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Choosing The Right ESD Flooring For Your EPA

When it comes to selecting an industrial flooring solution for your Electrostatic Protected Area (EPA), there are many factors you need to consider before choosing one. Besides the notable considerations of colour and material, there may be specific performance requirements to take into account, particularly when the area may be used for highly sensitive operations such as healthcare or delicate manufacturing processes.

One important factor you must understand is the difference between ESD and anti-static flooring. The type of ESD floor you choose plays a critical part in the decision process as this can significantly affect everything as a whole. Once you have determined whether you need an ESD or anti-static floor, you must then also consider the types available, their benefits, costs, the provider, installation process, and so on.

To help you determine the best flooring solution for you to use in your industrial environment, we have created a full guide that explains everything you need to know about the types of ESD flooring, their benefits and more.

In order to understand the difference between a conductive anti-static floor and a dissipative anti-static floor, you need to understand some relative definitions.

What Is ESD?

Electrostatic discharge can occur when two non-conductive surfaces or objects come into contact and create friction with each other. For example, a glass object and a plastic object rubbing against each other. We commonly refer to ESD as ‘getting a shock’ off an object or person, and in most instances, the static discharge is harmless, even if it hurts slightly when it occurs.

Typical electrostatic voltage include:

  • Walking over an untreated vinyl floor: 250 – 12,000 volts.
  • Walking across a carpet: 1,500 – 35,000 volts.

In certain environments such as high tech manufacturing areas, however, an electrostatic discharge can be highly dangerous and potentially even catastrophic. Modern electronic circuitry can be literally burned or melted from these miniature lightning bolts. ESD control is therefore necessary to reduce and limit these ESD events. In those cases, installing anti-static flooring is an essential step in creating a safe environment for workers and visitors.

Component Spark ESD - Bondline

Learn more about ESD by clicking here.

Who Needs ESD Flooring?

If the electrostatic build-up is more of an inconvenience than a fundamental risk to your processes, the choice between ESD vs anti-static would favour anti-static flooring.

Anti-static and ESD flooring are widely used in many electronic manufacturing environments where static is present. Generally, you will need an ESD floor if you are manufacturing, repairing, servicing, handling or using equipment that is susceptible to damage from electrostatic discharge or if you deal with combustible materials. Some typical sectors include the manufacture of components for the electronics industry, aviation, automotive, IT, medical, oil and gas, printing, packaging, telecoms and even some food and beverage production environments. While many organisations may consider anti-static flooring options for a variety of reasons, certain industries require anti-static floors as a most basic safety precaution.

In particular, chemical manufacturers and processors, as well as any businesses that may use flammable chemicals or materials in their operations, need to create static-free work environments to avoid igniting chemicals, fumes or even microscopic flammable particles. Companies who also produce and assemble any electronic good, will need to use ESD flooring for good practice.

Additionally, hospitals and air-traffic control rooms should also take precautions to prevent static, especially if they rely on uninterrupted or guaranteed use of specialised electronic items.

How Does Anti-Static Flooring Help?

Static protective permanent flooring, in conjunction with conductive footwear or heel grounding straps, drains static charge away to ground through the floor. It is a solid foundation for a comprehensive static control system. By grounding the charge, anti-static flooring prevents the ESD from building up and discharging into the environment, where it could be destructive to goods or dangerous to people.

In addition to dissipating charges, the static-dissipative flooring reduces triboelectric charge generation in walking and minimise charge accumulation on chairs, carts, lift trucks and other objects that move across the floor. However, these items require dissipative or conductive castors or wheels to make electrical contact with the floor.

Almost any movement within an environment will contribute to the static electricity present, whether it’s the familiar walking across a carpet in an office, the everyday movement of vehicles or heavy equipment over a warehouse floor or the repetitive movement of parts of an automated machine in a factory. That majority of electrostatic discharges are below 3,500 volts and totally undetectable to people, so we’re not even aware of most of the potentially dangerous ESD happening all around us. Anti-static flooring, however, is capable of capturing all those charges and grounding them before they cause reactions.

Below, we will go into much more detail about the key differences between ESD and anti-static flooring.

What Is An ESD Floor?

ESD flooring, also known as conductive flooring, is a flooring material with a grounding resistance of less than 1.0 x 10⁶ ohms, a floor designed to prevent, mitigate, dissipate, conduct, remove or ground the body, furniture, moving carts and equipment with excessive static electricity. Conductive floor tiles are a type of floor tile made of carpet, synthetic rubber or vinyl that is used to reduce electrostatic discharge (ESD). Ultimately, conductive flooring is a solid foundation for a comprehensive static control system.

ESD flooring gives a much higher level of protection than anti-static matting. This is because it is actually grounded. Interlocking ESD floor tiles, for example, have millions of small stainless steel fibres running all the way through them. The tiles are then laid out on top of a conductive grid. Earth points are then laid down every 80 -100 m² so that the electricity flows out through the conductive grid. This is much better than anti-static matting because the stainless steel fibres run all the way through each tile, so their conductive performance never diminishes.

In industries such as the pharmaceutical industry where electronic components or volatile chemicals are involved, static electricity can result in significant damage, injury and financial loss. All active electronic components and equipment e.g. micro-chips, integrated circuits and machinery are sensitive to electrostatic discharges (also known as ESD events).

Even when areas and people are equipped to handle such static-sensitive devices, inadvertent contact and damage can occur. ESD flooring can safeguard your entire process.

bondline   bondline

What Is An Anti-Static Floor?

The term “anti-static” refers to a state in which the generation of static electricity is suppressed during contact and separation with other materials. It refers to a very specific electrical resistance range of between 10⁹ and 10 to the 11 and only means that the floor itself will not generate static. It does not mean that the floor will eliminate static build up or dissipate static that may have already been built up in the body. This can only be achieved with a conductive (resistance range of between 10⁴ x 10⁶) or a dissipative (10⁷ to 10⁹) floor covering. By grounding the charge, anti-static flooring prevents the ESD from building up and discharging into the environment, so installing anti-static flooring is an essential step in creating a safe environment for workers and visitors. The anti-static floor can be static dissipative or electrostatically conductive.

The term anti-static is often misunderstood and misused, 9 times out of 10 when companies are asked for anti-static flooring what the customer actually wants is Electro-Static Dissipative or Conductive Flooring, commonly referred to as ESD flooring.

  Anti-Fatigue Matting 5     Durable Rubber ESD Floor Matting | Bondline Electronics          

What Is A Static Dissipative Floor?

Static dissipative flooring tile is the floor material with a grounding resistance of less than 1 x 10¹² ohm but greater than 1 x 10^(5) ohm, which is also used for the mitigation of electrostatic discharge (ESD) and usually composed of carpet, synthetic rubber or vinyl composition.

The Difference Between ESD and Anti-Static Flooring

Essentially, an ESD and anti-static floor both prevent a person from building up a charge as they walk across the floor so they do not get a shock when they touch something that conducts electricity. However, the difference between them is that an anti-static floor has a top-layer coating that dissipates static across its surface so you never build up enough charge to get a shock. An ESD floor, on the other hand, is a much more robust solution that delivers greater long-term results because it is actually earthed. Floors should never be purchased based solely on whether they are described as conductive or static dissipative.

Flooring Groups

With reference to the installation systems, static control flooring can be classified into three groups:

Permanently installed floors:

  • Vinyl tiles – Usually earthed via a strip of copper foil and bonded with conductive acrylic adhesive. They are aesthetically attractive, but have a poor heat and chemical resistance.
  • Rubber tiles – Usually earthed via a strip of copper foil and bonded with conductive acrylic adhesive. Excellent heat and chemical resistance.
  • Carpet – Aesthetically attractive, mostly used in offices. However, difficult to reach a good static dissipation.
  • Resinous flooring – (Epoxy, vinyl ester, polyurethane coating) Variable thickness for different traffic condition. It is chemical resistant, easy to clean, but its topcoats may get scratched or abraded.

Periodically applied topical coatings on existing floor surfaces:

  • Lower material cost, easy to apply.
  • Difficult to reach a good static dissipation.
  • Worn away easily and frequent re-coating is required.

Mats placed over existing floors:

  • Vinyl mats – Possibility to move the mat, but poor heat and chemical resistance and limited coverage area. Vinyl mats are a great cost-effective option for your ESD flooring solution. This matting provides excellent static dissipation and is suitable to use for electronics manufacturing applications that require the use of ESD footwear.
  • Rubber mats – Possibility to move the mat, excellent heat and chemical resistance, but limited coverage area. Rubber mats remain in its same form and are more stable; its ESD properties cannot change. Generally, rubber matting is more eco-friendly than other matting materials.
  • Grid mats – (polypropylene, polyethylene) Possibility to move the mat, good operator comfort, insulation from cold floor but limited coverage area.

Benefits & Application Of ESD Flooring

ESD flooring works more effectively and completely than other types of ESD flooring, such as carpet or tile.

Main benefits:

  • Protection of sensitive electrical components from damaging static electricity.
  • Protection of personnel.
  • Better performance than tile that can be rolled under heavy duty conditions.
  • Save money on replacing or repairing electronic equipment that has failed or been damaged due to static electricity.
  • Creating a 100% efficient static controlled environment with ESD footwear.

How to Select Anti-Static Floors

Just as there are many uses for anti-static flooring, there are also many choices to consider when choosing an anti-static floor. The first step is to understand the risks and requirements for your specific use case, including how electrostatic energy is generated in your location, the estimated strength of your average ESD and the potential consequences of electrostatic discharges in your facility. Next, it’s important to understand the subtle but important differences in static control terminology to help you decide which type of anti-static flooring is right for you.

The resistance or impedance of anti-static flooring is expressed in ohms (Ω), a unit of measurement named after Georg Ohm, the German physicist who discovered Ohm’s Law, which governs electrical currents through conductors. Anti-static flooring options include conductive and dissipative systems, which offer different ranges of electrical resistance; in general, conductive flooring offers a resistance of up to 1 mega Ω, and static dissipative flooring provides resistance between 1 mega Ω and 100 mega Ω.

In simple terms, higher resistance equals lower conductivity of energy; however, that doesn’t mean that lower resistance is necessarily the better option for anti-static floors. In fact, in most “mission-critical” environments like emergency call centres or air traffic control towers, grounding standards recommend static dissipative flooring over conductive flooring options. The right choice for you really depends on your specific needs.

Recommendations:

  • Choose a floor covering with Rg lower than 3,5 x 10⁷W, this enables the grounding of personnel via the flooring-footwear system in alternative with the wrist-strap system.
  • Choose a floor covering suitable for your traffic level (frequency, weight, type of castors).
  • Take in consideration the sound absorption, anti-fatigue and anti-slip properties.
  • Ask to the supplier a guarantee that the earth leakage resistance will be maintained, throughout the useful life of the floor material.

Wearing The Correct Footwear With An ESD Floor

Your choice of shoe is key to static build-up. When using an ESD floor, you must consider using ESD conforming shoes or, alternatively, ESD heel grounders to ensure that there is a path to ground from the operator via the ESD heel strap / ESD shoe to the floor.

It is important to know that certain synthetic or man made shoe soles can create a lot of static electricity. Generally, you should experiment with different shoes to find which one works best for you and the floor you use. The reason you build up static electricity usually comes from walking on an insulative surface with certain types of insulative shoes, especially when the weather / room humidity is very dry. We would strongly recommend that you avoid any shoes with rubber soles. Although leather shoes are a decent choice, the best solution is to use either anti-static or ESD footwear.

Vinyl Bench Matting on Floor | Bondline Electronics Ltd

Choosing a Solution and Provider

Regardless of which anti-static flooring solution you choose, professional and knowledgeable installation will make a big difference in the success and longevity of your floor. It is important to choose a provider or contractor based on their experience and reliability—not because of their lower price. The total cost of ownership of any industrial floor, whether anti-static, resin, concrete or carpet, does not end with the installation. There are maintenance and repair to think of, which means warranties and quality matter. Check out the company providing the solution, including their history and reputation; no one worthwhile will fault you for being thorough in your flooring consideration.

Equally important is a thorough understanding of the maintenance requirements and potential repair costs of your anti-static floors. Epoxy anti-static floors cannot be overlaid as this will insulate the floor from the earthing points so the epoxy must be first removed back to the substrate, with new copper strips installed for re-earthing and grounding. The new epoxy coating is then installed with an additional 7 days before the epoxy fully cures. Vinyl flooring will have a shorter life expectancy and a lower abrasion resistance resulting in the need for maintenance and ultimately replacement in a far shorter period. Conversely, PMMA resin flooring can be reverse-cured, which makes spot repairs easy to do. Get to know the needs of the floor types you’re considering and factor the expected costs of maintenance and repairs into your budget to get a true picture of how much a solution will cost.

How Are ESD Floors Installed?

All floors are different when it comes to installing them. You can either install them yourself or, especially for larger or trickier areas, have someone install a floor for you. Remember, when selecting someone to fit your floor, make sure they’re highly experienced and reputable so you can be sure that your floor will be fitted correctly.

When installing an ESD floor it is important that people entering the area wear the correct footwear or heel straps to ensure the connection between the person and the floor isn’t broken. Everyone should also wear white lab coats as electricity can jump and it is possible to damage electrical components this way without realising.

At Bondline, we offer the service of installing your ESD floor for you.

Benefits of Using Bondline For Your ESD Flooring Installation:

  • Highly experienced – We have over 35 years of experience of installing ESD flooring.
  • We offer a full site survey.
  • Excellent advice and help – We offer advice on floor preparation and the most appropriate material to use.
  • Excellent communication – Our team will always have a thorough discussion with you to discuss and establish the requirements, what is needed to be done and is expected. We will provide full support in answering any questions you may have regarding the installation.
  • Many materials to choose from – When installing your ESD flooring, we provide a variety of materials for you to choose from.
  • You will receive a complete supply, deliver and install package.
  • Recommended and experienced fitters – Your installation will be conducted by our recommended fitters with many years of experience of installing floors.
  • Test certification – You will be provided with a test certification and given annual testing/certification if required.
  • Guaranteed high quality – Ensure flooring is fitted and installed to a high standard, Earthed in accordance with IEC61340-5-1 and works alongside the customers’ ESD protected area.

You can see one of our latest ESD floor tile installations here.

Cleaning and Maintaining An ESD Floor

Did you know that static will build up quicker on a dirty floor?

The friction caused by the rubbing of the sole of a shoe and the dust and dirt on the floor will create static. A good and regular cleaning regime using the correct cleaning chemicals will ensure a static free floor. If you do not clean or maintain your antistatic floor, you could compromise the ESD properties of the floor. This could lead to expensive replacement costs of the damaged electronics and the floor itself.

When choosing a floor cleaner, you may opt for standard cleaning products, however these can actually increase the risk / propensity to static build up due to their chemicals.  Instead you should choose a floor cleaner that has a neutral PH cleaning chemical so that you do not add either a positively charged layer over the top of your floor surface. A good and regular cleaning regime using the correct cleaning chemicals will ensure a static-free floor. See our full range of ESD floor treatments here.

There is a huge range of off the shelf anti-static cleaning products available which work in the same way as standard floor cleaning chemicals, but they include an anti-static additive. This attracts moisture from the atmosphere which consequently eliminates static build-up.

For light cleaning, you should never use a standard dust pan and broom as this can generate static charge. Rather, you should use one that is made from an anti-static raw material with no additional coating as this makes it ESD safe – see here.

Defining an Electrostatic Protected Area

Floor marking tapes are highly recommended to use in any industrial environment whether that’s in a warehouse or production room. Essentially, floor marking tapes are designed to mark the boundaries of an Electrostatic Protected Area.

What are the benefits of floor marking?

  • Clearly indicates hazards, thereby reducing accidents in the workplace.
  • Easier to access first aid, equipment or exits in the event of an emergency.
  • Reduces confusion and wasted time.
  • Easy way to navigate around a large area.
  • Universal, visual message which is not affected by language barriers.
  • Does not get in the way or obstruct access.
  • Helps to identify an area, i.e. an EPA.

If you choose lane marking tape or hazard warning tape to implement your system, these are both durable, long-term solutions while still being easy to apply, remove and change if necessary.

Black and yellow striped marking tape, for example, is typically used to indicate physical hazards, obstructions, height/width restrictions or radioactive materials.

Yellow tape generally indicates a traffic routes for pedestrians / vehicles and individual work areas.

At Bondline we provide various floor marking tapes to suit a range of needs. Our FT2 tape is a clear permanent adhesive featuring excellent UV resistance and weather-ability together with good adhesive performance, even on apolar substrates. The adhesive complies with the European food directives and legislations, FDA 175.105 and the German recommendations XIV as published by BFR. BFR is the German federal institute for risk assessment. The adhesive can be used in direct contact with dry and moist, non-fatty foodstuffs. Our FMT33 tape is a clear transparent UPVC film coated with buff coloured natural rubber and hydrocarbon resin adhesive. Our HT1 tape is a self coloured plasticised PVC tape coated with an aggressive rubber based pressure sensitive adhesive.

Alongside tapes, ESD signs are also widely used to identify an area or to inform staff. ESD signs are a must have in facilities that have chemical storage and electrical areas that need to be static free. These zones require that proper static grounding equipment be used to ensure the safety of all those in the facility. Safety signs like static grounding signs in these areas can help workers stay informed of the static grounding policies at your facility. Bold ESD signs will ensure that these areas of your building will remain safe as well as alert workers and visitors to follow procedures and use proper static control equipment for safety reasons.

Bondline provide a selection of signs to help remind everyone of the related procedures required to help eliminate ESD. To view our full range of ESD signs, click here. Alternatively, you can also contact us to discuss our ESD safety signs and bespoke sign customisation.

Why Should You Invest In An ESD Floor?

Investing in quality ESD flooring is one of the best, yet smarter ways of combating electrostatic discharge in the workplace. Not only will anti static flooring provide you with a durable, long-lasting surface that will last for years on end, it will also ground everything placed onto its surface, provided that the floor has a path to Earth.

Despite ESD flooring being expensive, it is important to note that you are spending your money on the time and raw materials that is needed in the manufacturing process of your ESD flooring; ensuring only the highest quality. Cheaper ESD flooring may not be the best of quality since less time and poorer materials are used in the process of manufacturing them. Often, manufacturers try to cut corners by producing poorer quality products that they can sell more of for what seems like a ‘bargain’ price. However, don’t be fooled by this. Purchasing cheaper flooring can often mean that the floor will have a shorter longevity as it may not be as durable and therefore need to be replaced more frequently. Poor quality flooring may also compromise some of the ESD properties which will result in the flooring being less effective against grounding static charge. Similarly, if you were to opt for non-ESD flooring, and providing your workers will be moving around holding sensitive electronic devices, there would be no path to ground from the person to the floor meaning the electronic item is exposed to static charge and can therefore be damaged.

Investing in high-quality products does not come cheap, it is important that you should not cut back on costs. Make the smarter choice by investing in a quality, anti static floor from a top supplier / manufacturer like Bondline Electronics.

Bondline’s Flooring & Floor Matting

Bondline offer a wide selection of flooring solutions for your Electrostatic Protected Area, including floor tiles and anti-fatigue matting. Our selection includes the following:

Contact Us

We not only supply superior ESD flooring at competitive prices, we offer the very best in pre-sales and after-sales service including a free floor audit, expert advice, full preparation and installation service, annual testing and calibration and a full cleaning and after care service. Get in contact with us today to discuss your flooring requirements.

Telephone: 01793 511000     or      Email: sales@bondline.co.uk

Alternatively, you can make an enquiry by filling in the form below.

 

 

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