As a company that provides ESD equipment solutions, we often receive a number of questions surrounding ESD equipment and what exactly it is. Those questions cover a very broad, but important area of ESD safety.
What exactly is ESD equipment?
As a broad term, ESD equipment includes everything from a basic antistatic screwdriver to a multimillion-dollar automated assembly line with a full ESD Protected Area (EPA).
In a more precise light, ESD equipment is an umbrella term that describes an almost-endless variety of tools, garments, machines, and infrastructure that are used in electrostatically-sensitive environments. These ESD-sensitive environments include more than just manufacturing facilities with computer parts. In practice, they also include surgery theaters, ammunition factories, vehicle plants, aerospace manufacturing operations, and even a local computer repair shop.
However, the creation and maintenance of an EPA relies on more than just safety equipment. Employees and other personnel who enter and exit an EPA in a manufacturing facility need to be notified of the areas they are entering and exiting. This means that we can also consider ESD signage as a form of ESD equipment.
Essentially, ESD equipment is any kind of tool, implementation, or object that is concerned with mitigating the threat of electrostatic discharge.
Which problems can be resolved with ESD equipment?
For most people outside the manufacturing and production industries, electrostatic discharge is simply an annoying and ultimately harmless event that occurs in day-to-day life. For example: receiving a slight shock after touching a doorknob or getting out of the car. The same can’t be said for companies and manufacturing plants. ESD has elevated problems since the 1400’s. In a strange irony, humanity had to contend with the dangers of static electricity long before it was able to use electricity as a source of energy.
ESD equipment works to actively neutralize the threat posed by static electricity by working to prevent ESD events, safely discharge static charges and, protect the environment and everything therein. More specifically, ESD equipment is intended to:
- Prevent the buildup of static electricity
- Safely discharge any static electricity that gets generated
- Protect people and products from the effects from an accidental discharge
ESD equipment comes in many different forms, and can be used for a number of different purposes and situations.
What are the most common types of ESD equipment?
When most people think of ESD equipment, the first thing that usually comes to mind is a grounding wrist strap. This large-scale familiarity with grounding wrist straps is due in part to their widespread use. These straps are used by everyone from amateur computer technicians to electrical engineers developing the next generation of supercomputers.
The most common kinds of ESD equipment are:
- Antistatic work benches
- Grounding cords
- Antistatic tools
- Antistatic gloves
- ESD rubber matting
- Antistatic clothing
On an industrial scale, ESD equipment comes in a number of forms intended for a specific purpose. Beyond the standard-issue antistatic workbenches and floor mats, large-scale operations with a need for ESD safety also use continuous monitors, ionizing blowers, and specialized cleaning chemicals.
The need for ESD equipment doesn’t end at the conclusion of the manufacturing process. In truth, ESD protection is required at almost every stage of a product’s lifecycle. It’s often necessary to invest in ESD-safe packaging when products are being transported from the manufacturing floor to their final destinations. ESD equipment packaging typically focuses on protecting a product from both electrostatic damage and physical damage, although some forms of packaging can only handle one need at a time.
What ESD equipment do I need?
The ESD equipment your company needs will vary depending on the size of your operation, budget requirements and the level of protection your employees and products require. Some organizations may be able to get by with basic protection, using grounding wrist straps and antistatic gloves. Others, such as facilities that maintain clean rooms, wafer fabrication plants, or high-end electronic manufacturing companies, will require more comprehensive solutions.