headsUP: Handling circuit boards

Dos and don’ts to remember

Gas Turbine Controls Corp.

A large number of repairs received by GTC are believed the result of a user’s mishandling that causes static discharge to the board. This is particularly important because many circuit-board components are sensitive to static electricity. Best practices to assure long life of your boards can be grouped into these three categories:

1. Reduce environmental static

If possible, and to the extent practical, maintain a heightened level of humidity around the control panel and other areas where boards may be handled.

  • Ground your panel. A properly grounded panel helps prevent the buildup of static charges and can dissipate built-up charge from the operator.

  • Avoid wearing clothing that easily generates or stores static electricity. Cotton or cotton blends are recommended, synthetic or woolen materials are not.

  • Plastic items have the potential for generating a static charge. Keep all plastic and Styrofoam™ items away from any area where circuit boards are handled.

2. Ground yourself

When handling a circuit board, the operator should be properly grounded by (1) wearing a wrist strap connected to a grounding device, or (2) wearing heel grounders while standing on a static dissipative floor surface or mat.

In the absence of either, always discharge any static charge your body might have built up before handling a circuit board. This can be done by touching a grounded metal object—such as a grounded electrical outlet—and holding it for at least two seconds. If your panel is grounded, that will work too. Wearing an antistatic laboratory coat also can reduce the risk of static discharge to the board from clothing.

3. Handle equipment correctly

  • Do not touch components, circuit traces, or connectors on a circuit board. Handle circuit boards by their edges. Never hold a card in the horizontal position by one edge; the resulting stress can damage the circuitry.

  • After a circuit board or module is removed from a control panel, promptly store it in an antistatic protective bag or box.

  • Do not store circuit boards in a stack or adjacent to each other because this also can damage the components.

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