What does ESD mean?
ESD stands for “electrostatic discharge” and describes an uncontrolled equalization of electrical charges between two objects charged with different voltages. An electrostatic discharge of this kind does not even require direct contact.
This poses a clear problem for industry, as electronic components can be damaged by ESD at any point in the production chain, especially seeing as electrostatic charges are essentially continuously being generated – through friction and movement, for example. Even just working at a work bench can create a charge of up to 6000 volts.
Antistatic bags protect ESD-sensitive components during transport.
This is where ESD presents yet another problem. Although we notice many everyday examples of electrostatic discharge because of the pain we experience – when shaking hands, for example – ESD can often go completely undetected, too. This is because discharges of this kind can only be felt at 3500 volts or higher.
Nevertheless, sensitive components can still be damaged when exposed to much lower voltages. For example, when manufacturing magnetic hard disks, a charge of just 5 volts is enough to damage the sensitive read head. This is aggravated by the fact that electrostatic discharges don’t just come from humans. Factory equipment, such as transport trolleys, tools and working surfaces, can also become electrostatically charged and cause ESD damage – unless it has been specially designed with ESD safety in mind.