ESD, or electrostatic discharge, is the term most often used to describe the sensitivity of modern electronic components to static electrical charges. Many of these components, including computer chips, electronic assemblies, and circuit boards, can be damaged beyond repair by an electrical discharge as low as 20 volts. Manufacturers of electronic components and assemblers of electronic systems must control static discharges in their processes through the use of an effective ESD program. If they fail to take the necessary measures to control static electricity, many of the components or systems they produce will fail to work or will suffer a reduced operating life -- possibly costing the company tens of thousands of dollars in product losses and defects.
What Is Static?
Everyone has experienced static discharge at one time or another. A simple example would be when you walk across a carpeted floor and reach for the door handle. That snapping noise accompanied by an uncomfortable sting in the tips of your fingers is the discharge of static electricity. Your body actually built up an electrical potential of several thousand volts which discharged through the air when your fingers got close to the door handle.
Because the electrical potential was on the order of 35,000 volts you actually produced an arc of electric current that overcame the normally insulative qualities of air. And, just so you know, the supreme ESD is a lightning strike.
ESD and Electronics
ESD is an insidious electronics killer. As you read above, ESD occurs when the electrical potential of one object is different than the electrical potential of another. ESD damage can occur in electronic components with as little as 20 volts. Although this minute discharge cannot be felt, the effect on electronic devices can be devastating. IBM® has used an electron microscope to photograph ESD damage on zapped chips. The effect shows up much like a war zone with its battlefield craters.
Common, everyday objects used in the workplace, such as Styrofoam coffee cups, flooring materials, storage bins, desktops, and even ordinary clothing, are all sources of static-generating materials. Without an effective ESD program in place, workers who handle electronic parts will trash them without any outside indication.
Workers in the electronics industry must circumvent any potential ESD damage by creating ESD-controlled work environments and practicing ESD awareness. All-Spec Industries is a leading distributor of ESD products, providing the industry with the ESD products they need.
To learn more about ESD and its importance in the electronics and computer industry, click any of the following links to other ESD related websites.