Component Handling Precautions

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Electronic components need careful handling, but beginners may not know what situations may cause damage to them, and what precautions to take. You should take reasonable care in handling all components. Certain components, such as the integrated circuits ("ICs") included in the 102 Minimum Theremin Kit, are particularly vulnerable to high voltage static charges. It is easy for static charges to accumulate on your body without warning. They are generated by friction between many plastics, fabrics, and other common materials. For instance, if you walk across a carpet to your workplace, you can accumulate a static charge of several hundred volts. Static charge is destructive to electronic devices.

ICs like the ones supplied in your kit can be damaged by static charges as low as 250 volts, so the first precaution is to ensure that your body has not accumulated such a charge. A person handling sensitive components in the course of their daily work may have a grounded mat on their table top and a grounded wrist strap. However, the occasional kit builder does not have to go to such extents. Static charges on your body can be dissipated by touching the metal casing of grounded equipment at your work place (e.g., a piece of test equipment). If you do not have such equipment available, then you can run a wire from the cover screw of a nearby grounded electrical outlet and connect it through a 1 megohm resistor to a small metal touch plate located on your work surface. This arrangement is illustrated in the figure below.

IMPORTANT: To prevent the possibility of lethal electrical shock, the connection to the outlet ground should be performed by an electrician or other qualified individual.

The ICs in the 102 Minimum Theremin Kit are supplied in protective carbon-filled foam that "shunts" static charges to prevent them from flowing between the ICs pins. An antistatic plastic bag, distinguished by its pink color, is used to protect the voltage regulator. The correct procedure for handling these sensitive parts is to:

1. Touch your grounded equipment or grounded metal touch plate.
2. Remove the device from its protective foam or bag.
3. Solder the device to the printed circuit board.

To prevent static charges from accumulating on your body, it is best to perform these steps without leaving your workplace. If you leave your workplace between steps, touch your grounded equipment or grounded plate immediately before touching any of the individual parts or the printed circuit board. Once the assembly is complete, the electrical interconnections on the printed circuit board will provide an increased degree of protection from static electric charges. However, it is still recommended that you discharge any static charges on your body before you touch the completed assembly.

Always make sure that a part is inserted in the correct orientation before you solder it in place.

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