Addressing Common Electrostatic Problems

Identification of the problem
There are four main troublesome difficulties arising in industry, deriving from electrostatic charges, with a fifth affecting only the electronics industry but with very serious and costly consequences.

Electrostatic attraction (ESA)
Airborne particles are attracted to charged surfaces or indeed charged airborne particles are attracted to a surface which could be totally free of any charge. This problem effects most plastic based industries in one form or another, spoiling finishes of painted products and causing rejects in quality in the food, pharmaceutical and medical industries. In the printing industry dust attraction damages print finishes or indeed printing plates. The film industry also suffers with low quality prints and poor resolution projections in the cinemas. The microscopic nature of semiconductor manufacture can be effected by this problem.

Material Misbehaviour
This is another form of ESA. However, instead of the contamination of products, the problem manifests itself in the form of the product itself, usually webs, fibres or sheets, sticking to themselves or equipment, misrouting or repelling. Automated processes are particularly prone to this problem.
Operator/Personnel Shocks
This is becoming increasingly significant as companies look to improved safety standards. Whilst shocks can be painful the effects are usually quite safe and short lived. However, in extreme cases, the debilitating effects can cause personnel collision or entrapment with associated machinery or can even initiate a fire or an explosion in hazardous areas.
Electrostatic Discharge (ESD)
This problem is associated to electronics assembly, installation and field service and also electronic component manufacture.
Voltages as low as 5 volts which have no real meaning in other industries, can cause catastrophic failure of electronic components or much worse, latent damage which results in field failure, by far the most costly in terms of repair and manufacturers’ reputation.

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