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19 May 2016, 8:40

Checking your ESD Control Products - Part 1

Today we want to talk about a subject many users forget about when it comes to ESD protection: periodic verification.
Whilst many people understand the basic concepts of ESD and as a result insist on a properly equipped ESD Protected Area (EPA), they then forget all about it. They use the same products day-in, day-out, year after year, without knowing if their products are actually still working properly.
So today we want to look at the most common products in your EPA that you should be checking on a regular basis. And because there are quite a few product groups to discuss, we have split this post in 2 parts – we don’t want to scare you away with a never-ending blog post...

Why periodic verification?

Each component in an ESD protected area (EPA) plays a vital part in the fight against electrostatic discharge (ESD). If just one component is not performing correctly, you could damage your ESD sensitive devices potentially costing your company money. The problem with many ESD protection products (think wrist straps!) is that you can’t always see the damage. Just by looking at a coiled cord that has no visibly damage to the insulation you would not know if the conductor on the inside is damaged. That’s where periodic verification comes into play. ESD protected area (EPA) products should be tested:

  1. Prior to installation to qualify product for listing in user's ESD control plan.
  2. During initial installation.
  3. For periodic checks of installed products as part of IEC 61340-5-1 Edition 1 2007-08 clause 5.2.3 Compliance verification plan.

It's #3 we will be focusing on in this 2-part series.

Worksurface Matting

The purpose of ESD bench matting is to ensure that when charged conductors (conductive or dissipative) are placed upon the surface, a controlled discharge occurs and electrostatic charges are removed to ground. However, this only occurs if the ESD work surface is actually connected to ground. If the matting is out-of-spec, not grounded at all, the stud on the mat has become loose or the ground cord has become disconnected, charges cannot be removed.
Many companies use a daily checklist, which includes the operator having to verify that ground cords are firmly connected.
Remember to regularly clean your bench matting to maintain proper electrical function (e.g. Reztore Surface and Mat Cleaner). Do not use cleaners with silicone as silicone build-up will create an insulative film on the surface.
The company's compliance verification plan should also include periodic checks of work surfaces measuring:

  • Resistance Point-to-Point (Rp-p) and
  • Resistance-to-ground (Rg).

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Testing a working surface using 877-2536

Surface resistance testers can be used to perform these tests in accordance with EN 61340-5-1 Electrostatics and its test method IEC 61340-2-3; if these measurements are within acceptable ranges, the worksurface matting and its connections are good.

Wrist Straps

As discharges from people handling ESD sensitive devices cause significant ESD damage, the wrist strap is considered the first line of ESD control.
Before handling ESD sensitive items, you should visually inspect the wrist strap to see if there are any breakages etc. The wrist strap should then be tested while worn using a wrist strap tester. This ensures all three components are checked: the wrist band, the ground cord (including resistor) and the interface with the wearer’s skin. Records of each test should be kept. Wiggling the resistor strain relief portion of the coil cord during the test will help identify failures sooner. Analysis and corrective action should take place when a wrist strap tester indicates a failure.

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Checking wrist straps using 877-2488

It is recommended that wrist straps are checked at least daily. An even better solution to daily wrist strap checks is the use of continuous monitors. They will alarm if the person or work surface is not properly grounded.

A note on worksurface matting and wrist straps: if you are using earth bonding points, earth bonding bars etc. to ground the operator and/or bench matting, remember to inspect and test those regularly as well (every 6 months for example).

Make sure you read the follow-up post next week...    

Desco Europe is the newest brand in the Desco Industries family, consolidating our two previous UK-based brands, Charleswater and Vermason. Desco Europe sells the full range of DII products, manufactured in our facilities in the USA and UK, servicing the European market via trained distributors who will sell the Desco Europe value package and complete ESD solution to all ESD users in their territory, leading with hi-end solutions that mark us out from the competition.

19 May 2016, 8:40