June 15, 2012
The Four Rules Of ESD Control
Controlling the static that causes ESD can be confusing. There are great resources at the www.esda.org to learn how to properly control ESD, but the learning curve can be large. So we decided to boil down the topic into Four Rules of ESD Control.
Follow these simple rules of ESD control and you will never be shocked (yes, we went there) by static damage.
1st Rule of ESD: Ground everything you can.
If you can attached a ground cord to it, do it. The biggest danger in an Electrostatic Protected Area is an isolated conductor (a conductor that is not grounded). Grounding conductive materials sends any charge buildup to ground where it is neutralized. In ESD Control, we differentiate conductors and insulators. Materials that easily transfer electrons are called conductors. Some examples of conductors are metals, carbon and the human body’s sweat layer. Materials that do not easily transfer electrons are called insulators and are by definition non-conductors. Some well-known insulators are common plastics and glass.
2nd Rule of ESD: Avoid Insulators whenever you possibly can!
Insulators cannot be grounded and a potentially dangerous charge can build up fast. The easiest way to deal with insulators is not avoid using them in your process all together. Remove everything you can made out of insulating materials, like plastics and Styrofoam. Read our blog post if you don’t know the difference between Difference Between Conductive, Dissipative, Insulative and Antistatic.
3rd Rule of ESD: Use Dissipative materials whenever possible and ground them.
Now you are at the point where you may invest in some ESD products to create a proper workstation. Don’t know what one looks like? Learn how to Design an ESD Workstations Here. The most important thing to do is to ground your work area. Get yourself a dissipative ESD Mat! Dissipative materials allow a charge to flow slowly and controlled to ground. Anything more conductive or more insulative is a problem. The second thing to do is to ground the person working at the station. The easiest way is with an ESD wrist strap.
4th Rule of ESD: Use an ionizer on any insulators and ungrounded conductors that can’t be remove.
This step may not apply to everyone. In some processes, insulators can not be avoided. For example, you may be assembling a product with a plastic case. Or a required tool may be made from plastic. If a process essential insulator is required, use an ESD Ionizer to blow air full of positively and negatively charged ions that neutralize static on contact. They are the only way to control static on insulative materials. ESD Ionizers can be a complicated subject, especially if you are new to static control problems. Learn more about ESD ionizers.
Controlling static can be complicated and may even require consulting with experts. But everything starts with the Four Basic Rules for ESD Control. Using these rules as a baseline will set your ESD program in the right direction.