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Clearing the static: The basics of static control

27 March 2019 News

What is ESD or static?

An electrostatic discharge (ESD) is the transfer of electrostatic charge between two objects of unequal electrical potential. The resulting discharge may be so small that the human body can’t feel it, nevertheless it can cause serious damage to electronic components.

Examples of ESD include the shock we experience when we walk across a carpet and touch a metal doorknob, or the static we feel from jerseys. For this reason, it is important to keep static build-up in the workplace under control in order to prevent ESD occurrences; this is known as static control.

Can ESD cause damage?

Yes. Many ESD events go unnoticed but it takes only a small spark to damage sensitive electronic components; some devices may be damaged by discharges as small as 30 V. In hazardous environments, ESD can cause fires and explosions if the air contains combustible gases or particles.

We classify two types of ESD damage: total device failure and latent damage, which disables the device slightly and affects its long-term performance. Furthermore, the costs involved with static damage not only include the immediate cost of the damaged component, but the contributing cost of diagnostics, repair and labour that is needed to replace or fix the component.

Where can ESD occur?

ESD can occur anywhere and at any time. As objects come into contact with one another, an exchange of electrons takes place. This exchange creates unequal electrostatic charges on the surface of everyday objects, such as floors, chairs, work surfaces, packaging materials, plastics and papers, and these objects can charge workers in the workplace handling ESD-sensitive devices. Telecommunications, medical and computer electronics industries are especially vulnerable to ESD.

How do I prevent ESD?

It is important to identify an electrostatic protective area (EPA), which is a defined space where no items or activities are able to cause damage to an ESD-sensitive device. The next step is to compile a comprehensive ESD control programme that outlines measures required to prevent static build-up in the workplace. These measures include visible ESD signs indicating EPAs and ESD-sensitive objects, grounding of personnel, ESD testing and training, to name a few.

For more information contact Altico Static Control Solutions on +27 11 608 3001 or email sales@actum.co.za to discuss your static control requirements.



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