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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.

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.

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.

We would love to be your full service, seamless ESD solution provider. For a deeper explanation of any of these terms and how they affect your workplace,  contact us today for more information.