Equipment, furniture, clothing, and other common items in today’s workplace can store thousands of volts in electrostatic charges. Yet, it only takes 25 electrostatic volts to irreparably damage an integrated circuit. When SMT businesses do not consider the risks because they cannot see the risks the costs can be devastating. In the article, The “Real” Cost of ESD Damage it is noted that ESD losses are between half a billion to five billion dollars every year! While businesses continue to overlook these technical issues in order cut spending, the problem continues to worsen. It is possible that if the topic were better understood, the risks would not be overlooked every year during the budget review.
Determining the Cost of ESD Damage
Many studies have been conducted over the last 40 years to try and convince others of the real and costly dangers of ESD. In 1981, Western Electric Denver Works participated in what is referred to as the “split-lot experiments.” This specific experiment utilized a basic ESD program and saw over 10% improvement, and their ROI was estimated to be in the range of 900-2300%. In 1983, Wester Electric North Andover Works found a 3:1 reduction in defect rates. Another study conducted in 1983, from Lockheed Missiles and Space Company found an annual savings of $2 million! 
ESD losses are between half a billion to five billion dollars every year.
Split-lot experiments have been a good tool to measure the effectiveness of an ESD program and its efficacy in improving yield. In one study, auditors were able to track revenue savings or loss at certain facilities and correlate it with auditing scores. Based on this they were able to estimate the return-on-investment (3:1 in one study and 11:1 in another) of the specific procedures followed at the “exemplary” factories.
What is ESD Damage and How to Prevent it?
ESD, or Electrostatic Discharge, is a sudden surge of electricity between two electrically charged objects. Contact, an electrical short or dielectric breakdown is the typical cause. During these natural occurrences, electrical currents can travel to the ground. A current can travel between the PN junctions on integrated circuits to reach ground. This current flow will burn holes visible to the naked eye in an integrated circuit, with evidence of heat damage to the surrounding area. It is repeated discharge events that will degrade internal equipment components over time. While there is not a way to completely prevent these occurrences there are ways to reduce the risk of damage.
- ESD Program – Implementing an ESD program such as ANSI/ESD S20.20 is critical. The standards they developed allow the design, implementation, and the continuance of processes that remove the threat of ESD from sensitive electronic components and equipment.
- ESD Protected Area (EPA) – Setting up a designated ESD safe work area requires the following items:
- Personal Grounding Items & Apparel – Items such as wrist straps, heal grounders, lab coats, and other garments are vital for ESD work areas.
- ESD Workstations and Equipment – This includes table mats, chairs,
- ESD Flooring – epoxy-based flooring is common for large concrete areas, grounded through copper strips. A post-installation test should always be performed. The threshold for ESD control flooring is one megaohm
- Tape and Signage – These items help designate the space from other areas.
Since synthetic materials such as Styrofoam and plastic cups hold negative charges, it is important to keep them at least four inches away from electronic equipment. Additionally, it is important to use ESD Wipes and cleaners when cleaning circuit boards. Anything else can easily damage equipment. Human skin and human hair both hold negative charges that can potentially cause an electrostatic reaction. If an SMT Printer is used, make sure to use an ESD-safe Stencil Wiping Roll such as Green Monster. These are specifically designed to reduce events such as ESD damage.
Recurring ESD damage can be catastrophic from a business perspective. When your line goes down so does productivity, delivery time, customer perception and trust, and ultimately – revenue. Businesses wind up spending more to replace equipment and component than they would on basic ESD preventative products. The fix is an easy one – implement a solid ESD program. You can visit http://www.esda.org/ for more information as well as our extensive line of Static Control Products .
Michaels, K. (1999, September). StackPath. Https://Www.Ecmweb.Com/Content/Article/20897138/Electrostatic-Discharge-Causes-Effects-and-Solutions. https://www.ecmweb.com/content/article/20897138/electrostatic-discharge-causes-effects-and-solutions
Welsher, T. (2014, July 8). The “Real” Cost of ESD Damage. In Compliance Magazine. https://incompliancemag.com/article/the-qrealq-cost-of-esd-damage/