Should You Purge Paper from Your EPA? Why You Should Read Between the Lines

by Kathy S. on June 10, 2015

Purge Paper from Your EPAESD, the silent chip killer, accounts for a few billion dollars in losses every year. You designed your ESD protection program to enhance product quality and reliability, but if your program allows paper in protected areas, it might not be worth the paper it’s written on.

Paper is an insulator. While the ANSI/ESD S20.20-2014 does not specifically mention paper, it does reference insulators. According to the industry standard, nonessential insulators, such as coffee cups, food wrappers and personal items, should be removed from your ESD protected area or EPA.

It’s also specific when it comes to handling a process-required insulator. Based on the field measured, steps should be taken to either separate the insulator from the ESD-sensitive item or neutralize the charge. Although paper tends to be low charging because it absorbs moisture, moisture content varies with humidity. Materials that are conductive in the Midwest in July, for example, may dry out during December.

The primary problem with paper? ESD-sensitive items placed on regular paper block the path-to-ground of the grounded ESD mat. Your best bet is to follow best practice, and go with All-Spec’s ESD-safe paper, or keep regular paper in a dissipative document holder. We also carry binders, clipboards, pouches and more for use in your static-sensitive environment.

Remember, paper and any other object or person can be a source of static electricity. Minimize loss in your environment by removing unnecessary nonconductors, replacing nonconductive materials with dissipative or conductive materials and grounding all conductors, regardless of the activity. That’s a plan that looks as good on paper as it does in practice.

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