The Silent Killer: Fixing Your Electrostatic Discharge Workflow
Today’s industry solutions are indistinguishable from those that have existed for decades. This begs an important question: If the electronics industry is so dynamic and innovative, why is today’s ESD prevention the same as the late 20th century?
Reports show that every year, the electronics industry invests $4 to $5 billion globally to combat the effects of electrostatic discharge (ESD). However, the lack of visibility into the efficacy of existing solutions raises the question of whether this is a productive investment.
The StatIQ dashboard shows real-time insights into ESD events. Image used courtesy of IONA Tech
While existing ESD products can be effective when deployed correctly, the lack of traceability from these products means their success relies on close oversight from ESD industry experts. IONA Tech is attempting to change this narrative with a new paradigm in ESD prevention: the StatIQ wearable ESD monitor. StatIQ technology enables ESD workflows that are more efficient, productive, and reliable.
Standard ESD Workflow
Anyone who has worked in the electronics industry knows that ESD is a silent killer. In fact, up to 30% of electrical units that fail during the manufacturing period do so because of ESD events, according to a study by the ESD Association. But these failures go largely unnoticed during production and rear their heads much later in a product’s lifecycle.
A major tenet of the industry-standard ESD workflow is personal protective equipment (PPE), which serves to prevent the build-up and transfer of electric charges passively. Within the realm of PPE exist many standard tools, including the ESD wrist strap, electrically dissipative garments, and grounding footwear.
Outside physical accessories, another standard practice is implementing ESD-protective areas (EPAs) specifically designed so all objects, surfaces, and people are kept at the same electrical potential. This generally consists of dissipative worksurface mats and flooring and environmental approaches like ionization and humidity control.
Standard Workflows Have Huge Shortcomings
While these practices can be effective when properly executed, their main shortcoming is that verifying these products is sporadic at best. PPE items can be tested when entering the EPA, but their reliability is completely open-loop during the wearer’s shift, meaning there is no feedback on how well they’re working. There may be a constant monitor that tests a wrist strap’s conductivity, but the user can easily bypass these.
For grounded flooring, if your ESD footwear isn’t making proper contact, or the flooring is dirty or has a bad connection to GND, there’s no reliable way to know this. The only way to be confident is to conduct an ESD audit, which is costly and hard to arrange, providing sporadic results. In some cases, existing solutions are not even an option.
For example, let’s take a look at ESD wrist straps. Requiring a physical tether to the ground is generally infeasible for the millions of workers who need mobility while operating in a dynamic environment. For workers that operate around high voltage equipment or moving machinery such as a conveyor belt, ESD wrist wraps are not allowed because they create a physical hazard. Still, even in more sedentary environments, people forget to wear them because they have to tether and untether every time they get up from their station.
Finally, ESD safe zones may work but aren’t practical in changing environments like modern lean factories. In these factories, it is common to change the physical floor layout frequently based on manufacturing needs. This ultimately makes companies unwilling to spend money on the necessary infrastructure to implement ESD safe zones.
StatIQ Band: Traceability of ESD Concerns
IONA has developed the StatIQ Band, a wearable and wireless real-time ESD monitoring device that provides ESD insights to users. The device can determine the wearers’ on-body charge build-up and voltage and detect ESD events in real-time using specialized sensors.
The device sounds an audible alarm when the user’s body voltage surpasses an adjustable threshold, letting them know it is unsafe to handle electrical components. Moreover, the device alerts the user (and manager) if it identifies electrostatic discharges as low as 100 V. This provides traceability into possible damage from ESD events, something previously impossible.
The StatIQ band connects to an app to provide insights to users. Image used courtesy of IONA Tech
Meanwhile, the device streams this data over Bluetooth to a mobile application (Android and iOS) for real-time visibility of body voltage and ESD events. Within this application, the user can change alarm settings and thresholds and download a time history of the data in CSV format for later analysis.
For an enterprise-level view, the data is communicated via Bluetooth to a WiFi-connected hub to a server, which provides a real-time, browser-based overview of the entire history of all workers wearing the bands, as well as all incidents of alarms generated. This provides the long-missing information on static build-up required for continuous process improvement in a lean or Kaizen system.
Enabling New Workflows
The goal of StatIQ is to provide real transparency and visibility into ESD for the first time, which unlocks unprecedented paradigms in ESD prevention.
The StatIQ technology enables ESD insights without being physically tethered to a single location. Because of this, it is unlocking new, more effective ESD workflows for the industry.
Most notably, adding StatIQ to ESD arsenals allows workers to have higher levels of ESD protection, regardless of their environment.
StatIQ enables new, more powerful ESD workflows for engineers and technicians. Image used courtesy of IONA Tech
For example, consider the likely situation where a wearer has a grounded mat at their desk. In cases like this, it is now possible to rely solely on StatIQ for ESD prevention without the need for other tools. As long as users listen and react to the alarms and the warnings are set to an appropriate voltage threshold, they can work without needing any form of continuous grounding, such as an immobilizing wrist strap.
Wearing the StatIQ Band is like having a personal ESD expert/auditor watching over your shoulder. You can relax, do your work, and feel confident that someone is doing most of the ESD prevention for you. You simply need to react to alarms. This is particularly powerful for smaller electronics shops without the time or resources to establish conventional ESD protocols.
Additionally, there is a lot of value in dynamic factory environments. With a solution like StatIQ, factories needn’t worry about their ESD infrastructure amongst a constantly changing floor plan. Instead, workers can wear the StatIQ band and be secure everywhere. In this way, StatIQ provides management with more confidence the factories are ESD-safe without having to change anything about the factory.
Changing the Industry Standard
Modern electronics call for modern ESD solutions, but so far, the industry hasn’t kept up. The StatIQ system makes ESD prevention less stressful and more effective, saving companies time and money and ensuring their budget for ESD mitigation is spent effectively.