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April 16, 2006 6:33 AM   Subscribe

How can I make an anti-static bag?

This morning, I needed to bring a video card to someone's house, and I found that I'd stupidly thrown out all my anti-static bags.

I improvised by putting the card in a plastic bag, wrapping that in alumninum foil, and putting that in another plastic bag. My scientific rationale for this is a little weak.

Is there a good way to make an anti-static bag from household products, or is the one I made going to be effective?

posted by landtuna to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
i've never been entirely sure what an antistatic bag does, but this article (which, while overblown and pompous, seems to be correct) suggests you have made yourself a "Metallized Shielding Bag" of the "metal-in" type. sounds good enough to me (they are, apparently, "the most common type currently used and are recommended for packaging of ESD sensitive (ESDS) components"), although you're not protecting from "static induced damage".
posted by andrew cooke at 6:40 AM on April 16, 2006

I am not an electrical engineer, but your solution sounds like it should protect the component from outside electrical shocks like a Faraday Cage.
posted by justkevin at 7:10 AM on April 16, 2006

I think maybe the foil should be on the inside... plastic can carry a static charge, and putting it directly on the chips might not be such a good idea. As long as there are no batteries on the board, and it's been unplugged for awhile, just wrapping it directly in foil shouldn't do it any harm, and should dissipate any potential static charges nicely. Then put that in a plastic bag to protect from the weather.
posted by Malor at 8:20 AM on April 16, 2006

I may be wrong (it's been 15 years since I last took an electronics course) but if I remember correctly the original anti-static bags were made by coating the plastic with soap. So you could try that, or you could just use anti-static laundry sheets, thus giving your graphics card a nice, fresh from the dryer smell.

I have to add, though, that I suspect you could transport your card in a cardboard box, or just put it on the seat next to you, without fear of damage. I have installed more RAM, hard drives and graphics cards then I care to remember over the years and I've never used a grounding strap or bothered to stand on a rubber mat. I've never seen a failure from static yet. I'm not saying it can't happen, but I suspect you've got better odds to win the lottery.
posted by doctor_negative at 9:07 AM on April 16, 2006

I never worry about anti-static bags for any of my cards, etc, and I've never had a problem. I do store things in them, because that's what they come in.

There is some risk, I guess, but it's not very big to begin with. It's not like the card's going to die the moment you touch it without an anti-static bag.

Anyway, the tinfoil thing sounds like it would work to me.
posted by delmoi at 11:11 AM on April 16, 2006

I currently have about 5 random PCI cards sitting in various spots around my room, completely unprotected. They all work.
posted by devilsbrigade at 11:22 AM on April 16, 2006

I second (or is it, third?) "don't worry too much about it." I store spare hardware in a large plastic tub that I've lugged from living arrangement to living arrangement since I left for college. I toss stuff in there and let it rattle around for ages, and I've yet to have an issue with anything coming out damaged.

It would, of course, behoove you to take slightly better care of your brand new $600 PCI-E video card, but for older/less valuable hardware, don't worry.
posted by Alterscape at 12:50 PM on April 16, 2006

I've been messing with hardware for, what, 15 years now? And I've never had a problem with static. Never ever ever. Anti-static bags are pretty and definitely space-age-looking, but I've done so much to hardware, tossed it around, stuffed it into suitcases, jammed it into slots... never has anything failed due to static.

I did melt a processor the other day though. Fun times.
posted by blacklite at 1:36 PM on April 16, 2006

modern silicon processes have gotten a lot better at effective ESD protection in the I/O pads themselves.

don't fool yourself though, if you live in a dry area where getting static shocks is common, you can blow up even today's semiconductors.
posted by joeblough at 3:16 PM on April 16, 2006

Thanks for the thoughts, although I'm completely not cool with the "let's not worry about it" approach. I've worked in a lab where consumer-grade PCI cards were being prepared, and we did have problems with death by static on particularly dry days when people weren't wearing wrist straps.
posted by landtuna at 5:49 PM on April 16, 2006

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