Understanding ESD and Protecting Industrial Electronics

Modern industrial electronics are marvels of miniaturization. Transistors — the building blocks of these devices — are now smaller than a grain of sand. This miniaturization allows for incredible processing power and functionality, but it also comes with a downside: increased vulnerability to electrostatic discharge (ESD). As a result, even a small electrical discharge could have tremendous effects on industrial electronics.

Electrostatic discharge explained

ESD is the rapid transfer of electrical charge between two objects. We’re all familiar with ESD as the static spark we might feel when touching a metal object and handling dry textiles. While harmless to us, these seemingly minor discharges can bring mayhem to the delicate world of electronic components.

ESD’s impact on industrial electronics

Industrial electronics are everywhere, and they’re often the backbone of critical machinery. The delicate circuits within these components can be easily damaged by even a small electrostatic discharge. Here’s a look at some of the potential consequences:

  • Latent damage: Sometimes, ESD damage is less obvious. It can subtly degrade a component’s performance, leading to erratic behavior, shortened lifespan, or even complete failure down the line. This can be particularly troublesome, as it can be difficult to diagnose the root cause of the issue.
  • Data loss: For some industrial electronics, ESD can even lead to data loss or corruption. This can be critical in applications where sensitive production data or control parameters are stored electronically.
  • Catastrophic failure: A strong ESD event can completely destroy a component or render it inoperable. This can lead to immediate downtime and potentially expensive repairs or replacements.

How to protect industrial electronics from ESD

The good news is that ESD damage is largely preventable. By implementing a comprehensive ESD control program, you can significantly reduce the risk to your critical systems. Here are some key strategies to consider:

  • Creating an electrostatic protected area (EPA): This designated workspace is specifically designed to minimize the generation and accumulation of static electricity. An EPA typically includes a conductive work surface that grounds any static buildup. Additionally, personnel working within the EPA wear grounded wrist straps that connect them to the same grounding system, ensuring they’re at the same electrical potential as the components they handle.
  • Proper handling procedures: Even within an EPA, proper handling procedures are essential. Personnel should be trained to avoid direct contact with electronic components whenever possible. Grounded tools like tweezers and soldering irons should be used for handling, and the work environment should be kept clean, as dust can contribute to static generation.
  • Environmental controls: Humidity plays a significant role in static generation. Maintaining a controlled humidity level within the EPA (typically between 40% and 60%) can help to naturally dissipate static buildup. Additionally, using ionizers can help to neutralize static charges in the air.

ESD is a preventable issue

ESD is a preventable issue with avoidable consequences. Investing in ESD protection is an investment in the smooth operation and longevity of your critical industrial electronics. A proactive approach to ESD control can save your company significant time, money, and frustration in the long run.

Confront the effects of electrostatic discharge. You can always count on the professionals at Global Electronic Services. Contact us for all your industrial electronic, servo motor, AC and DC motor, hydraulic, and pneumatic needs — and don’t forget to like and follow us on Facebook!
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