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The Shocking Truth About ESD Bins

By: Maureen Paraventi

© Camac –

You’re the manager of a warehouse, distribution center, factory or other type of industrial facility and you need to purchase bins. There are so many materials from which to choose, including plastic, steel, wire mesh and fiberglass. You need to consider cost, of course, along with what material is best for the size and shape of the items that will be stored in it. Weight may also be a factor. What should also be on your decision-making radar: whether or not the bins you’re buying will hold electronic devices or components.

Static electricity can make itself known when you walk across a carpet and touch a metal doorknob, or when you take off the hat you’ve been wearing and your hair rises up unexpectedly and appears to stand on end. In the first case, the electrons your feet collect from the carpet transfer from you to the doorknob and give you a shock. In the second, electrons from your hair have moved onto your hat, leaving your hair with an electron imbalance. All of the hairs on your head have the same charge, which makes them try to create distance from one another.

The examples above are of temporary inconveniences with no long-lasting consequences. Static electricity may be unpleasant when we encounter it, but it can’t seriously harm people. The same cannot be said for semiconductor devices, despite an effort to include electrostatic discharge (ESD) protection circuitry in integrated circuit designs. When it comes to the storage, assembly and shipping of electronic devices and components, a static electricity event can permanently damage circuitry; attract contaminants in clean environments; cause a metal meltdown or oxide failure; make products stick together and even ignite flammable mixtures that may be nearby. The device may no longer function, or function partially. Damage to electronics and microelectronics caused by ESD can be costly, especially when you factor in the labor, repair, shipping, overhead and loss of labor time. Electrical energy can be transferred from a persona to a semiconductor device during normal handling or assembly operations. How much energy? One study found that a human body can generate static charge levels as high as 15,000 volts by simply walking across a carpeted floor and 5,000 volts by walking across a linoleum floor.1

What – and who – causes ESD? Both people and objects generate it. As noted in the hair-raising example above, a discharge of static electricity occurs when there is an imbalance – in an object – between negative and positive charges. Because of the imbalance, the charges seek a way to be discharged. A common ESD event called tribocharging occurs when two materials are brought into contact with each other and then separated.

Reducing the Likelihood of ESD Damage

Static electricity can create an electron imbalance which causes individual hairs to try and separate from each other. © levo –

Using bins made of made of electrostatic dissipative materials will help prevent ESD damage to electronics when they’re being stored and transferred and can help shield them when they’re in uncontrolled environments. A number of manufacturers offer these types of bins, many of which are made of carbon-filled or carbon-based polypropylene – one of the most commonly produced plastics in the world. ESD-safe bins are available in many forms:

Stacking and hanging bins with features like an open hopper front to provide easy access when bins are stacked, wheels (in some models) and dividers that help keep the contents organized. Some stackable storage bins can do double duty as hanging bins, and can nest inside each other to save space when not in use.

Non-stacking (shelf bins) maximize space usage and are more economical than stacking bins because they don’t have to be sturdy enough to bear the weight of other bins. They come in many size and shape options and some are tiltable, to make it easier to access the contents.

Need More Information About ESD Prevention?

A great deal of information can be found on the website of the ESD Association2, a professional voluntary organization dedicated to advancing the understanding of ESD avoidance and the understanding of electrical overstress (EOS), which is the exposure of a component or PCB board to a current or voltage beyond its maximum ratings. The Association offers facility certification programs to ANSI/ESD S20 and works to set global standards for static control. On its website, you can find a Buyer’s Guide that allows you to search by product type, company or geographic location for ESD control products or services. Additionally, it offers a number of educational courses, including an Operator Training course that gives enrollees information about how to implement an ESD Control program helps the understand their role in protecting the electrostatic discharge-sensitive items for which they are responsible. WMHS

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