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Are plastic "ZipLock" bags OK for short-term storage of projects?

Context: beginner's Arduino class, carrying Arduino, breadboard, and wiring.

Arduino project in a Ziplock bag

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Kind of expensive since you have to buy 500 to 1,000 but these are appropriate: uline.com/BL_7850/… –  Spehro Pefhany Jul 15 at 17:51

6 Answers 6

Are plastic "ZipLock" bags OK for short-term storage of projects?

This is really a question of risk management. If you instead asked:

Will my electronic circuitry always survive short-term storage in food-grade plastic bags?

The answer is no. The plastic used for food is a very good insulator, and will generate static electricity when rubbed up against many materials. It will not allow the safe discharge of static electricity and will not prevent static build up, therefore it may harm electronics placed inside.

However there are many considerations that may change the risk assessment:

  • Many parts these days are not very static sensitive. They may work fine after having received several static discharges.
  • When mounted to a well designed PCB, most static discharges end up going to a ground lead, and causing little to no damage to the more sensitive components on the board.
  • If properly handled (on a static control work surface or with static control wrist bands) then you can safely store and retrieve electronic parts from these bags with little risk of unsafe discharge.
  • The parts are inexpensive enough that replacement isn't very costly.
  • Many such projects for hobbyist or prototype use aren't safety critical, and so failure of the electronics, while annoying and frustrating, poses little to no risk of injury or property damage. So even if they do become damaged, the type of damage shouldn't become compounded and cause loss of life or limb.

For these reasons, I often tell those who ask this question that it is fine as long as they understand that they are adding a possible source of flakiness and frustration to their environment down the road. They can mitigate that to some degree, but for most casual electronic hobbyists it really isn't going to matter.

For my own part, I do not use them. Static discharges rarely kill a part or product, instead it damages it. The damage may only come into play during certain operations or while using certain pins on the device, and it's often non-deterministic. I don't have the time or patience to figure out the difference between a possibly complex program logic bug and a tiny silicon flaw caused by a static discharge.

If I have to store a project and I don't have static control storage available, I would choose uncoated boxes or paper before I chose a plastic food-grade bag.

If I deal with an unprotected device or assembly that is ever going to be handed off to another person/client/company then I will obtain and use the appropriate static control materials.

But the casual hobbyist use may use plastic bags for decades before ever running into such a problem, so don't over think it.

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You might want to consider putting the more sensitive items (like the Arduino) that could be adversely affected by static inside an anti-static bag inside the zip-lock.

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There are certain brands of these bags which are actually static dissipative (what some people are incorrectly calling "anti-static" ). If that is the case, then yes, go ahead. But I'd test them out myself before risking my components.

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look for the ESD protective logo when selecting a bag –  KGregory Jul 15 at 18:02

there is also something called anti static bags, An antistatic bag is a bag used for shipping (usually electronic) components, which are prone to damage caused by electrostatic discharge. these prevents the exposed pins on board from electrostatic discharge and IC on board getting damaged.

anti static it is-

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

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Things might get bent or broken, but so long as everything is off and you don't try to operate it inside the bag, I don't see anything going wrong.

Just make sure you don't put it in a humid and/or cold environment so that water doesn't condense on the inside the bag. Otherwise if you power it on shortly after, you may have a short.

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I personally wouldn't store the arduino in the bag without a case for it. The reason being, that static electricity can build up and can destroy your electronics because most are rated at 5 volts and lower (static electricity discharge voltage can be hundreds of volts sometimes!). However, static discharge often threatens IC components when the discharge is applied to the pins. So with the Arduino it might actually be ok because the pins for the most part are covered. I personally keep my beaglebone in a medium-size camera case. It looks really professional and it offers a lot of protection. Look on amazon or go down to wal-mart/best buy and look for some. I hope this helps!!!

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"can I use a bag?" and you answer buy a case, really? –  kenny Jul 15 at 17:33
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He also tells you why you should not use just any bag. –  Wouter van Ooijen Jul 15 at 17:36
    
Ummm...yes I told him the risks associated with using a ziploc bag and then suggested a better permanent solution. I also didn't see any posts with suggestions for the OP offered by you... –  wunjo Jul 15 at 17:44
    
@kenny Really. I don't see a problem with this approach to the answer. "Can I use a plastic bag?" "I wouldn't recommend that, but here's an alternative." It's a quality conversation. –  Nick Alexeev Jul 15 at 17:46
    
Static can potentially affect the device even if the box doesn't touch it directly. I would recommend using an ESD-approved (aka static dissipative or anti-static) bag even if you are also using a case. –  KGregory Jul 15 at 17:59

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