Devices Create Growing ESD Problems for
Data Centers, Call Centers, and Other Mission-Critical Environments
Latest Research Shows that Need
Increases for Fault-Tolerant, Anti-Static Flooring
By Dave Long,
President & CEO, Staticworx
ESD (electrostatic discharge) has long
been known as an "invisible and silent threat," but it
is now generating a bit of a stir at data centers, emergency call
centers, and other mission-critical environments. The reason for
this heightened attention is a dramatic new study from NanoMarkets,
which shows that smaller electronic components are creating much
greater risks for electronic hardware manufacturers and many end
According to NanoMarkets, a leading analyst in the electronics industry,
as electronic parts become faster and more powerful, circuits have
become much smaller, decreasing from micron-sized to nano-sized.
The continued miniaturization of PCBs and hard drives, coupled with
even smaller devices on computer chips, reduces the room available
for on-chip static protection. As a result, billions of dollars
are at risk if factories and end users of electronic equipment don't
create static-safe environments with fault-tolerant, static-control
The report asserts that the increased
vulnerability of electronics, including networked computers and
servers, has significantly increased the demand for better ESD control
in the semiconductor industry, with sales of ESD products expected
to exceed $8 billion by 2015.
We in the ESD industry have been following
this miniaturization trend for years, but the magnitude of the problem
has been slow to register in the field. Now, we're hoping that this
report will not only reinforce what we've been saying but that its
findings will resonate with corporate decision makers who have the
opportunity to justify static-safe worksites and to save considerably
at the same time.
In response to the report, ESD consultants
concur that this trend has particular implications for flooring
applications that need to be fault-tolerant (with guaranteed ESD
protection) in environments like data centers and 911 dispatch centers.
We applaud efforts such as the ESDA Roadmap, which has proactively
warned users of electronics of impending ESD problems due to the
"scaling" of semiconductor devices.
Static in Mission-Critical Settings
Controlling static in real-world, mission-critical environments
can be trickier than eliminating static in the controlled environments
that produce servers, mainframe computers, and memory storage equipment.
These settings lack static-control protocols like special static
dissipative shoes and shoe sole testers, employee grounding programs,
and ESD training. Without static-control footwear, most static-control
flooring generates static on people as they walk across the floor.
Independent testing has shown that
most ESD flooring-including conductive vinyl, static dissipative
SDT, anti-static, high-pressure laminate (HPL), and all types of
epoxy coatings-generates significant static when people wear standard
footwear. This phenomenon has accentuated the need for fault-tolerant
flooring solutions. For instance, based on testing at Fowler Labs,
electrically conductive, fault-tolerant rubber mitigates static
charges regardless of the footwear. This is good news for data centers,
911 call centers, flight control towers, R&D labs, and control
rooms, where special footwear isn't a reasonable option.
A Perfect Storm
What we have witnessed for the last 40 years is the brewing of a
perfect ESD storm that follows the thesis of Moore's Law, which
maintains that the number of transistors in integrated circuits
doubles every two years. We believe that the continuation of Moore's
Law is inevitable, and this will intensify today's ESD problem,
producing potentially devastating consequences to the semi-conductor
industry and mission-critical environments.
The fact is that electronic devices,
once capable of withstanding several hundred volts of static electricity
discharge, can no longer handle 50 volts or more. So it takes much
less than ever before to zap telephony devices, fry microprocessors,
and knock out networked systems.
Without the correct anti-static flooring
in place, manufacturers of data center equipment risk significant
damage and lost revenue due to latent ESD events. Latent damage
causes partial product degradation at the factory level and accounts
for end-user malfunctions such as data corruption and missed signals,
product failure, product returns, downtime, and expensive warranty
claims. How pervasive is this situation? Product losses among end
users average 27% to 33%.*
Faulty Specs, Costly Errors
Of particular concern are the numbers of floors in multiple environments
that are installed with the wrong specs and that don't meet accepted
international ESD standards, according to Ted Dangelmayer, CEO,
Dangelmeyer Associates, a leading analyst in the ESD industry. Among
recent studies by Dangelmeyer is one citing that circuit boards
and systems may now be more vulnerable to ESD than the microelectronic
components comprising them.
"There is a growing need for fault-tolerant
products that provide Class-0 ESD protection," says Dangelmayer.
"It is important for a floor to inhibit static charge generation
as well as it can remove static from charged bodies."
According to Dangelmeyer, Staticworx's
EC Rubber, as recognized by MIT Lincoln Laboratory and ESD Journal,
is the only conductive, resilient flooring material that provides
Class-0, fault-tolerant protection by inhibiting static generation
on people wearing any type of footwear. "This is critical because
it is unrealistic to expect employees in real-world environments
to wear special, static-protected shoes," he says.
Designers of data centers, call centers,
and other mission-critical operations are pursuing fault-tolerant
ESD flooring solutions that include lifetime warranty, long-term
durability, easy maintenance, and green product attributes. Staticworx
EC rubber addresses these needs whether installed over bare concrete
or laminated to raised access flooring panels.
The Need for Due Diligence
Well before the release of the NanoMarkets' report, we at Staticworx
have been concerned about the lack of reliable ESD knowledge in
the marketplace. In particular, we have observed a serious disconnect
among the major players involved in the ESD flooring equation: manufacturers,
distributors, architects, subcontractors, and facility managers.
Unfortunately, these parties typically don't speak the same language.
Miscommunication leads to misdiagnosis, and misdiagnosis leads to
costly problems that are often aren't discovered until it's too
Most ESD problems aren't controlled
through product design; they are mitigated at the facility construction
level. The best way to avoid needless facility investments and future
headaches is to perform due diligence, get sound technical advice,
and make the right flooring choice, whether you're considering new
construction or renovations.
In the future, in the name of progress,
electronic components will no doubt continue to become faster and
more robust. But that comes at a price, since they will necessarily
become even smaller as well, thus further compromising the precious
real estate available for ESD protection on circuit boards and chips.
In this regard, it's important to consider
the cost of inaction or continued wrong choices. This is even more
paramount during this time of continued economic uncertainty, when
companies need to contain expenses and also make sure that critical
capital covers today's and tomorrow's needs.
Again, the solution starts with education.
Indeed, it's time for all of us in the industry to study the facts,
bring this insidious threat to light, and take measures to eliminate
the risk of ESD.
To view excerpts of NanoMarket's report, ESD Products and Materials:
Markets and Opportunities, visit www.nanomarkets.net.
For more information about Staticworx
and related information, visit www.staticworx.com.
For more about the ESD Association,
*Stephen Halperin, "Guidelines
for Static Control"
Dave Long is president & CEO of
Staticworx, Inc. Named to the Inc. 500/5000, Staticworx, wwwstaticworx.com,
is North America's largest manufacturer of electrostatic discharge
(ESD) flooring products that protect work sites with customized,
static-free solutions. Based in Watertown, Mass., Staticworx has
warehouses on both coasts and is factory-direct. Comprehensive flooring
options include rubber, vinyl tile, carpet, epoxy, and adhesives.
All products meet international standards, are environmentally friendly,
and come with lifetime warranties. Start-to-finish services include
ongoing access to technical support. Known as problem-solvers and
educators, Staticworx streamlines the supply chain, working directly
with contractors and end-users to provide accountability. The company
has won many industry accolades and has served thousands of customers
with experience that spans 30-plus years.