Bye to static cling, hello ESD flooring

May 01, 2004 |

The static cling or a shock after the simple slide of an office chair may be more serious than one may think.

Even the smallest electrostatic discharge (ESD), under 25 volts (it takes 3,500 volts to give humans a shock), can render copy machines, computers, medical, and communications equipment inoperative.

"Microcircuits inside electronic equipment perceive a static discharge as an overwhelming burst of energy," said David Long, president of Staticworx Inc., Newton, Mass. "Devices are susceptible to the invisible threat of static electricity, a phenomenon even more ubiquitous than the common cold."

According to Long, flooring is the primary site of ESD generation.

"Fortunately, it is the easiest place to mitigate the problem," he said. "Today, almost every conceivable floor covering can be manufactured with some sort of static protective properties."

Facility managers and owners can select from a variety of floor types, including vinyl, epoxy, carpet, and rubber flooring for their building.

According to Long, vinyl is the oldest and most effective ESD flooring material, while epoxies are easy to install and maintain. ESD carpet tiles are made of heavier denier fiber, and therefore can withstand the punishment of high-traffic areas, while rubber provides an anti-fatigue floor and dampens noise better. (See chart.)

In addition to choosing ESD flooring, special ESD control products, including highly specialized finishes, sealers, cleaners, and spray buff/maintainers, can be specially designed to dissipate static charges on all flooring surfaces.

According to Long, the desire for faster computer technologies has given way to the lack of internal shields previously built into electronic equipment. This, he says, has placed "significant pressures" on the building industry, leaving government agencies, casinos, hospitals, call centers, and office buildings to compensate with special ESD flooring products.

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Carpet Conductive vinyl Epoxy Rubber
Durability Not suitable for heavy loads Good Excellent Good
Maintenance Vacuum only Requires wax or regular buffing Sweep or mop Easily cleaned, soap and water
Installation Easiest Average Easy Average
Slip resistance >0.6 0.5-0.6 >0.6 >0.6
Chemical resistance Poor Good Superior Superior
Sound absorption Excellent 4 dB Not sound resistant 5-19 dB
Anti-fatiguing Excellent No No Good
Wear layer N/A Minimum N/A Total thickness
Color consistency for projects of any size Yes No Yes Yes
Source: Conformity Magazine, Nov. 2003

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