Creating an ESD-Safe Workspace
Chapter 2, “The Tools of the Trade,” covers the dangers of ESD. It also explains how you can protect yourself and your iDevice equipment against ESD by using an antistatic wrist strap and an ESD work mat.
At this time I’d like to share with you some additional tips and tricks to minimize the possibility of ESD causing damage to iDevice components.
Wear Appropriate Clothing and Protect Your Workspace
Please don’t even think of wearing polyester clothing (such as a jogging suit) while you work on iDevices. Polyester is an absolute haven for ESD buildup.
Moreover, never introduce vinyl, Styrofoam, or plastic (except for your ESD-safe plastic 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.
Believe it or not, you should strongly consider investing in ESD-safe, antistatic gloves. The reason for this suggestion is that the oils from your fingers can transfer all too easily to the tiny IC components and conductive contacts inside your iDevice. 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.
ESD-safe gloves also carry the advantage of not leaving fingerprints on your pretty iDevice cases.
Handle IC Components Appropriately
Never place iDevice parts on a metal surface. Instead, place the parts on your antistatic work mat. For that matter, be sure that you have a supply of static-shielding storage bags on hand for easy parts transport. When you order an iDevice replacement part, the component should ship in a static-shielding bag. Don’t throw them out! You’ll be glad to have a stockpile of them on hand in your workspace for future use.
Handle all IC components only at their edges and never by their contact points. As I just mentioned, you need to ward against the transfer of your body oils to the contacts. You also don’t want to create an inadvertent circuit bridge between the delicate contacts, which might very well short-circuit and fry them. It should go without saying, but here I go, saying it: Never touch another person who is working on IC components, and vice versa.
Condition the Air in Your Workspace
Industry best practice guidelines suggest that you keep the humidity of your workspace between 70 and 90 percent. You can achieve this level of humidity by measuring the humidity and then using a humidifier or dehumidifier in the room. Why leverage higher humidity? Because ESD charge levels are reduced (but not eliminated) in a higher-humidity environment.
You should also consider installing an ionized air generator in the room to add another layer of defense against the dreaded ESD.
Figure 4.4 shows a bench-top blower. Bench-top ionizers, such as the minIOS2 ionizing air blower (http://www.esdproducts.biz/Ionization/BenchtopIonizers/minION2/minion2.html) cost about $400. However, you must weigh this investment against the peace of mind of insuring against damaging iDevice components and risking dissatisfied customers who face unnecessary delays in parts shipments due to ESD damage.