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Electrostatic discharge generators are machines used to generate electrostatic discharge (ESD) signals to test how much ESD a piece of electronic equipment can tolerate without damage. Van de Graaff generators are a type of electrostatic generator used for scientific demonstrations.

What is an Electrostatic Discharge?

Electrostatic discharges are sudden surges of current that flow between objects of different electrical potentials. They are caused by a buildup of static electricity or through electrostatic induction where a charged object is placed near a conductive object without access to ground.

In most cases, and in the case of ESD generators, the term refers to unwanted currents that may damage electronic equipment. ESD generators exist to test resistance to ESDs, which is important for solid state electronics where they are a serious concern.

Selecting an ESD Generator

ESD generators vary by the types of components they are suited to test. The principle variable is the voltage an ESD generator actually generates. The voltage ranges of the generator will vary within the bounds of around 30 volts to around 30 kV depending on the size and tolerance of the electrical components it is designed to test.

Uses of an ESD Generator

ESD generators are used to measure a product’s or component’s susceptibility to an electrostatic discharge. Devices tested include pyrotechnic machines, powders, and liquids; ordnance and explosive equipment; computer hardware; power generation equipment; process control systems; and electrical tools.

Many applications require the determination of the energy threshold for ignition by electrostatic discharge of varying intensities. Resulting data from an ESD generator can be used to characterize the probability of ignition due to an ESD event.