Working with sensitive electronic components is already challenging. It takes skill and know-how to handle intricate component parts for assembly, repair, or rework. To create a professional and safe work environment for electronics, one must have two essential items: an ESD mat and an ESD wrist strap. These are the items that can protect electronics from damaging electrostatic discharge. Wondering how to use the ESD mat and wrist strap? Read on.
Electrostatic discharge or static electricity is relatively harmless when you encounter it while taking clothing out of the dryer. For instance, pulling apart socks stuck together may cause sparks to pop from friction. However, when you are working with high-tech electrical components, that same discharge can wreak havoc on components, rendering them useless in some cases. This is why every measure should be taken to eliminate the eruption of static in this environment. Investing in anti-static products such as anti-static mats and anti-static wristbands is the best way to eliminate this common problem.
Work surfaces made of wood, plastic, or other materials may have hidden positive and negative charges. Since you cannot remove this static directly from the work surface, the solution is to cover them with an ESD mat. These mats are considered to be static dissipative due to their ability to resist electrical charges that can lead to dangerous sparks.
ESD mats are typically rectangular in shape and made of rubber or vinyl material. They come in sizes large enough to cover work surface areas, and some mat styles also come in a variety of colors. For them to work, they must be grounded. A grounding cable may come with the mat, and the mat becomes protective once the cable is plugged into an electrical outlet.
Determine what size of ESD mat you need for good surface coverage at your workspace. Once the mat arrives, clear the work surface of objects and clean it with a clean, dry cloth or paper towel. Place the mat onto the work surface and plug the mat’s grounding connector into the wall socket.
Some ESD mats do not come with grounding hardware and still offer good anti-static protection. You can use them “as is” or purchase grounding hardware separately.
There are two types of ESD mats to consider: table mat and floor mat.
ESD table mats. Table mats are commonly seen at workbenches where electronic components are a constant presence. Look for mats that are two-ply and offer excellent resistance to hot temperatures from soldering irons, hot solder, and corrosive solvents.
Anti-static wrist straps are worn as an easy way to ground the body. When you wear this type of strap, you can touch electronics with your bare hands without worrying that a static charge is going to flow through you and into delicate components. When putting it on, remember that the metallic part located inside the strap should touch your skin. For safety, always follow the manufacturer instructions for attaching the band to the wrist and connecting it to electronics or outlets.