Static electricity is an invisible field of protons, neutrons, and electrons found in anything that has potential to move. Each atom has its own properties and characteristics. One of these properties is an electrical charge. Protons have what is called a “positive” (+) charge, which is the root of static electricity buildup in urethane products. Electrons have what is called a “negative” (-) charge. Neutrons are neutral, with no charge. When an electrical charge such as static electricity builds up, it can have a violent discharge when the protons find the easiest path to the earth’s surface, referred to as ground.
Rolling friction will cause an imbalance of neutrons if the electrical charge can not get to ground. Urethane by itself is non-conductive and does not dissipate any electrical charge. Without the correct formula, a dangerous amount of electricity may build up on isolated parts. This has caused problems for industries such as paper factories that process paper with urethane rollers for high-tech equipment. If the urethane were to be produced without an anti-static additive, the positively charged wheel and surplus of electrons from processing the paper would cause each surface to stick together once contact was made from the paper to the wheel. This is simply due to the rule of “opposites attract.” If you need custom-made rollers or any other plastic parts, you may need to seek plastic injection molding services.
A perfect example of this is when you rub a balloon against your clothes and then place it on a wall, where it sticks. A higher charge of static electricity will be heard when the static electricity discharges to ground.
Recently, Plan Tech performed a case study on urethane robot wheels that were non-conductive and building a static charge in the isolated robot. With our team of engineers, we knew the solution that once saved the paper industry from adding additional grounding wires and warning signs stating not to touch processing wheels would solve the robot issue as well. Being able to tailor our urethane material allows us to achieve superior results as compared to similar materials.
Incorporating anti-static additives will offset the number of protons and bring any static buildup to the outside of the urethane wheels, allowing the protons to neutralize without the violent spark. Being able to dissipate static electricity is critical in many applications where the finished project will be isolated. Anti-static additives are low-cost with great results in small amounts. Incorporating these additives will keep all the urethane physical properties while creating a much safer environment. The anti-static additive will be mixed completely through the urethane material and will bring the protons to the outside of the urethane rollers, where they can leak into the ground or to the processing part, potentially saving countless hours of downtime. Anti-static urethanes are available in any color or hardness, with prototypes available for testing.