What is Static Charging?
If you’ve ever rubbed a balloon against your head to make your hair stand up, congratulations: not only have you mastered a classic party trick, but you’re also familiar with static electricity.
Static electricity is the temporary buildup of an electrical charge on an object. This is known as a static charge, because the object will remain charged until it is neutralized or otherwise discharged. Static charging occurs when electrons move from one object to another, creating a positive charge on one of them and a negative charge on the other, thanks to friction. If you’ve ever heard the phrase “opposites attract,” it’s true: objects with different charges attract, while those with similar charges repel.
In our balloon example, the balloon gained electrons and became negatively charged, while the hair lost electrons, becoming positively charged. Because each hair gained the same positive charge, every strand tried to push away from the other by standing on end.
Isn’t science fun?
Static Electricity Pros & Cons
As cool as the laws of attraction may be, does static charging have any useful applications in the real world? Absolutely. Printers, photocopiers, dust removal systems, paint sprayers, and air filters all rely on the principles of static electricity. Ink is attracted to the paper by a static charge, dust and contaminants to the air filter, and so on.
But static electricity can wreak havoc in manufacturing facilities and laboratories. Static charges can damage electronics and destroy expensive equipment. They can lead to particle buildup and contamination, resulting in quality problems and safety issues. Downtime from correcting these problems results in loss of productivity, and ultimately costs a company money.
While static can surprise you with a zap from a door knob, the key is to harness and control static electricity so it works to your advantage.
Static Charging Solutions
There are several solutions for using a static charge in industrial applications. These include:
- Charging Generators. Also known as electrostatic generators, these devices create a controlled static charge on a non-conductive material. This allows temporary adhesion between two objects with opposite polarity (one positive, one negative). We typically refer to this as ‘pinning’ the two objects together.
- Charging Bars & Charging Applicators. Charging bars and charging applicators are extensions of the charging generator and are used to reach the material being charged. They come in different shapes and sizes and can be mounted inside machines. The current produced by the charging generator is transmitted to the bar or applicator via a high-voltage cable. It is then connected to a series of emitter pins, where it generates a “corona” — a strong, ion-saturated electrical field around the line of high-voltage points on the charging bar. The materials are charged by the ions and forced through electrostatic attraction to glue or cling together temporarily.
- Perforation Detectors. Converters, especially bag manufacturers, often use perforation counts to monitor and measure output. Perforation detectors generate high-voltage sparks that are used in a controlled manner to register a perforation with the PLC. A special electrode generates a spark that is detected by the high-voltage generator and converted to a pulsed signal that can be counted or relayed.
Static charging plays an important role in many industries. From printing, packaging, and plastics to medical and automotive, there are numerous applications for static control. Learn more by visiting our Applications page.