Model is about 10 times more sensitive than the Machine Model.

There is a lot to explore in the ANSI/ESD S20.20-2007 guidelines, but for the purpose of this primer, the document highlights 3 fundamental ESD control principles:

  1. All conductors should be grounded. This includes the personnel and the surfaces they are working on.  We recommend, at a minimum, personal grounding wrist straps, ESD table or bench mats, and a common ground cord.
  2. Necessary non-conductors – certain circuit board materials, device packaging, etc. – cannot lose their electrostatic charge by being grounded and appropriate precautions must be implemented.
  3. Static protective materials, such as ESD shielding bags or ESD totes and boxes must be utilized when transporting sensitive electronics outside a properly prepared EPA.

There are slightly less stringent standards that apply to floors and bench mats, but ANSI/ESD S20.20-2007 is the highest and most comprehensive guideline so far. So when you’re shopping for the parts needed to establish your EPA area, always look for companies that maintain that standard in their products and services.

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

18 May

Conductive vs. Dissipative Materials

Conductivee Vs Dissipative

In the mid-1820’s, Georg Ohm, a self-taught mathematician and physicist, began doing experiments in the newly discovered field of electromagnetism. Hoping to advance his stalled career, he used the work of Hans Christian Ørsted as a jumping off point, discovering an inverse mathematical relationship between current and resistance.

Georg Simon Ohm

Georg Simon Ohm

Unfortunately, in an effort to make his theories more understandable to non-mathematicians, he managed to alienate the scientific community and his groundbreaking work went unrecognized for almost 15 years.

Today, he’s remembered by the law that bears his name and its legacy, the standardized unit by which we measure electrical resistance – the Ohm (Ω).

Electrical Resistance: The Water in Pipe Analogy

To put it simply, what Ohm had discovered, but failed to adequately communicate, is that electricity acts like water in a pipe. In this analogy, resistance tells us how wide or narrow the “pipe” transmitting the electricity is.

When two items touch each other, they create an electrostatic charge – one item is positively charged, and one negatively charged. When the items are separated, it creates a triboelectric effect – a buildup of potential energy which can result in an electrostatic discharge (ESD).

In our quest to prevent ESD, which can be damaging and potentially catastrophic to sensitive electronics and circuitry, there are several approaches that vary, depending on the situation.

To illustrate those, we go back to Ohm’s electrical “pipe.”

At the narrowest end of the pipe, we have insulative materials – wood, carpeting, plexiglass. Insulative materials prevent or severely limit the flow of electrons across their surface.

While it may seem that this is the highest and best protection, the opposite is actually true. Because insulative materials are self-contained, they do not ground – meaning the potential energy continues to build up without going anywhere, until it comes into contact with another object, at which point, the new item is bombarded with the electrostatic discharge.

At the widest end of the pipe, we find the conductive materials – copper, steel, water. Conductive materials offer almost no resistance to electrostatic discharge. The electrical charge moves quickly through the materials – too quickly, which can lead to significant problems, as well as safety hazards.

In between these two extremes are the two materials most often used for ESD storage containers, matting and flooring: static conductive and static dissipative.

Towards the wider end of our metaphorical pipe, we find static conductive materials. Because of the low electrical resistance, electrons flow easily across the surface, and can be grounded safely. Typically, static conductive materials are most often used for ESD flooring.

Towards the narrower end of the pipe we find static dissipative materials. The higher resistance of these materials keeps the electrical charge more under control as it slowly flows over the surface and into a ground. Static dissipative materials are much more commonly used for ESD prevention and can be found in table top mats, ESD shoes and some flooring.

For storage containers – boxes, bins & totes – both conductive and dissipative materials can be used, depending on individual needs. Just keep in mind that dissipative materials have a higher resistance than conductive materials.

For more information, or an even more technical discussion of the properties of ESD materials, contact us today.  We would love to be your full service, seamless ESD solution provider.

11 May

10 Common Terms in ESD & What They Mean

10 Common ESD Terms

In 1865, Lewis Carrol published Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, at the time, a thinly veiled political commentary wrapped in a fictional form.

Who knew that 150 years later, the book would have spawned several movies, pop cultural references, and a Grace Slick song.

But the most enduring artifact of the novel in today’s world – possibly reinforced by its own self-reference in the Matrix films, is the term “Rabbit hole.” In Alice’s universe, it meant falling into a world of confusion. Today it means losing track of time as you plumb the depths of a topic.

In our effort to be a provider of full service ESD solutions, we give you… The ESD rabbit hole – 10 Common Terms in ESD and What They Mean…

10 Common ESD Terms

The obvious place to start is with the term itself: ESD

ESD stands for ElectroStatic Discharge, a specific type of Electrical Overstress (EOS), defined as the sudden flow of electricity between two electrically charged objects caused by an electrical short, insulation failure, or simple contact. This is most often observed as static electric shock.

Electrical Overstress (EOS) is the exposure of an item to a current or voltage beyond what it can handle. When we’re talking ESD, it’s not just a static shock – because of the nature of sensitive electronics, even just a tiny bit of energy generated by lifting your hand or sliding across a desk can be dangerous enough to damage a component while you’re working, which is shy we recommend common grounding.

Common Grounding is a grounded device where two or more conductors are bonded, or a system for connecting two or more grounding conductors to the same electrical potential. Think of it as a lightning rod for your workstation.

Triboelectric Charging is the generation of electrostatic charges when two materials make contact, or often are rubbed together, then separated. This is what most people call static cling. The polarity and strength of the charges produced differ according to the properties of the materials.

Surface Resistance is measured in Ohms, and tells you how easily an electrical charge can travel across a type of surface. It might be helpful to think in terms of a water pipe analogy. The higher the resistance, the narrower the pipe. In the ESD world, a surface is either conductive or dissipative.

Conductive – A surface is conductive when it has a low resistance, anywhere from no resistance at all, such as water or copper, to mid-level resistance. This would be the wider of the two water pipes.

Static Dissipative – A surface is dissipative when it has a higher resistance, anywhere from the top end of the conductive to so much resistance that only a tiny trickle of “water” comes through the pipe.

Degradation is static electricity damage that weakens an electronic device, while giving the appearance of operating within normal parameters. However, once degraded, a device may fail catastrophically at a later point or just not last as long as it should.

Catastrophic failure is static electricity damage to a device that causes it to cease to function. The device must be replaced.

Ionization is the process by which a neutral atom or molecule acquires either a positive or a negative charge.

To Neutralize is to eliminate an electrostatic field by recombining positive and negative charges, either by conducting the charge to ground or by introducing an equal opposite charge. The charges cancel each other out, leaving a zero charge on the item.

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