Static eliminators, also known as antistatic devices, are products used to protect sensitive objects and materials from the hazardous effects of static electricity. They are not to be confused with appliances like static mixers. Static electricity refers to electricity that is at rest, which is produced as a result of an unbalance in the molecular structure of insulating materials. Such materials include paper and plastics. When their molecular structure becomes unbalanced, they produce either excessive positive or negative charged particles called ions.
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History of Static Eliminators
Static electricity, or electrostatic discharge, is something that humans have been aware of since the time of the Greeks, though they did not know exactly what it was. The earliest recorded description of electricity that we have comes from Greek scientist Thales of Miletus. Around 600 BC, he wrote of his observation that if you rub amber, you can use it to put up leaves and dust. Theophrastus, a devoted follower of Aristotle, later wrote in Of Stones of the ability of certain stones to attract things like wood and straws when heated.
During the 1600’s
For years, the idea that friction could cause some objects to attract and some objects to repel was all people really knew about static electricity. That changed starting in 1600, when a British scientist named William Gilbert determined the difference between magnetism and electricity. This was an important discovery, as before, scientists had believed that they were basically the same thing. Gilbert called electricity electricus, which is New Latin for “like amber" or “of amber." He described electricus as the ability of one object to attract others after being rubbed. By 1646, the words “electricity" and “electric" had entered the English language.
During the 1800’s
After Gilbert’s discovery, scientists and polymaths such as Benjamin Franklin began experimenting with electricity at length. By 1879, Thomas Edison had successfully tested the first electric light bulb. After electricity entered our world, its presence accelerated quickly. Eventually, people found that the static produced by electricity can be bothersome or harmful. So, they began searching for ways to contain or eliminate it.
During the 1900’s
In 1919, for example, Roy A. Weagant designed a device to eliminate static interference over transatlantic wireless communications, such radio systems used aboard ships. This was extremely important for communications during World War I. In 1948, engineers invented the transistor. Then, in 1958, they invented the integrated circuit. These both helped move us toward the digital age. With them, and the exciting electronic inventions that came along with them though, came even more ESD. To combat it, engineers needed to focus on creating anti-static electricity procedures and devices. They started by figuring out how much ESD was too much ESD. Then, they devised tests and standards for manufacturers to use. It was during the 1960s and 1970s that companies started using the first meters that checked the ESD by actually touching the electronic equipment.
Today, our world is more electronic than early engineers could have ever imagined. For that reason, global static electricity is up and static charge eliminators are a constant part of our lives, whether or not we realize it. Over the past 30 years or so, as technology has advanced, so have static eliminators. We can expect this trend to continue.
Applications of Static Eliminators
Customers rely on static elimination because a disproportionate number of ions/excess charges can be harmful to objects and materials. Static electricity can, for example, result in ill-effects such as: fire hazards, minor electrical shocks to workers, and equipment damage. Common ways that these excessive charges are produced include: friction, separation and changes in temperature.
Static elimination is important to customers in a wide variety of industries, including: electronics and communications, computer technology, healthcare, automotive, printing, residential services, power generation, plastics and semiconductor.
Design of Static Eliminators
Static eliminators work using two main types of solutions: active and passive. In short, active control solutions require power. Also, they completely eliminate static electricity. Passive control solutions, on the other hand, do not, as they simply reduce surface charges through absorption. Since they simply reduce rather than eliminate static electricity, passive control systems are less effective than active control systems.
Active Control Methods
The main method of active static control is ionization. Ionization refers to the formation of ions that can be achieved through a variety of methods including particle collisions, chemical reactions, electrical discharge, high temperatures or radiation. The static eliminators that provide ionization are referred to as ionizers, which operate on electrical energy to generate a balanced stream of ions in order to neutralize the unbalanced charge of the object providing static electricity, as well as negating particle attraction that would lead to further static electricity problems.
Passive Control Methods
Examples of passive control methods include electrostatic induction and grounding. Electrostatic induction works to control static electricity through using a body or material, such as a static brush. The body or material possesses a charge of static electricity that corrects the proportion of ions. It does so by developing a charge of static electricity of the opposite character in the desired object. The two objects do not need to be touching, but should be in close proximity to one another for effective induction to occur. Grounding also controls static electricity without power, but in a much different method. Grounding works by establishing a direct electric connection to the earth, providing an outlet for excessive electrical charges. Grounding is quite versatile, and can even be used to create static dissipative hoses.
A less straightforward and conventional way that static control can be achieved is through the process of corona treatment. Corona treatment is a method of surface treatment that allows a surface to become more conducive to bonding to other materials such as inks and adhesives. It works by exposing the material to an electrical discharge, referred to as a corona. While increasing bonding capabilities, corona treatment also protects the material against the build-up of static electricity. It is therefore more of a preventative measure than a static eliminating measure.
Use of Static Eliminators
To use static eliminators, you first need to detect the presence of static electricity and/or determine the amount of static electricity. One way to determine if static electricity has developed is through the use of a static meter.
Once you have established the presence of static electricity, the next step is to neutralize the effects of static electricity, or at least combat them as well as possible. You do this using any number of electrostatic discharge products we mentioned earlier.
Types of Static Eliminators
Antistats are anti-static materials that provide the surface of a material with static-dissipative properties. Antistats are either applied directly to the surface of the material or incorporated into its formulation.
Anti-static bars, also known as ionization bars, remove static electricity from industrial production lines. They dissipate static problems like static cling. To use anti static bars, manufacturers suspend them above the production line, where they emit an ionized corona. The corona neutralizes charges as it meets them.
Anti static gloves are used in factories and environments in which static electricity is common, such as the medical equipment, electronics and computer industries. Anti-static gloves protect both the worker and the product from damage.
Anti static mats work via induction. They reduce static electricity by discharging electric fields. The worker simply touches the mat before interacting with sensitive equipment.
Anti-static spray prevents the occurrence of static electricity by providing a thin, transparent coat to equipment. Anti-static sprays are effective in hard-to-reach places or blocked surfaces, for products that move at rapid speeds, and on surfaces with an extremely high static charge. Functioning by way of conductivity, or the transmission of electricity, anti-static sprays are commonly manufactured by way of diluting a soap-based material in a solvent, such as mild alcohol. In most cases, static eliminator suppliers add a fire retardant to the anti-static spray in order to combat the flammability of the solvent.
Anti-static wipes are towelettes that are pre-moistened with anti-static cleaner.
Corona treaters are involved in a treatment process that protects the material from static electricity as well as making it a more bondable surface for substances such as ink and adhesives.
ESD products are static control products involved in ESD protection, or stopping electrostatic discharge from harming any sensitive electronic machines in the general vicinity.
Ground straps are the most common type of static eliminator. These dissipative or conductive straps are worn on the wrist or the shoes to provide a path between the wearer and the ground. To work, a ribbon from the grounding strap makes contact with the wearer’s skin or socks. Grounding straps are often used in the industrial manufacturing industry to ground various machinery and equipment.
Ionizers, also called “ionized air blowers," generate positive and negative ions. They blow these charges across a work surface to neutralize potentially damaging static charges on any objects sitting on it. Ionizers are widely used in industries such as: plastics processing, electronics and printing. They are used not only on materials such as paper and plastics, but also on substances such as air and water. One of the most well-known examples of an ionizer is the “Ionix Static Eliminator."
There are two main types of static eliminating ionizers: alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC). While both types of static control ionizers have their advantages, DC ionizers require the use of another power supply or circuitry in order to provide the opposite polarity that is inherent in the AC ionizer.
Static bags, or anti-static bags, are specialized bags that hold sensitive electronics such as computer chips, protecting them from electrostatic charges. They work via induction.
Static brushes, also called ESD brushes or anti-static brushes, allow for cleaning without creating static. ESD brushes are used for static dissipation and wiping, solder removal, lead trimming rework and dusting/dirt removal. They too eliminate static using induction.
Static control protects equipment from the damage of static electricity.
Static Control Flooring
Static control flooring contains a coating or finish that maintains conductivity during factory operations and under different environmental conditions.
Static meters are electronic devices used to determine whether an object or surface is electrically charged and requires the neutralization of one of the static control products mentioned above.
Standards and Specifications of Static Eliminators
Static eliminators are beholden to strict safety and compliance standards. They do vary a bit, though, by your industry, location and application. For coating and printing applications, for example, we recommend you check out NFPA standards. The NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) publishes standards related to controlling static electricity around such equipment, in order to prevent explosions and fires.
The biggest organization that issues standards related to static eliminators is IEC, or the International Electrotechnical Commission. Since the 1980s, the majority of companies around the world test their products for ESD using IEC standards. We recommend you make sure your provider will do the same.
Examples of other standards to which your static eliminators may need to comply include those put out by: the NRC (US Nuclear Regulatory Committee), the military, the FDA, and ANSI affiliate, the ESDA (Electrostatic Discharge Association). Learn more by talking to your industry leaders.
Things to Consider When Choosing Static Eliminators
If you’re on the hunt for a high quality static eliminator manufacturer, look no further than those we have listed towards the top of this page. All of those we have listed have proven both their expertise and their reliability to their customers time and time again. To figure out which one is right for you, put together a list of your specifications.
Consider not only your application (your system type, system size, etc.), but also factors like: your budget, your deadline, your standard requirements, your delivery preferences and your post-delivery support preferences. Once you’ve got your list together, you’re ready to start looking. Browse the static eliminator manufacturers we’ve listed, and pick out three or four with whom you’d like to speak. Then, reach out to each of them individually and discuss all those points you’ve written down. Finally, compare and contrast your conversations, and pick the right one for you. Good luck!
Static Eliminator Terms
- Catastrophic Failure
- The failure of a product caused by electrostatic overstress.
- A substance that maintains the ability to transmit an electrical charge. Conductors have high electrical resistance.
- Product damage, resulting from static electricity or ESD, in which the product works at a lower level of efficiency, but has not yet failed.
- Electrical Resistance
- A measurement reflecting an object’s ability to carry an electrical charge. A conductive object with low electrical resistance can transmit a high level of electricity across its surface; a non-conductive object with high electrical resistance transmits little or no electricity across its surface.
- Electrostatic Charge
- The electrical charge generated when two objects contact each other and separate, a process called "triboelectric charging" or "tribocharging."
- Electrostatic Discharge (ESD)
- The release of electrical energy, usually caused by the shift of electrons from one object to another as the objects come into contact with and separate from one another. ESD occurs between two objects with different electrical potential and may reduce product effectiveness or cause product failure.
- Electrostatic Overstress
- A circumstance in which an object is exposed to an electrical current greater than that to which the object is normally exposed. Stressing a product past its tolerance may result in reduced product effectiveness or product failure.
- A process in which an object containing an electrical charge connects with a conductor, such as the earth.
- An increase in an electric field’s strength that may result in static electricity.
- A substance with little or no ability to carry an electric charge. Insulators have low electrical resistance.
- Low Charging
- A term synonymous with "anti-static."
- A measurement indicative of a conductive object’s electrical resistance.
- Static Dissipative
- An object’s ability to carry a charge throughout its surface. An object that is static dissipative ranges between conductivity and insulation.
- Triboelectric Charging
- A major cause of ESD in which a charge is created when electrons shift from one object to another during the contact and separation of the two objects with one another.