What causes static electricity?

The surface layer of an electrically insulating material like plastic, paper or synthetic textile is usually not electrically charged. However, the material can become electrically charged under the following circumstances:

Friction when the surface of a material is rubbed against a material of the same or different kind.
Pressure when the material is run through two rollers.
Separation unwrapping of plastic foil from a roll.

These processes are examples of handling that can result in an imbalance in the material’s electric charge. One surface becomes positively charged, the other one negatively. Because the material is electrically insulating, the charge cannot be conducted away through the material itself and the charge is now said to be static. The characteristics of electric charges to attract charges with opposite polarity or to repel those with identical polarity can cause immense problems during production.

Electrostatic charging
An air-ion is an atom or molecule in the air that possesses an excess or shortage of electrons, giving it a positive or negative electric charge.

In the same way, a surface of an electrically insulating material can become electrically charged if there are atoms or molecules that have gained or lost electrons.

The electrically charged surface of an insulating material can be neutralized with ionized air. Air-ions are attracted to charges with opposite charge on the surface of the material and attach themselves very close to those charges and thereby creating a net effect of zero charge on the material.

  • Production and Production Capacity
    The presence of static electricity often causes interruption and malfunction during production. As a result machines cannot operate at their highest speed, resulting in lower production levels.
  • Quality
    Electrostatic binding of dust and dirt is a major problem in quality sensitive industries, resulting in defective products and waste material.
  • Personnel Safety
    Employees can receive shocks during production. They are mostly harmless and unpleasant however these shocks might ultimately lead to accidents at work.
  • Damage to Guidance Systems and Components
    Static discharge causes damage to sensors, control scales, printers, metal detectors, and similar equipment which is positioned close to a statically charged material.