Understanding Static Electricity

Have you ever walked across the room to pet your cat or dog and got a shock instead? Ever taken off your shirt on a dry winter day and had a “hair raising” experience? How about rubbing a balloon on your shirt and sticking it to the wall? This is static electricity! Before we can understand Static Electricity we need to know the basics of atoms.

All physical objects are made up of atoms. Inside an atom are protons, electrons and neutrons. The protons are positively (+) charged, the electrons are negatively (-) charged, and the neutrons are neutral.

Therefore, all things are made up of charges. Opposite charges attract each other (negative to positive). Like (similar) charges repel each other (positive to positive or negative to negative). Most of the time positive and negative charges are balanced in an object, which makes that object neutral.

Static electricity is the result of an imbalance between negative and positive charges of an object. These charges can build up on the surface of an object until they find a way to be released or discharged.

The rubbing of certain materials against another can transfer negative charges, or electrons. For example, if you drag your sock on the carpet, your body collects extra electrons. The electrons cling to your body until they can be released. As you reach and touch your furry friend, a shock occurs. This is just the surplus electrons being released from you to your unsuspecting pet.

Static

And what about that “hair raising” experience? As you remove your shirt, electrons are transferred from the shirt to your hair, creating the hair raising experience! Remember, objects with the same charge repel each other. Because they have the same charge, your hair will stand on end. Your hair is trying to get as far away from each other as possible!

When you rub a balloon against your shirt and stick it to a wall, you are adding a surplus of electrons (negative charges) to the surface of the balloon. The wall is now more positively charged than the balloon. As the two come in contact, the balloon will stick because of the rule that opposites attract (positive to negative).

When you relate these too your manufacturing environment and we talk about dust, hair, and fines sticking to your product then EXAIR has the answer for you with our GEN 4 Static Eliminating products. EXAIR Static Eliminators (also called ionizers) can eliminate the charge. These shockless ionizers are electronically powered to produce a bulk of positive and negative ions. The charged surface attracts the appropriate number of positive or negative ions from the ionizer to become neutral or balanced.

If you have a situation where static charges are causing problems with a product finish, print quality, sensor readings, etc. and would like some assistance solving the problem please call EXAIR and ask for one of our knowledgeable Application Engineers to discuss the right product for your application.

Eric Kuhnash
Application Engineer
E-mail: EricKuhnash@exair.com
Twitter: Twitter: @EXAIR_EK

Ion Air Cannon Keeps Paper Recycling Baler Working

One of the cruelest pranks I’ve ever been party to happened during my time in the United States Navy. All it took was:

  • A cigar box
  • A rubber band
  • The scrap “dots” from every 3-hole punch we could find

We cut the lid off the cigar box, filled it with the “dots,” used the lid and the rubber band to make a wind-up flapper that we stretched across the open top of the box, and carefully placed it in our Leading Petty Officer’s (LPO’s) desk drawer.  Then we waited for hilarity to ensue the next time he opened that drawer.

Unbeknownst to us, he was going to a pretty important meeting that morning, so he was wearing his Service Dress Blues (also known as “crackerjacks” – the dark wool one; not the white one on the popular snack mix box).  When he opened his desk drawer, the rubber band-powered flapper flung those little white paper dots all over him.  It was wintertime, in an office space with electric baseboard heat, so the static cling was heinous.  It took several of us with makeshift lint brushes fashioned from duct tape to get his uniform “shipshape” and presentable for the meeting.

I was reminded of this incident recently when I had the pleasure of helping a caller from a paper recycling plant, who was having a static problem in a baler, with, basically, large confetti-like pieces of shredded paper.  These shreds are pneumatically conveyed through a long 8-inch duct, where they picked up enough static to cling to the inside of the baler chute, and built up to a point where they covered the sensors that opened the chute.  This caused the chute doors to cycle without the chute being full, which triggered the baler to activate with nothing there.  The result from the operators was a lot of slamming, frustration, and cursing…which further reminded me of my LPO’s reaction to getting covered in paper dots.

While lint brushes (and duct tape, in a pinch) work just fine for removing statically charged debris from one’s clothing, the baler required a different solution…in the form of a pair of EXAIR Gen4 Ion Air Cannons.  These were installed to blow into the baler, from opposite walls just above the chute, and aimed slightly down towards the sensors.  This keeps the sensors clear until paper shred actually DOES fill the chute, allowing it to dump a whole bale’s worth of scrap, keeping the baler (and the operators) happy.

Whatever you needs, EXAIR has a Gen4 Static Eliminator product to solve your static problem.

Many industrial static charge problems have similarities to “real world” experiences that most of us are familiar with.  If you want to talk about static control, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
Visit us on the Web
Follow me on Twitter
Like us on Facebook

Static Eliminators Essential To Packaging Operations

I had a headache the other day. Of all the things that can make me grumpy, nothing makes me grumpier than a headache. Luckily, there are over the counter medications that work quite well, and quickly, to boot.  And I had a brand new bottle of them in the cabinet.

When I opened the package and removed the tamper-resistant plastic band on the cap, it stuck to my hand when I went to drop it in the trash can.  This raised my grumpiness just a touch.  I shook my hand to try and get it off, and it fell behind the trash can.  My grumpiness elevated a bit further.  I hit my head (you know, the one I was trying to cure the pain in?) on the counter while bending over to retrieve it.  That activated my grumpiness alarm, which sounds just like mild profanity.  My wife silenced that alarm pretty quickly.

The plastic band stuck to my hand, of course, because it’s made of a non-conductive material, and peeling it from the bottle cap, which is also a non-conductive material, generated a static charge.  As a subject matter expert on the topic of static elimination, I am quite familiar with the phenomenon, the problems it causes, and, more importantly, the numerous ways to apply solutions to those problems:

  • One such solution was related to my problem with the tamper-resistant seal.  A mouthwash manufacturer was actually having trouble getting those seals ONTO the bottles on their packaging line.  The bottle caps themselves had so much static charge on them that they repelled the seal as the machine tried to drop it in place before heat shrinking it.  An Ion Air Jet solved the problem:
Gen4 Ion Air Jet ensures bottle caps & necks are static free for application of tamper resistant seals.
  • Speaking of plastic bottles, the finishing process after extrusion can leave small bits of plastic particulate behind, and static charge can keep them on the bottle.  This was a great fit for an Ion Air Cannon:
Gen4 Ion Air Cannon eliminates static & dust prior to filling bottles.
  • Sometimes, air flow isn’t necessary, like in the case of a film that is eventually made into single-use condiment packages, with a static charge that was high enough to fry the print heads that apply the label text.  An Ionizing Bar protects those print heads:
Initial static charge of almost 17kV (left) is almost completely dissipated by the Ionizing Bar (center) to just 0.04kV (right)

EXAIR Corporation’s Gen4 Static Eliminator product line offers a wide variety of options for total static control.  If you need to get rid of nuisance shocks, clinging dust, tearing, jamming or curling of material, misfeeding sheets or rolls, or any of the numerous other problems that static charge can cause, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
Visit us on the Web
Follow me on Twitter
Like us on Facebook

What’s So Great About The Gen4 Ion Air Cannon Static Eliminator?

It’s bitter cold this week in southwest Ohio, and one of the consequences of that is dry air in heated indoor areas.  If you’ve walked across a carpeted floor and pet your cat (like I did the other day), you (and your cat) may have experienced a phenomenon known as dissipation of static electricity.

In my defense, Elle The Cat often looks down on me just like she does on Rocky The Dog. Neither of us care.

The relatively low static charge you pick up by shuffling your socks across the rug is pretty small, compared to the charge generated by:

  • High speed rolling & unrolling of plastic film on a shrink wrapper.
  • Plastic pellets traveling through a conveyor system to an injection molding machine.
  • Slitting or trimming of paper, laminates, sheets, etc.
  • Removing protective layers between sheets of delicate materials.

And these can cause issues year-round.  The problems associated with static charge in these situations include:

  • Nuisance shocks to operators.
  • Dust and debris clinging to product finishes and surfaces
  • Product clumping or clinging while in transit.
  • Thin sheets tearing, jamming, folding, or misfeeding.
  • Disruption of sensitive electronic sensors, switches, etc.

EXAIR Corporation has a variety of Static Eliminator Product solutions, depending on the specific needs of a particular application.  To answer the question in the title of this blog, though, the Gen4 Ion Air Cannon is quite versatile, and is often considered alongside our other products.  For example:

  • Gen4 Super Ion Air Knives come in lengths from 3 inches to 9 feet.  If you have a wide web, sheet, or plate to remove static charge from, they’re the best choice, hands down.  For narrower widths, or situations where you have to blow in from the side or at a certain angle due to physical interference, the Gen4 Ion Air Cannon’s small footprint and adjustable mounting bracket provide a great workaround.
  • Gen4 Ion Air Jets generate a focused, concentrated flow of ionized air, for spot cleaning of smaller parts.  Its compact design is ideal for installations in close quarters.  If you have some room, the Gen4 Ion Air Cannon actually uses less compressed air to generate a higher ionized air flow…and it’s quieter, to boot.
  • Gen4 Super Ion Air Wipes are made to blow off and remove static from pipe, cable, extruded shapes, etc.  They come in 2″ or 4″ diameters.  If your product is larger than that, an array of Gen4 Ion Air Cannons can accommodate that.
  • Gen4 Ionizing Points are often installed in ducts to ionize existing air flow.  Arrays of two, three, or four are suitable for ducts up to about 6″ in diameter, depending on the air flow rate.  For larger ducts (or very high flow rates,) Gen4 Ion Air Cannons can be installed to blow into a ‘Y’ connection in duct walls.

Regardless of the nature of the application, if you’ve got a static problem, EXAIR has a solution!

These are just a few of the myriad Static Eliminator applications that EXAIR Corporation has successfully solved over the years.  Many times, the details of the application make one particular product the clear choice.  When there ends up being more than one worth consideration, one of the others is usually the Gen4 Ion Air Cannon.

Again…that’s based on the details of the application, and we’re here to help with that.  If you’ve got a static problem, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
Visit us on the Web
Follow me on Twitter
Like us on Facebook