What level of ESD protection is on your workbench?

Hi all,

I have been a System Engineer for over 30 yrs and have gone from tubes to ICs during my time in the Aero Space industry.

Tubes were virtually immune to ESD (Electrostatic Discharge) and could be handled just about any way we wanted to. But when it comes to ICs, ESD can damage or destroy an IC in an instant.

Many of the boards offered for sale in kits by DIY Drones contain static sensitive parts/components that can be damaged even when attached to their respective circuit boards.

Therefore it is extremely important for all of you who have built or intend to build DIY Drone kits to exercise basic ESD handling procedures:

1) Buy a static safe pad/mat and attach it to the closest earth ground that you have access to. This will help to prevent static discharge from destroying the static sensitive parts on the DIY Drone boards.

2) Buy a metal wrist strap and attach it to the static safe pad to insure that you are at the same potential as the work pad so that you can pick up a static sensitive board and not risk destroying it with a static charge on your body.

3) Keep all of your completed boards in static safe packaging. Try to minimize board contact with the foam in the foam aircraft.

4) Buy a temperature controlled solder iron with a grounded tip.

If you follow these simple tips concerning ESD and your static sensitive circuit boards, you will most likely have a project that works the first time and will not suffer a latent defect while your plane is high in the sky!

Just a thought.


Views: 2453

Comment by Reto on July 2, 2009 at 1:23pm
Hey Thomas, I'm unsure whether my wife will be glad if I ground our dinning table!!! And going around in the house with a metal wrist strap, I'm afraid one day she plugs it into the AC to get rid of the invasive hobby...
Since we are in a DIY trend, could you suggest some diy ESD solution? Let's build the cheapest open source hobby ESD mat/strap in the universe.
Comment by James Turner on July 2, 2009 at 2:06pm
how about a sheet of aluminium foil connected to the biggest earth in the home such as the ring main earth or the nearest radiator? That way simply touching the foil will be enough to remove any static before you handle the circuit board.
Comment by Reto on July 2, 2009 at 2:31pm
Is aluminium a good enough conductor for ESD?
Comment by James Turner on July 2, 2009 at 2:53pm
well I grew up knowing it to be called Tin Foil (but these days it's called allsorts I think) which conducts just fine at ESD levels. Back in the old days if ever we were unsure the easiest way to test it was deliberately charge youself up as much as possible, grab the metal part of a screwdriver (tightly I might add or you feel the shock) then touch whatever we were using as the earth with the tip of the screwdriver. If you saw a small flash and heard the crack then it was safe to use. very primative but effective and cheap.
Comment by James Turner on July 2, 2009 at 2:59pm
to be honest though, I do actually have a static safe pad and and earthing point plug adapter as Thomas suggests on my bench but if you don't have access or room for one at the time you are working then there are many quick ways to ensure you are discharged.

Comment by Thomas J Coyle III on July 2, 2009 at 3:16pm

I used to work on the dining room table when I was back in CA.

To provide a static safe area to work on when I worked on the dining room table, I ran a heavy duty power strip from the nearest wall outlet and hooked the static safe pad/mat ground wire to one of the ground recepticals that is part of the standard three pin receptical on the power strip. You can buy inexpensive static safe mats from Jameco and other electronic distributors. I also powered my static safe solder station from the power strip so that there was a common ground for the mat and the solder station.


Comment by Sgt Ric on July 2, 2009 at 6:23pm
Since I work in I.T., we take anti-static protocols seriously, and both my home workbench surface and wrist are grounded when touching any IC component.

I have often wondered whether some of the recent issues could have been related to static, since I have seen many motherboards and I/O cards destroyed by unprotected handing.

Comment by Thomas J Coyle III on July 2, 2009 at 6:33pm
Sqt Ric,

You have the right idea. In relation to some of our recent issues, I was trying to use a wet noodle instead of a sledge hammer.

Comment by Tom in NOVA on July 2, 2009 at 8:24pm
Are there any DIY or purchasable static safe hard enclosures that can be mounted inside the model aircraft? They would serve not only to mitigate static, but also to protect the boards/components physically.
Comment by bGatti on July 3, 2009 at 8:35am
I have been handling microchips from PIC to Freescale to the Arduino all my life without EDS.
Anything is possible, but bear in mind, an op amp no longer costs $50 a chip, and microchips are no longer a few hundred buck a pop. We're talking about a $300 investment to protect a $3 chip from a rare condition. Lighten up already. Aside from which, almost all of these chips have clamping diode on their I/O. Largely this problem has been designed away, and is certainly cost-obsolete for a hobbiest.

Caveat: I've lived in CA and NC with high humidity. If you live in CO or AZ, NM, NV? etc... you might reconsider the problem. Here's a simple test, if you twitch unconsciously before touching your parked car for fear of getting shocked, or if you have developed a habit of touching doors with your keys first to avoid being shocked, you might benefit from the tinfoil hat advice. otherwise, live a little, risk that $2 microchip.


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