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Fowler Associates Labs



Static Fire Stories Articles & Technical Papers Current News

Electrostatic Discharge Damage

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 area.

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 warranty.

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 protective carpeting.

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:, 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 technology.


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