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Substitute for an anti-static bag?

I need to ship a hard drive in a couple of days and am out of anti-static bags. Anyone know of any common household item that can be used as a substitute?

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mister790, please answer the question with what you found and accept that answer. Thanks!

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Did it, Sterling. Thanks.

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I looked under "early electronics static prone"

First popup was the following site. "https://www.esda.org/about-esd/esd-funda... Might cover a lot of questions re handling of electronic components. Take Care

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Hey, all. Since there were conflicting answers on the aluminum foil suggestion, I did a bit of poking around and discovered that Staples has anti-static bubble wrap -- http://www.staples.com/Staples-Anti-Stat... . Not the zero cost solution I was hoping for, but not too expensive and it should last me pretty much forever.

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Pink "anti-static" bags do not protect from static electricity. They are designed to not generate a charge themselves but they do not offer any protection.

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Look for pink bubble wrap. Anti-static bags are usually plastic (PET) and have a distinctive color (silvery for Metallised film, pink or black for polyethylene). The polyethylene variant may also take the form of foam or bubble wrap, either as sheets or bags. Because of the need for protection against mechanical damage as well as electrostatic damage, layers of protection are often used; because of this, you might find:

The protected device packaged inside a metalized PET film bag

Packed inside a pink polyethylene bubble-wrap bag

Packed inside a rigid black polyethylene box lined with pink poly foam

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antistatic_...

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Wikipedia says an anti-static bag is essentially a Faraday cage. Since you can make a Faraday box by covering a cardboard box with aluminum foil, it should be possible to make an anti-static enclosure by wrapping the item first in newspaper and then in aluminum foil. Then put this in a protective bag and whatever shipping protection is needed.

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Antistatic bags (or any antistatic surfaces) fall into a strange space. The issue is like the Three Bears story with the porridge: one was too hot and one was too cold, the one in the middle was just right. Here the conductivity of the material is the factor - metal foil is just too conductive and can chafe off causing problems. You want something in the middle just enough conductive to dissipate the static but not too conductive or insulatative. You also need to worry about the material building a static charge. In your case the newspaper would do that.

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Foil was used back before there was such a thing as astatic bags. I had CMOS chips stored for decades on my truck that only had foil around them. Later you got foil around the chip seated in conductive foam. Plastic tubes for chips came later. I'd wrap in foil, then paper to protect the foil. Certainly better then how I've gotten PC boards off eBay just dropped in a box with packing peanuts.

Note my experiences related above come from semiconductors and PC boards from the late 60s and 70s. By the 80s we were getting bags and foil was abandoned. If I had all the options before me, I'd go with the bag too.

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I just had to read through this post to finish chuckling over how argumentative the discussion became over anti-static bags!

I've been working with computers for over 30 yrs now and hardly ever use any anti-static protection for anything. Why? Because the chance of static discharge that would cause such an event is SOOOOO freakin' rare. Unless of course you like to rub your feet on the carpet and poke someone's nose before you start working with your boards or chips.

I've had hundreds of units (mobo's, video cards, memory chips, etc.) laying in drawers, cabinets, shelves, etc. I can pick them up 10 years later, after they've been in 3 or 4 machines even, and they still work just fine. I've shipped umpteen times in bubble-wrap that was discharged by my own hand before packaging. I've stored and shipped items sandwiched between plain foam with no problems, EVER.

Sure, spend the money on overpriced ESD protection if you like, and I would as well, if I needed to protect a very sensitive or pricey item like a high-end motherboard, otherwise.... pfff don't worry so much about something that's probably less common to happen than getting struck by lightning. Yes, I know 10v of electricity are enough to zap a poor 'ol microchip and that we can't even see it ourselves unless it hits around 10k v, but regardless, I've learned that discharging yourself prior to handling and working in an environment that is not conducive to building up static is all you need to concern yourselves with.

I'd love to hear any horror stories of people losing any equipment to static, cuz I have yet to hear one myself.

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I'm not throwing an endorsement either way, but will comment that loose chips are different then those in a circuit, manufacturers see fit to bag boards, my earlier comment was as stated related to parts from decades ago - which were many orders of magnatude less robust then today's ICs.

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I COMPLETELY Agree what "Leland Best" said in his response. My experience and beliefs are very similar to what he said. Unfortunately not to many people that I ship boards to on a frequent basis feel the same way.

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You don't live up North, do you?

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Some vacuum bags and a few types of vinyl gloves are anti-static.

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I've never heard of an anti-static vacuum bag, why would you use one? A vacuum by nature is a static charge collector (running it across the carpet or floor as an example). To protect one from a discharge when changing the bag? It serves no function to have an anti-static bag in it as far as I can see. Inside chip processing plants they don't use vacuums for cleaning only micro cloth dusters and special ones at that.

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On the other hand gloves have a function when working within a chip processing plant as the workers need to protect their hands from some chemicals and its a static free environment.

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I have always used newspaper to set my electronics boards down on and even turn them on. Newspaper does not conduct electricity. I am not sure as far as its antistatic and shipping properties, though. Maybe someone else has had this experience as well?

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Not really a good idea - paper is capable of storing a static charge (which is the risk here).

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Aluminium foil will protect against electrostatic discharge as well as, if not better than, an anti-static bag. (An anti-static bag is only slightly conductive, so a direct ESD event onto it can be transferred to the board inside.) But aluminium foil is NOT suitable for boards that have power sources, such as lithium backup cells, because it will short them out and discharge them if it makes contact with them. Boards containing supercaps for short-term backup are safe if the supercap is discharged.

I would fold the foil at least twice (forming four layers) before wrapping it round the board, otherwise it can rip and leave areas unprotected.

KrisBlueNZ (electronic serviceperson and design engineer)

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You should do some reading - Any metal can be used to protect against an electrical discharge and you would only need a single layer that completely wraps around the thing you were trying to protect. Creating a faraday cage wikipedia info. You are correct as one of the reasons not to use foil is the risk of discharge of electrolytic capacitors as the foil is too conductive. The second is the risk of it shedding off and creating a short when the device is reused. Antistatic materials are conductive at the high voltages of a static discharge but also have some level of resistance so the will not sort out lower voltage devices or cause a discharge with capacitors. And yes, some antistatic material is better than other types: the Pink stuff is the lowest grade (good for packing, not for coverage) and the metalized bags are the best grade (good for coverage).

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Response to Dan:

Antistatic materials aren't "conductive at the high voltages of a static discharge". Their distributed resistance doesn't depend on the voltage applied.

A foil shield gives better ESD protection than antistatic materials (contrary to rab777hp's claim) but those materials are cheaper and more convenient than a metallic wrapper.

To prevent aluminium foil being shredded, use several layers and wrinkle the sandwich slightly (e.g. put it on an uneven surface like sandpaper and rub it) to improve rigidity, and wrap it loosely around the board.

Generally only cells and supercaps hold significant energy after power-down; electrolytics discharge fairly quickly. Power supplies are an exception; they may need different handling precautions anyway because of the electric shock risk.

I only posted to correct the claim that aluminium foil is not as good as an ESD bag. I don't recommend aluminium foil instead, but it's an alternative if no ESD bag is available, as long as multiple layers are used.

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No your not correct here antistatic materials are conductive. I just put my Ohm meter across a black conductive PVC bag and a 3M metal film bag, granted the resistance was quite high. At a high energy of a static charge the charge will go around the surface. As for aluminium foil I didn't say it couldn't be used it's just not the best thing to use as it carries risks. As to the effect of layering it it makes no difference how many layers you use the effect of ESD dispersal only needs one layer and adding layers does not solve the chaffing of metal particles where the foil hits the exposed leads popping through the PCB. As to so called SuperCap's review this Super capacitors note they use an electrolytic hence they are an electrolytic type of capacitor which I was including in my comment by using the term electrolytic.

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Response to Dan again.

Please read my message carefully several times. I had to compress it to fit the 1024 character limit so I couldn't simplify it as much as I wanted to.

Anti-static materials have distributed resistance. They do not conduct "at the high voltage of static discharge". Their resistance is independent of voltage. Static charges do not generally have much energy; they normally last less than a millisecond. The extra of layers of foil are not intended to improve the ESD protection; they improve the overall rigidity and stickiness, to reduce the chance of bits of foil being ripped off and sticking to the board, as I explained - pretty clearly, I thought. I know supercapacitors are a type of electrolytic; they aren't usually referred to as such, because there's a better word: supercapacitor.

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Check these out Antistatic Agents or some more on coatings. Anti-static materials are designed to be conductive to dissipate the charge. Also re-read about Faraday cages (link above). Most EE's here in the Northeast refer Capacitors as electrolytic, film or ceramic when talking generically. Within each of these groups one can find specialized versions, like super capacitor's which aren't typically used in micro-electronics (computers). As an example Xenon flashes used in cameras and your UPS uses them to fill in when the voltage has dropped before the battery kick in.

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Wrap your device in new unused dryer anti static sheets then pack in bubble wrap.

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Not a good idea as the material on the polyester sheet will flake off and its not designed to be its self conductive.

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The obvious answer would seem to be: wrap the object first in a non-conducting wrapper (simple plastic bag) and THEN fully cover the bag with foil....creating a 'faraday cage' but avoiding direct contact with the conducting foil.

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@ johnphuie - The problem here is you've created a catch22 setup. The non-conducting plastic is the source of the ESD risk so basically you would be creating a problem wrapping it over the board to isolate the metal foil conduciveness you were using to protect it from to gain the ESD protection. Best to just use the correct materials and be done with it. ;-}

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Aluminium foil

even off a bar off chocolate will do the job

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Aluminum foil won't give you complete anti-static like a bag will. It'll work a little bit, but you may as well be putting it in a garbage bag.

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I would have thought the foil would be more conductive than the anti static bag? More worried it may short something out (well on a drive there is less chance) or that parts rip off and stay with the PCB

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that too- good catch spikey

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The risk is the bits of foil that come off and are left on the device once you power it up. While anti-static material is conductive (high voltage - Static) it is resistive (low voltages) as well so any bits left in most cases won't effect the devices operation.

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mister790 will be eternally grateful.
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