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Static electricity - an invisible but costly problem

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Static electricity is one of those invisible problems that often goes undiagnosed and causes manufacturers costly headaches in terms of lost production and product rejects. And it is an issue that will only get worse as winter sets in and temperatures continue to plummet. Because cold air holds less water vapour, it means it is less conductive therefore encouraging static electrical conditions.

However, there are simple and effective remedies to cure static electricity thanks to SMC’s Ionizer range. The products on offer can measure, control and remove static electricity, leading to reduced production costs, improved performance, increased efficiency and improved safety.

Such a product from the Ionizer range was successfully implemented for an SMC customer that specialises in water bottle manufacturing. Plastic, along with rubber, glass or pitch, has a tendency to produce static electricity, as these materials act as insulators and can hold a charge rather than act as conductors of electricity. In this instance, plastic bottles were charged with static electricity during the fabrication process, causing costly problems for the manufacturer once they joined the transport line. The static charge being stored in the surface of the bottles caused them to repel each other and lose their vertical positioning, leading to the production line being shut down while the bottles were manually re-aligned.

Although the customer did have a static removing device in place, it was not capable of removing the static charge in the time set by the production process, which requires a high-speed transport system. SMC was able to supply its bar type ionizer, the IZS31, which has a proven track record of removing static electricity very quickly. In this case, the IZS31 had no problem neutralising the static charge within the time set by the application. The result has transformed the water bottling plant’s production efficiency, removing disruption to the process and the need for human intervention.

But it ss not just the plastics industry that suffers from the side effects of static electricity; industries from packaging, food & beverage, medical & pharmaceutical, electronic & semiconductor, general automation and manufacturing are all affected. Side effects vary from dust particles damaging print finishes to fibres or sheets sticking to each other, a fault usually associated with automated processes.

Another growing issue, due to ever tighter health and safety regulations, is the problem of static electric shocks. Although usually harmless, there are extreme cases where sparks can start a fire or cause an explosion in hazardous areas.

For the electronics industry, electrostatic discharge of as low as 5V could cause component failure or field failure, which is not only damaging to the bottom line but can harm reputations too.

Compact and lightweight ionizer

To counter these problems, SMC offers effective solutions through its Ionizer range. The IZS31 is suitable for large-scale workpieces and sensitive to heavy metal contamination. The compact nozzle IZN10 is suitable for partial electrostatic removal of small workpieces or total removal when used in a confined space. The latest to join the range has been the fan-type ionizer. It is compact and lightweight and without the need of a compressed air supply, it is suitable for a wide range of applications such as workbench mounting. The performance of the SMC Ionizer range can be fully automated with the use of feedback and auto-balance sensors. The handheld meter is well suited for simple check.

To find out more about SMC’s ionizer range, please go to www.smcpneumatics.co.uk/.

16 January 2013

SMC Pneumatics (UK) Ltdvisit website
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