Guide To ESD Flooring Materials
Rubber, the panacea of flooring materials, meets all of the recommended parameters of ANSI/ESD S.20-20-2007. The walking body voltage properties of ESD rubber are low. Conductive rubber used in conjunction with the right footwear is the best flooring solution for class zero ESD applications. Additionally, ESD rubber is viewed by many experts as a highly desirable walking surface because it not only performs with grounded footwear, but is highly effective at preventing static in areas where grounded footwear is not or cannot be used—places such as command centers, computer labs, 9-1-1 call centers and flight towers.
The old aesthetic issues have also been resolved. A new version of conductive rubber incorporates carbon contact points within the attractive patterns of a more decorative floor tile. Ergonomically, rubber is a better anti-fatigue floor than either epoxy or vinyl and, like carpet; rubber dampens noise from rolling carts and automatic equipment. Rubber, which is less porous than vinyl, is also easier to clean, wash and maintain. In fact, after a two-year study, AT&T found rubber to be the easiest ESD surface to care for. Rubber can be washed with neutral cleaners mixed with water; and finishes and buffing are unnecessary. Though its installed cost is the highest among the various options, the total cost of ownership for rubber is low because it is durable and inexpensive to maintain, making it a good choice for companies concerned about the long-term implications of their investment.
Nevertheless, despite its many advantages, the initial cost of rubber is substantially higher than some of the other choices. Also, it is important to be sure that the selected rubber is conductive and not static dissipative, as static dissipative rubber flooring resistive properties exceed the recommended system resistance (less than 35 megohms) parameters of ANSI/ESD S20.20-2007
High Tech Companies Turn To A Combination of Materials
To address the diverse needs of their various departments; managers of high tech facilities have begun to combine flooring solutions. For example, Acterna, a manufacturer of network solutions, located in Germantown, Maryland, installed vinyl tile over access floors and a quartz epoxy product in heavy traffic areas. Plexus Corporation, a contract manufacturer in Ayer, Massachusetts, installed conductive carpet tiles in their SMT assembly area then surrounded the carpet with a ten foot perimeter of quartz epoxy to handle the majority of their forklift traffic.
According to the Sematech road map (Sematech is the industry website for the semiconductor industry), ESD will present a major reliability issue for semiconductor manufacturers over the next several years. Ted Dangelmayer, a widely recognized and respected ESD consultant, agrees. In the next five years, Dangelmayer predicts,component sensitivity, which at one time was over 1000 volts, will drop to as little as 25 volts, due in part to new engineering designs. The internal protection devices in the traditional design made the components more robust, but encumbered circuit speed, inhibiting the production of faster, more capable components. According to Dangelmayer, the tradeoff for higher performance devices will be designs that are likely to be more vulnerable to ESD.
It stands to reason that more vulnerable sub-components will bring a concurrent need for more ESD-tolerant environments, not only in manufacturing areas, but anyplace where electronic equipment is manufactured, handled or used. That need may be especially acute in places, such as the home office or media room, where people do not wear ESDpreventative footwear. The need for reliable flooring will be particularly important in places where sophisticated electronics are used to protect life, perform secure transactions, protect our airspace or provide mission-critical services. To safely and dependably manufacture, handle or use these faster, more capable electronics, we'll need floors that not only ground out static charges, but robust, reliable ESD flooring surfaces that prevent static events from occurring in the first place.
© 2003 Conformity
About The Author
Dave Long is the President of Staticworx®. to email Dave.
*This article originally appeared in the November '03 issue of Conformity Magazine.