Electrostatic Discharge Cleanrooms: Everything You Need to Know
When you look at footage of a sophisticated electronics lab or factory, you might have noticed scientists dressing up like doctors during the pandemic with their masks and caps. However, did you know that it is not because of cleanliness but because of electrostatic energy?
The ESD Association explains that electrostatic energy is built up when there is an imbalance of electrical charge on the surface of a material. When that energy is released, it’s called an electrostatic discharge. If you rub a balloon against your hair, you’ll see that it starts sticking to surfaces for a little while after. This is an example of electrostatic energy we witness in our regular lives.
But what are ESD cleanrooms, and why do we need them? In this article, we will cover what they are, how they work, and why they are so crucial to the field of electronics.
Why Do We Need ESD Cleanrooms?
ESD (Electrostatic Discharge) cleanrooms are specialized environments designed to prevent the buildup of static electricity and minimize the risk of electrostatic discharge (ESD) events. These types of cleanrooms are commonly used in manufacturing electronic devices and other sensitive equipment, as ESD can cause damage to these items.
Imagine you’re working on a new computer chip, and suddenly, there’s a spark, and it’s damaged. According to a study by the International Association of Microelectronics Packaging, ESD is the leading cause of device failure in the semiconductor industry, causing up to 70% of all device failures. Cleanrooms help prevent such incidents from happening and ensure that the electronic devices and equipment are safe and functional.
What Makes ESD Cleanrooms Special?
When it comes to ESD cleanrooms, it’s not just about having a room with low humidity. There’s a lot more to it. These cleanrooms have specialized equipment and materials to further reduce the risk of ESD events. For instance, ESD flooring is used to dissipate static charge, wrist straps are worn by personnel to ensure they are grounded, and anti-static garments are worn at all times.
It’s like building a fort around your electronic devices to protect them from any ESD events. These features and specifications of ESD cleanrooms are critical to maintaining a safe and effective environment for electronic manufacturing.
The Different Uses of ESD Cleanrooms
ESD cleanrooms are not limited to just one industry. They are used in a variety of industries that handle or manufacture sensitive electronic equipment. For example, in the semiconductor industry, ESD cleanrooms are used to produce integrated circuits and other electronic components.
In the computer hardware industry, ESD cleanrooms are used in the production of motherboards, CPUs, and other electronic devices. Medical device manufacturers also use ESD cleanrooms to produce medical devices like pacemakers, defibrillators, and other electronic medical equipment.
The aerospace and defense industry also uses ESD cleanrooms in the production and assembly of electronic equipment used in aircraft and defense systems. It’s a versatile tool that helps to protect a wide range of electronic equipment.
To Buy or To Rent
When it comes to ESD cleanrooms, companies either own one or rent one from a third-party provider. Owning an ESD cleanroom can be a significant investment as it requires specialized equipment as well as trained personnel to operate and maintain it. On the other hand, renting an ESD cleanroom from a third-party provider can be a cost-effective solution for companies that only need the space on an occasional basis.
With contract cleanroom services, companies can access the benefits of an ESD cleanroom without the costs and responsibilities of owning and maintaining one. It really depends on the company’s needs and budget. Owning an ESD cleanroom may be more suitable for companies that have a high volume of production, while renting may be more appropriate for those with lower volume and less frequent use.
But whatever your need is, there will not be a shortage of options. PS Market Search writes that the cleanroom consumables industry brought in almost $9.5 billion in revenue in 2021. While that is not an exact figure of how many cleanrooms are out there, it shows they are very much in business.
When it comes to the future of ESD cleanrooms, there are some exciting advancements and developments to look forward to. For instance, new materials and technologies are being developed that can further reduce the risk of ESD events, making ESD cleanrooms even more effective.
Additionally, with the growth of 5G and IoT technologies, there is a greater need for ESD cleanrooms to protect the sensitive electronic devices and equipment used in these fields. For example, in 5G networks, ESD cleanrooms are used in the production of antennas, and in IoT, they are used to manufacture electronic devices such as sensors and gateways.
Furthermore, with the growing trend of miniaturization and integration of electronic devices, ESD cleanrooms will play an increasingly important role in protecting these devices from ESD.
When it comes to ESD cleanrooms, having trained personnel is crucial for maintaining the proper functioning of the cleanroom. Cleanroom operators and technicians are responsible for maintaining the cleanroom’s environment, monitoring equipment, and ensuring that personnel is following established procedures.
They need to be trained in a variety of areas, such as cleanroom protocols, ESD protection, and equipment maintenance. They also need to be aware of potential hazards and know how to handle them. Having trained personnel in place helps to ensure that the cleanroom is operating efficiently and that the electronic devices and equipment are protected from ESD.
When it comes to ESD cleanrooms, certification is an important aspect. It demonstrates that the cleanroom meets certain standards and guidelines. There are different organizations that certify cleanrooms, such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the Federal Standard 209E (FS 209E).
In order to be certified, a cleanroom must pass a series of tests and inspections. According to the ESD Association, cleanroom certification audits focus on documentation, ESD element control selection, training, purchasing records, calibration, etc. Having a certified ESD cleanroom gives the company credibility and assurance that its cleanroom is operating at the highest level of performance.
As you can see, ESD cleanrooms are required in most industries with anything to do with electronics. As the need for electronics increases and more technologies start being manufactured, the need for ESD cleanrooms is only expected to increase.