Dwight Byrd and Thomas Kugelstadt, Texas Instruments -October 06, 2011
ESD (electrostatic discharge)—the sudden and
momentary electric current that flows between
two objects at different electrical potentials—causes equipment failure and network downtime,
thus causing production losses of multiple billions
of dollars annually. From portable consumer electronics
to industrial-automation, process-control systems, and
military and aerospace applications, every electronics manufacturer
must consider ESD during equipment design. Myriad
testing standards exist for addressing the range of technical
requirements of the various industrial segments.
To help you select the correct testing standard for a design,
you need to understand the main ESD standards and the
differences between device- and system-level testing. ESD
protection includes a range of protection schemes, the most
common of which are steering-diode arrays, TVS (transient-voltage-suppressor) diodes, and zener diodes. No matter
which protection scheme you select, you must perform a
final EMI (electromagnetic-interference) test and a test of
the protection circuit itself.HBM testing
The HBM (human-body-model) device-level test is the most
common model for ESD testing. It is used to characterize the
susceptibility of an electronic component to ESD damage.
The test simulates an electrical discharge of a human onto
an electronic component, which could occur if a human has
built up residual charge—for example, by dragging his feet, in
socks, across a carpet and then touching an electronic device.
The failure modes for the HBM testing of ICs typically comprise
junction damage, metal penetration, melting of metal
layers, contact spiking, and damage to the gate oxides.
You set up the test procedure by applying a high-voltage
supply in series with a 1-MΩ resistor and a 100-pF capacitor.
After the capacitor is fully charged, a switch is used to remove
it from the high-voltage supply and series resistor and to apply
it in series with a 1.5-kΩ resistor and the DUT (device under
test). The voltage thus fully dissipates through the resistor
and the DUT (Figure 1
). Values for the high-voltage supply
range, according to the test level, from 0.5 to 15 kV.
Figure 2MM testing
shows a typical oscilloscope readout with an initial
current spike as large as 1.4 to 1.5A when the capacitor
starts discharging and the ramp-down until it asymptotically approaches 0A at approximately 500 nsec. The DUT can
experience a maximum power of 22.5 kW at a single discharge
event on a traditional HBM. Keep in mind that power equals
the current times the voltage.
The MM (machine-model) device-level test, which emerged
in the 1990s, is now less common than the HBM test.
Industrial-automation-manufacturing sites became increasingly
popular in the ’90s to increase output. These machines become electrically charged after turn-on and discharge into
an electronic component after making contact. Thus, MM
tests became a model for testing this type of ESD event.
Failure modes in MM testing are similar to those in HBM
testing. These failure modes include junction damage, melting
metal layers, and gate-oxide damage.
You set up the test procedure for MM testing with a high-voltage
supply in series with a resistor and a 200-pF capacitor.
After the capacitor fully charges, a switch is used to remove
it from the high-voltage supply and series resistor and then
apply it in series to a 0.5-μH inductor and the DUT. The
inductor with the capacitor voltage dissipates through the
DUT (Figure 3
). Traditional values for the high-voltage
supply can vary, but the most common range is 50 to 400V.
When looking at an oscilloscope measurement of current
over time, you can see that the RLC (resistance/inductance/
capacitance) circuit creates an alternating current (Figure 4
The current reaches approximately ±3A, which is about four times higher than the HBM’s peak-to-peak current amplitude.
Furthermore, the dissipation is much longer for the MM test
because it is still asymptotically approaching 0A at 900 nsec
). The DUT experiences a maximum power dissipation
of approximately 1.2 kW during an MM discharge event.
MM testing requires that you test each pin on the DUT
to its standard. The electronic chip is mounted on a specially
designed load board that interfaces with an automated ESD
tester. You ground the other pins on the board and then
individually test each pin. You continue this procedure until
all pins have been tested.CDM testing
The CDM (charged-device-model) device-level testing procedure
is a simulation for situations that often happen in
automated-manufacturing environments in which machines
often remain on indefinitely, causing the electronic ICs to
electrically charge over time. When the part comes into
contact with a grounded conductor, the built-up residual
capacitance discharges. For the CDM test, the DUT is placed
on its back facing upward on a testing board.
Separate the metal field plate and the DUT with an
insulating material, which acts as a capacitor between the
two objects. You then connect the metal field plate to a high-voltage
supply and increase its voltage to the required CDM-test-voltage level.
A probe then approaches the pin under test
where an ESD event occurs. Monitoring the ground connection
of the pin under test verifies this action. Repeat this test
on each pin of the DUT for three positive and three negative
pulses. The result is six total discharges per pin (Figure 5
Figure 6 indicates that the CDM discharge takes place
over 2 nsec at most, which makes it difficult to test and to
model. This test results in a current of 5 to 6A discharging in
less than 1 nsec. The current dissipates within 5 nsec, making
this part of the test succinct but volatile. Due to this fast
transient, the failure modes typically seen in CDM tests are
gate-oxide damage, charge trapping, and junction damage.
Figure 6 shows the current waveform during a CDM test.
The HBM, MM, and CDM are the most common ESD
device-level testing procedures for electronic components.
summarizes their similarities and differences.ESD immunity
The system-level ESD-immunity test simulates the ESD
of a human onto an electronic component (Figure 7a).
Electrostatic charge on a human can develop in low relative
humidity, on low-conductivity carpets, and on vinyl garments.
To simulate a discharge event, an ESD generator applies ESD pulses to the EUT (equipment under test) in two ways. The first
is through contact discharge, or direct contact with the EUT,
in which something makes physical contact with the EUT. The
second is through air-gap discharge, or indirect contact with
the EUT, in which the discharge occurs through the air. The
IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) defines this
test in the IEC61000-4-2 ESD-immunity-test specification.
Characteristics for this test are a rise time of less than 10
nsec and a pulse width of approximately 100 nsec, indicating
a low-energy, static pulse.
The ESD-immunity test requires
that you administer at least 10 discharges of both positive
and negative polarity at 1-sec intervals. Thus, you test the
EUT at least 20 times for the ESD-immunity system-level
specification (Figure 7b
Figure 8 shows the differences between device- and system-level testing standards. The IEC ESD test, which many
consider the gold standard for component testing, typically
has an eight-times-higher testing voltage than CDM and
20-times-higher peak-current testing than HBM.EFT immunity
The system-level-testing standard of IEC61000-4-4 is the EFT
(electrical-fast-transient) immunity-testing model (Figure 9a
The EFT-, or burst-, immunity test simulates transients that
can happen in everyday environments due to switching off
inductive loads, relay-contact bounce, and the operation of dc
or universal motors. This test is performed on all power, signal,
and earth wires. A burst is the sequence of pulses with a finite
duration. In the EFT-immunity test, a burst generator produces
a sequence of test pulses that attenuate to 50% of their peak
values in less than 100 nsec. The next adjacent pulse typically
occurs 1 μsec later. A burst typically lasts for 15 msec, and the
burst period, the time from one burst’s start to the next burst’s
start, is 300 msec.
This cycle repeats for 10 sec, after which
there is no testing for 10 seconds. This scenario represents one
test cycle. The test cycle must repeat six times, taking 110 sec.
The significance of the EFT-immunity test is its short pulse rise
times, high repetition rates, and low energy content.
Although the fast rise time and the low energy content
of an EFT are somewhat similar to those of an ESD pulse,
the number of pulses per test cycle is not. Assuming a 1-μsec
interval between one pulse front and the next, a 15-msec EFT
burst contains at least 15,000 pulses. Multiplying the number
of bursts within a 10-sec window yields 10 sec/300 msec=33.3
bursts and 500,000 pulses per 10-sec window. Thus, the
application of six 10-sec windows with a 10-sec pause interval
results in 3 million pulses within 110 sec.
Because EFT testing involves no direct contact of conductors
but instead the indirect application through a capacitive
clamp, proper, industrial-grade cabling with internal shielding
can produce great results to the DUT by drastically attenuating
the coupling of EFT energy into the conductors (Figure 9b
The surge-immunity, or lightning, test, IEC61000-4-5, represents
the most severe transient-immunity test in current and
duration (Figure 10a
). However, testers often employ it on signal
and power lines longer than 30m. The surge-immunity test
simulates switching transients due to direct lightning strikes;
induced voltages and currents due to indirect strikes; or switching
the power systems, including load changes and short circuits.
The test specifies the surge generator’s output waveforms
for open- and short-circuit conditions. The ratio of the open
circuit’s peak voltage to the short circuit’s peak current is
the generator’s output impedance. High current due to low
generator impedance and pulse duration approximately 1000
times longer than the ESD- and EFT-immunity tests characterize
this test, indicating a high-energy pulse.
This test requires five positive- and five negative-surge
pulses with a time interval between successive pulses of one
minute or less. A common procedure is to shorten the pause
intervals to 12 sec, thus reducing total test time to less than
two minutes. Although this approach intensifies the surge
impact due to the protection circuits’ reduced recovery time
between pulses, it contributes to a significant reduction in
test cost (Figure 10b).System-level testing
The IEC compiles the system-level-testing standards according
to IEC61000-4. This family of standards includes approximately
25 system-level-testing specifications
for transient-immunity testing:
IEC61000-4-2 for ESD, IEC61000-4-4
for EFT, and IEC61000-4-5 for lightning.
compares these tests.
Today’s rising demands for system-level
testing renders inadequate device-level
testing at the low voltage/current
levels of HBM, MM, and CDM. A
strong distinction exists between system
ESD and burst/surge-level testing
between consumer products and industrial
equipment and systems, however. In
consumer designs, ESD testing assumes a
high priority due to the increased probability
of human contact with electronic
components through cable connectors.
In strong contrast, industrial designers
rate the burst- and surge-immunity
tests higher than ESD testing. In this
case, the daily bombardment of electrical
transients due to electric motors
and other inductive switching loads
poses far greater risks to the system
than ESD, whereas human contact
occurs only during system installation
and maintenance and even then
only when the operator is wearing
ESD-protection gear. For more information
about ESD and testing, visit
This article originally appeared on EDN
sister site, Planet Analog
Dwight Byrd is a product-marketing engineer in the precision-analog group at Texas Instruments, where he is responsible for ADCs. Byrd was previously part of TI’s interface group, where he was responsible for ESD/EMI products, I2C peripheral devices, signal switches, and voltage-level translators. He received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Texas A&M University (College Station, TX). Thomas Kugelstadt is an application manager at Texas Instruments, where he is responsible for defining new, high-performance analog products and developing complete systems that detect and condition low-level analog signals in industrial systems. During his 22 years with TI, he has worked in various international application positions in Europe, Asia, and the United States. Kugelstadt is a graduate engineer from the Frankfurt University of Applied Science (Frankfurt, Germany)