What is ESD and Ways to Prevent It

Electrostatic Discharge or ESD is a surge of electricity from one object to another. This can occur when a higher charged object nears or makes contact with a lower charged object, thus creating a statically charged surge.

Friction can cause static electricity to build up in an object and transfer it to another object. Some electronics components are highly sensitive to ESD and are damaged easily by this.

There are a couple of simple ways to help prevent ESD from happening.

1. Take Precautionary Measures

Avoid Friction

Try avoiding as much friction as possible. Certain clothes can cause more friction than others, for instance; sweaters and corduroy materials tend to create more static through friction. Also, try to keep the foot dragging and floor rubbing to a minimum while moving.

Turn off Electronics

Be sure to power down and unplug any electronics before you work on them. This is a good practice while working or repairing on electronics and electronic equipment to avoid damaging it in the process and to ensure safety.

2. Wear ESD-Safe Apparel

ESD-Safe Gloves

ESD gloves contain a mix of soft synthetic fibers and are designed to protect the user while preventing static discharge that can do damage to the electronic components. The gloves are worn with the purpose of keeping damaging oils from the skin off the circuit boards while working in electronics assembly. While wearing ESD gloves greatly reduces the risk of static discharge, to achieve the most beneficial results one should also employ additional anti-static practices in conjunction.

ESD-Safe Garments - Lab Coats, Jackets and Smocks

For a little extra protection ESD lab coats, jackets and smocks can be worn for neutralizing static discharge. These garments are anti-static and designed for electrostatic fields in mind and greatly reduce static damage from the user's clothing. They are low tribocharging because they are constructed with cotton or polyester or sometimes even both to create a woven grid of conductive fibers that creates a shield. It's like having your very own personal Faraday Cage at your disposal.

3. Use Anti-Static Equipment and Supplies

Anti-Static Bags

Another way to help prevent ESD is to store your electronics parts and components in anti-static bags. The static safe bags are used to transport and store electronic components, they typically contain metalized polyester, and cross linked urethane resin and a Low Density Polyethylene film (LDPE) to create an extra strong static barrier for greater protection.

ESD-Safe Mats

ESD mats are also a great way to help prevent a static surge. ESD mats are insulated and non conductive. Ones with wrist straps will transfer the static charge from the user to the mat and it disperses it to the ground. The mat is essentially transferring the charge slowly to itself and the ground by acting as a large resistor. Because the charge is transferred to the mat it prevents it from making contact to critical electronic components and damaging them. Good ESD mats are comprised of three layers. The top layer is made up from vinyl that discharges the conductive matter. The middle layer provides a discharge path to the ground and made up of a conductive metal sheet. The bottom layer is typically used to keep it in place and usually consists of some sort of non-skid foam.

Wrist Wraps

An anti-static wrist strap is typically used with an anti-static mat or other types of work place ESD equipment. The wrist strap contains conductive threads on the strap that lead to a ground conductor in order to discharge static electricity safely. The anti-static wrist strap is an effective piece of safety gear that aids and prevents the buildup of static electricity near highly sensitive electronics or other components where static charge could cause safety issues and helps prevent electronics equipment from being damaged.
These are just a few examples to becoming ESD safe. Depending on your needs or process, you can find the right combination that works for you. For the larger scale operations or higher ESD potential situations, you can create a whole ESD safe lab complete with ESD storage, equipment and gear to suit any and all ESD safe productions.

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