Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) is the sudden flow of electricity between two objects, most often caused by physical contact.
For the electronics repair novice, the key tidbit to keep in mind is that bad things happen when your electronic components (with one level of charge) suddenly come in contact with something with a different level of charge. Spare electrons on the surface try to find equilibrium and create havoc. If they rush from one object to another and some tiny electronics are in the way, the semiconductors get cooked. Yet when all components in your device are assembled, they share one big happy charge together. So there’s no problem until you start taking it all apart — that’s when the potential for different charges rears its ugly head.
Remember, an angry customer is more damaging to your business than a happy customer is beneficial. Screw up a repair by shocking the insides and your business will suffer.
Minimize ESD Risk ¶
- Unplug your electronic device.
- Remove rings, watches, and bracelets from your fingers and wrists.
- Keep your new parts in their pink or silver bags until you are ready to install them.
- Place all your bagged new parts on the anti-static mat before you work with them.
- Use an ESD-safe workspace with an anti-static mat and an anti-static wrist strap.
- Wear ESD-safe clothes. Don't even think of wearing polyester clothing (such as a jogging suit) while you work on electronics. Polyester is an absolute haven for ESD buildup.
- Never introduce vinyl, Styrofoam, or plastic (except for your ESD-safe work tools) into your workspace environment. Surely you've felt a static zap from vinyl, or had Styrofoam packing peanuts stick to your hands? These materials sound a potential death knell to IC components.
- Wear ESD-safe, anti-static gloves. Natural oils from your fingers can transfer all too easily to the tiny IC components and conductive contacts inside electronics. When this happens, you can unintentionally create extra resistance and potential short-circuits. This is obviously not a desirable outcome, and it’s difficult to troubleshoot these problems to boot.
Caution: ESD safe procedures will not protect you from high voltage discharge from a CRT display or any other glass tube monitor or television. In addition, power supplies built into desktop CPUs or other devices contain capacitors with similar potential for high voltage discharge.