Electronic – Should I be worried about electro-static discharge


Doing mostly micro-controller work, I have never bothered with grounding myself with a wrist-strap or any other implementation.
Should I be worried about this?
How serious is ESD when working at my workbench on projects?

Best Answer

I know most people will yell at me for this. And I do honestly take some ESD precautions day to day, but ESD is a vary rare failure mode in modern electronics.

For my background, I take part in teaching the capstone design class at my university, and they have to build many many things, in 4 phases. Many students(almost all) will not listen to us when we warn of ESD precautions.

I have seen at-least 10 projects where they blamed ESD, only one that was probably ESD. In that project a board was working and a student walked up and touched it and you could audibly hear the shock as he discharged static electricity. This failed.

For the other 9, they blamed ESD only to find at a later point that they had a design flaw that was not easy to track down and only reared it's ugly head in very specific conditions.

I have heard many more than 10 projects blame esd and find a problem within hours, but only 10 have sworn they should be allowed to continue to the next phase because it worked but ESD fried it.

On that note, when you are working, you should check datasheets. Most modern devices have ESD protection, rated to some voltage using HBM(Human-body model). If this is below 1kV it is quite susceptible. if it is rated to 2k, it is semi-resilient, for the most part you would have to be dumb to damage it. if it is 4k, it is pretty resilient. if it is 8k you will hear a spark before you hurt it.

Be wary of those that blame ESD, but wear a wrist strap just in case. you can get a mat and strap for almost nothing.