Electrostatic discharges: development, effects, ESD protection

Electrostatic discharges: development, effects, ESD protection

Hair standing on end, a small sting when touching a door handle or putting on a woolen shirt – everyone of us experiences these phenomena once in a while. Even though electrostatic discharges, or short ESD, are not able to do any harm to us humans except for causing a small moment of shock, they can destroy electronic devices within seconds. The solution is as simple as it is short: ESD protection.

How do electrostatic discharges emerge?

ESD protectionElectrostatic charges emerge through the friction and separation of two electrically charged objects. Electrostatic discharges balance the charges of two separately charged objects. While humans first start feeling these discharges at 3,000 Volt, discharges of 10 Volt are already enough to damage or destroy electric components.

Damages on parts caused by electrostatic discharges are not visible to the naked eye, but can only be discovered under high-resolution microscopes.

Sometimes, parts damaged by ESD remain functioning, but fail days, weeks or even months when applied by the end customer. In such cases, it becomes extremely obvious that components damaged by ESD are not made for constant load. To avoid these results, ESD protection plays an important role in companies manufacturing sensitive circuit boards.

ESD protective measures can be taken to prevent electrostatic charges from emerging in the first place, or to make sure existing loads are discharged slowly, e.g. via a large electrical resistance.

ESD protection for employees and workplaces

When it comes to effective ESD protection, the equipment of people dealing with sensitive PCBs is key. Conductive shoes, ESD coats and functioning, continuously checked grounding bracelets are of paramount importance.

But the workplace itself should be fitted with the equipment to handle and protect sensitive parts. Conductive floors, workbenches, chairs and tools protect parts against charges. It’s also important to protect the PCBs during shipping. Here, antistatic bags, foam or film come in handy.

The most important aspect of effective ESD protection is combining the listed protective measures. Therefore, many companies employ ESD commissioners in order to comply with and implement the aforementioned measures. Even when neglecting only one of these aspects, it’s possible to damage or destroy sensitive electrical parts.

Bianca Schmidt

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