Grounding Precautions for Anti-Static Protection Last Updated on: 6/19/2013

Bought any Radio Shack stock yet? Maybe you should .... I'm about to tell you to go down there and buy more stuff! (They are accessible to almost everyone; this is why I keep picking on them instead of other companies, which may also have fine parts.)

This time, get yourself a "Static-draining wrist strap," part number #276-2397. (Is anyone checking these numbers, to keep me honest? I hope so!) What this part does is makes sure your body is at electrical ground potential, so that any potential static charges that might have built up on you, go somewhere safe (like earth ground) instead of going through your chips or board as you work. Think of it as a lightning rod, I guess; that is sort of accurate.

One end of it wraps around your wrist, and the other end connects to the EARTH GROUND of your house's electrical system. (The center, round pin on U.S. wall plugs, NOT one of the two flat, AC pins. This is very important: whatever you do, don't accidentally plug yourself into a 120 volt wall outlet! Better an electrocuted PC board, than you, right?! Skip it altogether, for your own safety, if you are unsure of where your "earth ground" is!)

For your info, some IC's are more tolerant than others. CMOS chips are especially fragile this way, due to their makeup and the fact that they operate on teeny, tiny amounts of current. They really, really don't like even mini "lightning bolts" cruising through their delicate circuitry!

This is a good device to have around, and recommended. But if you don't have one of these, there are alternatives. At the very least, be sure to ground yourself once in awhile before and/or while working around IC's, by touching a (safe, please!) metal chassis ground surface for a few seconds, to drain static through the chassis ground, to the earth ground. This is mostly for us lazy types, those willing to take unneeded chances. Even then, only for some quick, easy fixes like gently pushing on an IC body to reseat it, with power turned completely off. (Never, ever work on any circuit, for any reason, with it plugged in, for safety!)

If you don't like being strapped to a worktable, you may find an anti-static pad at a computer store. These do basically the same thing as a strap, but are more aesthetically pleasing and less restrictive. They just sit on your table, not chain you to it. They are supposed to keep you from killing your computer keyboard via static, which I think is a solution to a non-problem, but whatever. (Can you imagine all the jokes, if some boss type tried to "chain" workers to their desks, using the cruder-but-more-effective anti-static wrist straps? "What a slave-driver, etc, etc. For that reason, I can see why the more politically correct versions exist!)

Ward F. Shrake

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