What is Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) Packaging and How Does it Work?
Electrostatic discharge (ESD) packaging has a subtle yet extremely crucial role to play in the electronics manufacturing industry. ESD packaging materials offer complete protection to the packaged electronic circuits and chips from static current discharge, heat, moisture, corrosion, etc. Over the last few years, different types of ESD packaging configurations have emerged which suit different type of packaging needs.
The semiconductor industry is at the heart of the digital revolution that is currently taking the world into the future. Right from a simple radio to the very advanced LIGO experiment and observatory, semiconductors and electronic circuits are essentially powering the digital world. Electronic circuits have helped in transcending the barriers of communication and have paved the way for futuristic and advanced technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Robotics, and Internet of Things (IoT). Since, these four technologies, along with Big Data, form the building blocks of Industrial Revolution 4.0, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to state that electronics circuits and semiconductor devices are the most critical piece of the Industrial Revolution 4.0 puzzle.
However, electronic circuits like many other scientific products have an inherent problem, which may defeat the very purpose of manufacturing these circuits. This problem is electrostatic discharge. Sometimes, excessive pooling of electrons over the small area of circuit creates a voltage potential. As soon as the circuit touches another object with a lower potential, the pooled electric charge travels through the circuit onto the object, thus creating an electric shock. Static electricity is a common phenomenon, and even though we don’t always feel it, it can be pretty damaging for electronic circuits and other such devices. Electrostatic discharge is one of the biggest contributors to damaging of different types of electronic components and circuits. In order to tackle this problem, there is a concept of electrostatic discharge (ESD) packaging.
What is Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) Packaging and How it Works?
Electrostatic discharge (ESD) packaging essentially offers protection to the electronic circuits or components from coming into the direct contact with objects or materials which are ESD sensitive, thus minimizing the chances of electrostatic discharge. Electrostatic discharge (ESD) packaging is generally used to cover electronic components while they are being handled, transported, or stored. The ESD packaging material creates a perimeter of sorts, within which the buildup of the electric charge can be restricted, thus preventing the electric charge to dissipate on to some other object, thereby avoiding the occurrence of an electric shock and sparking. ESD packaging, thus, creates a sort of Faraday cage around the packaged electronic circuit.
Various Configurations of Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) Packaging
Electrostatic discharge (ESD) packaging generally comes in three categories- conductive material, dissipative material, and anti-static material. Though the basic function remains the same, the working principle of these three materials differ vastly. While conductive packaging materials take the charge away from the packaged electronic circuit just like an electric conduit, dissipative materials slow down the flow of electricity and its strength. Anti-static materials, on the other hand, inhibit tribocharging by restricting the buildup of a static current.
These categories of ESD packaging available in the electrostatic discharge (ESD) packaging market come in different configurations. Some of these configurations are given below:
- Stick Magazine:
Also called as shipping tube, this ESD packaging format was developed in the early days of IC-transistor manufacturing. It is primarily used by manufacturing plants to transport manufactured electronic circuits to the vendor or customer. Stick magazines are generally made of PVC material which makes them a sturdy insulator.
- Matrix Tray:
Matrix trays are made up of carbon or carbon-fiber composite materials and are designed in such a way that they offer full-proof protection against not just electrostatic discharge, but also against heat and moisture. The matrix design of this ESD packaging configuration is perfect to transport and store ICs which otherwise tend to be susceptible to damage due to exposure to excessive heat.
- Electrostatic Discharge Films:
Electrostatic discharge films are primarily used to handle, transport, and store electronic components such as transistors, diodes, resistor, capacitors, etc. These films offer excellent protection against corrosion, and hence also have extensive applicability in medical field, aerospace industry, and food packaging industry.
The Bottom Line
As electronic circuits and semiconductor chips become smaller and smaller in size, the possibility of electrostatic discharge through the embedded electronic components increases. In such a scenario, electrostatic discharge (ESD) packaging becomes critical for pushing the electronics and semiconductor manufacturing industry forward.
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