Ask the Experts
October 30, 2023 - Updated
October 25, 2023 - Originally Posted

Question About ESD Ionizer Guns

When using pressurized air to clean circuit boards, is it necessary to use an air ionizer gun to prevent ESD damage? I was of the understanding the answer was "yes." There seems to be some conflicting information on the web about this topic.


Expert Panel Responses

Yes, Ionizer air guns are used to minimize positive and negative ions on the surface of the PCB assembly and its components to reduce the ESD surface charges that can be introduced during air blow offs and minimize the effects of air charging the surface of the PCB assembly and its corresponding components. Ionizer air guns are used thru out our facility to make sure we do not introduce or charge the surface and components of our PCB assemblies and thus prevent having an ESD event.

A good trial is to preform a test and then use your ESD METER to test for electrical charges on the surface of a PCB Assembly by performing a test with and without and air ionizer gun. Our testing showed non ionizer air guns introduced a charge onto the surface of the PCB assembly, thus we always use ionizer air guns for any type of air blowoff cleaning and/or drying processes.

Mark McMeen
VP Engineering Services
STI Electronics Inc.
Mark T. McMeen is STI Electronics Inc.ʼs Vice President of Engineering Services. He oversees the daily operations of the Engineering Services division of STI. He has over 18 years experience in the manufacturing and engineering of PCBs.

The answer is yes. Utilizing pressurized air is moving particulate matter across the surface and, air is not clean per se, you are creating friction on the surface of your board and the components. Friction causes static charging.

Anytime you are using a blow off device to dry a boards you should be using an ionized air stream!

Jerry Karp
JSK Associates
Based in. Northern California since 1971. Founded JSK Associates in 1979. Actively involved in soldering, cleaning, chemistries. 30 years experience in EOS/ESD control.

Reader Comment
When using pressurized air on a PCB the friction created can tear away electrical charges and charge components or parts of the circuit. This is basically an ESD issue. There are applications where this is critical (automotive, medical, etc.) and others that are not sensitive to ESD, The Bottom line is it's the right practice to avoid hidden issues and black magic in your product.
Eyal Weiss, Cybord

Compressed air can create static charge thus to be on the ESD-safe side the use of an air ionizer gun is indeed recommended.

Manuel Schöllig
Product Manager Soldering
Inventec Dehon
Product manager for soldering products, including solder pastes, liquid and tacky fluxes.

Air blown or drawn by vacuum over board surfaces can generate considerable static charge. IPC-A-610 identifies compressed air as a “Typical Static Charge Source” in Appendix B. Air ionizers are effective and should be used to mitigate the risk to sensitive components.

John De Leeuw
Manufacturing Process Engineer
TE SubCom
John has more than thirty years of precision metal fabrication, contract manufacturing, fiber optics and electronic manufacturing experience in quality and production management and process engineering capacities. He has been a Certified IPC Trainer for more than ten years. He is currently a Manufacturing Process Engineer for High Reliability Optoelectronic assemblies used in undersea fiber optic cable systems.
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