Carpet as Part of the
Solution - Not the Problem
By: Dan Asperger, Marketing-Technical Coordinator
J&J Commercial - Dalton, GA
Facility managers, architects
and interior designers have under utilized a carpet specification
tool which is available to significantly reduce the risk of electrostatic
discharge (ESD) events damaging sensitive electronic equipment
in the digital workplace. Use of this type specification creates
built in insurance against damage to electronic equipment for
only pennies when reviewed as part of a life cycle cost analysis.
This lack of use does not represent
resistance to specify ESD protective carpeting; however, it indicates
a lack of commitment by the carpet industry to standardize on
carpets using this technology. This, therefore, results
in a lack of ESD protective product promotion to facility managers
and other specification professionals. It is time for a
carpet manufacturer to standup and take a leadership role in this
Carpet ESD control technology
has at least a 20 year history in the residential carpet market
and 15 years in commercial applications. So why has this capability
not surfaced for general use in today's commercial carpet applications?
1. Nylon yarns were modified in
the 70's to lower the triboelectric charge generation to a maximum
level of 3500 volts which is the lowest level of human sensitivity.
This satisfied market needs at that point in time for both residential
and commercial applications. Both markets had limited use of sensitive
electronic equipment in the 70's therefore, human comfort was
the only ESD factor with relevance to a specification. Unfortunately,
as increased use and dependency upon sensitive electronic equipment
materialized the awareness and understanding of potential ESD
equipment damage did not keep pace. This end user and specifier
lack of ESD information resulted in carpet specifications being
developed which did not address ESD characteristics.
2. Some major yarn manufacturers
supplying the carpet mills do not want to modify their process
and produce carpet yarns that not only reduce the triboelectric
charging but also create a controllable level of electrical resistivity
so that dissipative carpets might be offered as standard items.
3. Those carpet manufacturers
who practiced ESD control technology chose to take a low profile
approach, hoping to avoid increased competition from the many
carpet mills who had not yet identified this market potential.
This has resulted in limited styling options for the end user
and in a general lack of product promotion by the carpet industry
discussing ESD protective carpet.
4. Most field related electronic
equipment problems become equipment warranty matters. It has been
very difficult to identify whether ESD damage was latent damage
caused during manufacturing or whether it was caused at the end
users' facilities. Remember that latent damage is extremely difficult
to detect at the manufacturing site since the equipment assembled
with such a damaged device will function properly upon quality
control testing.However, it will likely cause decreased efficiency,
mystery problems, and ultimately a total shutdown while in service
at the users' facility. The warranty may cover the equipment costs;
however, the end user has experienced wasteful quality of service
and/or operational inefficiency that are not addressed by the
5. Electronic equipment manufacturers
were driven to expand usage of their product and felt that requiring
their customers to address ESD control management to the same
level as a manufacturer would be viewed as a sale inhibitor. Therefore,
equipment manufacturers did not address this issue during the
early growth years for their industry.
6. ESD damage may be somewhat
regionalized due to the impact of relative humidity upon the level
of a voltage discharge. Those facilities in climates with low
relative humidity winter weather will benefit the most from ESD
Why would someone now step forward
and establish a standard carpet product line which is both low
charging and static dissipative in nature?
1. There is greater recognition
by electronic equipment end users of the interrelationship between
ESD caused problems and their facility management programs.
2. Electronic equipment manufacturers
have aggressively pursued ESD control as part of their quality
and cost reduction programs and now do an excellent job of ESD
protection within their own facilities. Once the equipment is
installed within a facility, the responsibility for ESD protection
becomes that of the end user's facility manager.
3. Equipment manufacturers have
now prioritized the opportunity to reduce their "customer
accommodation" warranty replacement costs and welcome all
possible assistance. It is estimated that ESD related problems
are costing equipment manufacturers $5 billion annually including
warranty costs and it is likely that a major portion of these
costs are end user facility caused. A minimal investment in ESD
protective floorcovering represents a means to reduce these illusive
costs for the end user and to reduce the equipment manufacturers'
warranty costs for those failures which are in fact end user generated.
4. The means to accurately address
this subject have increased through the creation of a professional
organization focused on this technology area. The Electrostatic
Discharge Association, Web Site: http://www.esdsv.org, has developed
standardized test methods to assist in the manufacturing process,
product evaluation, and facility specification development, as
well as allow for easier product comparisons. They have also published
the four basic principles of static control that include static
dissipation, elimination, and reduction techniques now possible
using ESD protective carpeting.
5. Suppliers of ESD testing and
monitoring equipment have developed equipment to assess, characterize,
and quantify ESD events within the end users' facilities.
6. Field service within the end
user's facility now requires control of the ESD environment to
ensure the safety of replacement components.
7. The miniaturization of equipment
components has increase ESD sensitivity. This has necessitated
that facility managers assume greater responsibility for their
ESD environmental control programs.
8. Significant increases have
occurred in the quantity of sensitive electronics being used and
networking has also increased dependency upon reliable and efficient
operation. This has now become a competitive factor for some end
users, drawing more attention, increased priority an added resources
to ESD control management programs.
9. The market size has increased
significantly with the expanded use of sensitive electronic equipment
in facilities such as; portrait studios using high cost digital
cameras, electronic assembly and repair areas, healthcare, testing
laboratories, financial institutions, aerospace, printing and
duplicating service operations, and numerous others.
10. Certain carpet mills have
backward integrated their in-house processes into yarn extrusion
which now enabled those mills, rather than their yarn suppliers,
to decide whether to produce the conductive yarns needed to produce
ESD protective carpets.
11. Carpet manufacturers have
placed greater focus on product differentiation and the ESD control
technology is consistent with this objective.
12. ESD knowledge and awareness
is increasing generally, and more technical assistance is being
offered to the facility manager.
The best way to ensure that carpeting
is ESD protective and a suitable component of any ESD control
management program, is to require the architect or the interior
designer to utilize a carpet which has been tested using the Electrostatic
Discharge Association Test Method ESD-S7.1 Flooring Materials
Resistive Characterization. Facility managers and architects should
specify carpet having a surface-to-surface (RTT), resistivity
range within .025 to 100 megohms per square or a surface-to-groundable
point (RTG) of .015 to 100 megohm per square. The use of a 2 KV
or lower rating alone will not create a specification which has
the added built-in insurance of being ESD dissipative. The product
combination of a 2 KV or less rating using AATCC 134 and the above
referenced ESD-S7.1 resistivity levels creates a carpet worthy
of a lifetime equipment damage warranty from the carpet mill.
When an ESD protective carpet
supported by such a published warranty is available for an upcharge
of pennies per square foot, why would a specifier not demand this
extra value? This insurance protection created through this type
of specification represents one of an end users' fastest cost
payback opportunities, and it should be remembered that this cost
is a one time investment, while the protection continues through
the life of the carpet installation. The choice to use ESD protective
carpet is a significant positive contributor to any ESD control
activity for very little cost. Use of ESD protective carpeting
assists in preparing the workplace for the future advancements
in electronic equipment. The bottom line is that ESD protective
carpet represents a savings opportunity for many facility managers,
while assisting in creating an ergonomically friendly, more trouble
free work environment which is on the leading edge of available