If you’re working in an environment where ESD (electrostatic discharge) is something you absolutely must avoid, it’s very important to have a proper ESD Safe workstation. Knowing exactly what ESD is and having the right tools can make all the difference in protecting your sensitive electronic components.
So, what is ESD? Electrostatic discharge is simply the static that builds up in your body which is then discharged when you touch something conductive.
Technically it’s the equalization of the difference in electrical potential of two objects.
That “shock” you feel when you walk across the carpet and touch your dog, is a great example of ESD. It’s especially worse during this time of year when the air is dryer, seems everything you touch shocks you.
That tiny little shock costs the electronics industry millions every year. It is estimated that 60% of all electronic device failures are due to static buildup and/or discharge.
Integrated circuits used to make circuit boards can be damaged by anywhere between 100 and 1,000 volts. The amount of static you buildup just by walking over carpet can be as high as 35,000 volts!
What to do? One of the most common ways to combat ESD is through the use of dissipative or conductive mats, sometimes referred to as ESD mats. These are made with materials that whisk away static from anything that touches it, much like a sponge soaks up a spill, and will typically carry the charge off the mat and through a ground wire.
Your workstation should, at the very least, include a floor mat and a table mat. They typically come in one to three layers. A dissipative rubber, vinyl, or industrial elastomer top layer and conductive middle layer are what you will commonly find in most ESD mats. Sometimes a third dissipative bottom layer will be found that will also feature a non skid surface.
Check to make sure your mats come with a good ground cord and grounding system as well.
An ESD wrist strap is also part of an ESD Safe workstation. This is a simple two-part device that connects a person’s skin to a ground. This is useful as an added measure as this device constantly dissipates any charge further preventing any discharge.
A very useful tool in an ESD Safe workstation is the Static Monitor. These devices constantly monitor the connection and static levels of the person assuring a static free workspace.
If you do a lot of walking or standing you may look into heel straps or grounds that use the moisture in your shoe as a connection to the body and a conductive rubber tread as a connection to an ESD mat or floor.
Add an ESD awareness sign and you’ve got a complete ESD Safe Workstation!