An Introduction to ESD Safe Tools

Cat vs packing peanutsElectro static discharge (ESD) was discovered way back in 585 BC by the Ancient Greek, Thales of Miletus, after he rubbed a piece of amber with some fabric. This of course resulted in static cling and probably hilarious pranks of ancient Greeks shocking each other. After this discovery of static electricity, it took science a couple thousand years to catch up and actually do something with it and create basic protections against static and electricity. Once it became necessary, various ways to protect users and objects against accidental electrical currents were created. The narrowed focus on ESD eventually became a part of that.

ESD safe precision drivers and cuttersWith the advent of the Electronics Age, consumer electronics, computers and beyond, ESD and safeguards against it became a cause for concern. This concern appeared relatively early on in the 60’s and 70’s and tests revealed that a human could store and deliver an electrical shock of up to 18,000 volts. Possibly more depending on various factors. For this reason, and because of increasing circuit density making electronics more sensitive, ESD damage prevention had to be created. Some technologies, like grounding straps, have been mainstays, but ESD protection isn’t a magic bullet, but more of a series of precautions adding several layers of protection. There are ways to control the environment, protect the circuits and there are special tools that can be used in conjunction to reduce ESD.  

There were a number of interesting methods that were enacted to prevent ESD in a work environment during production. The early 80’s saw air ionizers used in manufacturing environments to reduce static build up in the air. It’s a useful extra piece of protection when used with other methods. Other methods of ESD protection included this patent from 1981 wherein the circuits were mounted so that any static discharge would travel through a special path – and away from the circuits. The unfortunate side effect of protections like these was that they made the end product bulkier and more costly. With the constant size reduction and cramming of circuits into a device, that wasn’t really a feasible solution. This circuit density is something of a problem even today with things like smartphones, which should be relatively protected in their finished state.  

Wera ESD safe precision driversBecause the increasing smallness of electronics made them more susceptible to ESD, special tools were made – both for manufacturing and for repairing them. ESD safe tweezers, made from non-conductive materials like ceramic, made their debut in 1991, while other ESD safe tools like screwdrivers, pliers and cutters have had their debuts obscured by the clouds of history. Thankfully, the tools are nonetheless easy to get, and you can easily safeguard against ESD in your repairs and from scratch builds. By using ESD safe tools in conjunction with ionizers and grounding straps, you’ll reduce damage due to ESD.

Here at Haus of Tools we carry a ton of ESD safe tools made by some of the world’s best toolmakers like:  Knipex, Wiha and Wera as well as a few specialty pieces like cutters made by Gedore and an ESD safe heat gun by Steinel. Of these, we have a few best sellers, namely the Knipex 79 12 125 ESD side cutter, Knipex 92 28 69 ESD tweezers, and Knipex 92 58 74 ESD tweezers. Knipex 00 20 18 ESD tool set is an interesting set in that it contains some Wera precision drivers making it a great first time set and an interesting team up of great toolmakers.

Wiha ESD safe reatchet and precision setSpeaking of Wera precision ESD drivers, there are a couple popular drivers, namely the Wera 05300004001micro ESD bit holding screwdriver, Wera 05030105001 ESD slotted driver, and the Wera 05030105001 ESD micro slotted screwdriver. If you like those drivers, you might want to think about getting a 6 piece set in a benchtop rack or the 20 piece pouch set. These precision drivers are made to have snug fits and prevent stripping and cam-out.

Lastly, we have some bestselling ESD safe tools made by Wiha. The Wiha 75965 is a precision micro bit set with a ratchet and an ESD safe precision bit holding handle. The Wiha 75977 is a similar set but eschews the ratchet for tweezers and has a zipper case as opposed to the metal case. Wiha’s 75097 is a system 4 ESD micro bit set that lets you store the extra bits on the ESD safe handle. And if you want just a basic all around, ESD safe bench set, the Wiha 92092 with 50 pieces contains probably everything you’d need. Wiha’s tools are highly regarded and have a great reputation for their excellent fit and reliability. Any of these would be a great option for your ESD tool selection.

By taking environmental precautions, using grounding straps and investing in ESD safe tools, you’ll be able to control and prevent ESD damage while working on PC repairs, smartphones, making circuits, and many more projects. By taking extra steps like these, you’ll save time and money preventing and diagnosing problems down the line. ESD save tools are an affordable solution to help you in your work and they help keep your electronics safe!

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