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I've got water pump device that needs to pass ESD testing (IEC 61000-4-2, 8kV contact, 15kV air discharge).

On this device (as circled in red), there are these four metal inlets.

At 2kV with an ESD gun this device is hard resetting, on any contact with the metal inlets. So I'm assuming the ESD is triggering the reset pin (or some other condition) on the microcontroller.

This is a friend's device, and built by a hobbyist of sorts. He used a single layer board with no signal GND plane of sorts, and we are going to redesign the board to 4 layers with TVS, ferrites, and series resistors as needed to protect the microcontroller lines. There'll be as large a possible signal GND plane on this board for the TVS to shunt the ESD transients.

So in the ideal, that will fix our ESD issues.

BUT, what about ground straps from each metal inlet to provide a low impedance path for the ESD transient before it even approachs the board?

The enclosure is all plastic, and there is no chassis GND.

On the four metal inlets, where could you ground those if you just have the one PCB in the system?

I'm thinking we would have an isolated area on the PCB that runs straight to signal GND with these four straps from the metal inlets?

How are folks making these types of connections to chassis ground (if we had a chassis ground)?

I'm thinking of soldering a wire to the metal inlet -- is there something off-the-shelf that works better that's commonly used for these types of connections?

Should all four straps run to one central location in the far corner of the PCB that feeds to the signal GND?

I was brainstorming a wire with a ferrite in series that would dissipate the ESD as it comes in from the metal inlets and goes to our PCB signal GND?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Crumpled up tin foil and alligator clips from each inlet? \$\endgroup\$ – Leroy105 Feb 11 at 21:47
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With ESD the current discharge pathway from the ESD event needs to be controlled. On connections to the board TVS diodes could be used to shunt the current away from the board.

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Source: https://www.sunrom.com/p/tvs-diode-12v-smbj12ca

The best way to handle ESD with a DC connection is to have another ground or chassis ground or shield ground that can take the current from any of the inputs and shunt it to mains ground (since it appears this device can be plugged in). It is not ideal to have ESD shunted on the negative (or ground) side of the DC connection because the inductance of the wire nH's to mH's can cause common mode voltages to make the entire ground voltage rise and cause problems for electronics.

So make sure you have TVS diodes (or diodes) on connections to the outside world from your PCB and especially on connections to a microprocessor. Another thing to try is put a conductor on the switches/pump-inlets that runs to mains ground.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I've read on this "shunt to mains ground" -- what does that physically look like and how would you make that connection? (I actually believe the AC adapter is IEC 60601-1 rated, and doesn't have a mains ground in this case...). I get the theory, but I'm having nuts & bolts implementation issues (like how do you physically wire up these strategies?). \$\endgroup\$ – Leroy105 Feb 11 at 22:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ Could be a shield around a two conductor cable, or run three wires instead of two and connect the third one to mains ground. You might be able to just use the negative terminal but sometimes the AC adapters are isolated, so that wouldn't help. I'd have to see a schematic of the adapter to really comment on the best course of action \$\endgroup\$ – laptop2d Feb 11 at 22:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ I appreciate the broad guidance. I'm just trying to figure out the physical wiring strategy here. My experience is just being a PCB jockey every once in awhile in Altium, but this like a different sort of thing. I was thinking you could run wires from each inlet to some isolated corner of the signal GND on our PCB? I have a friend who does medical device design (20 person shop), and he legitimately called out tin foil and wires to diagnose on the signal GND scenario. \$\endgroup\$ – Leroy105 Feb 11 at 22:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ I try not to give exact guidance because it would take some experimentation to deduce the exact pathway of the ESD. I try and use the principles of ESD control to give a good idea of what is going on and a general idea of how to solve the problem. ESD control is an art not a science (unless you model the whole system and all parasitics to a reasonable degree, which could take a long long time) . Try it, put tinfoil from connector to connector and the negative terminal, if that solves the problem then your done. \$\endgroup\$ – laptop2d Feb 11 at 22:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ But if the pathway is through the switch on the positive terminal of the switch then it needs to be protected. If the pathway is through the negative terminal and a common mode problem on the negative terminal then you'll need a third wire. \$\endgroup\$ – laptop2d Feb 11 at 22:25

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