Rick: Welcome to Static Bursts. Our podcast series will discuss the threat static electricity poses to your business, and how to address those risks.
Dave: I’m your host, Dave Long, founder and president of Staticworx. We make static-control flooring.
Rick: And I’m your co-host, Rick Frauton. Our topic in this two-part series is what to consider when selecting an ESD floor and how to get the most value over time from your investment.
Dave: So what I thought I would talk about today is how to actually choose a static control floor. And I decided to kind of break this down into more of a generic conversation. Because it occurred to me that when people are looking at these floors, they’re starting at kind of ground zero. They’re not fluent in the language of electrical resistance and ohms and volts and kilovolts and ASTM test methods. So I thought what we would do is we would start off by talking about just key factors.
The first key factor is what’s my application. So my application might be I’m a manufacturer of semiconductors; we build electronic products in clean rooms. We’re a state-of-the-art company. And we have concerns about micro contamination. And the devices we build are highly sensitive to static discharge.
At the other end of the spectrum, we could be looking at a situation in a 9-1-1 call center, where they’re using, I don’t know, Motorola wireless radios or some type of navigation equipment where they’re trying to track the location of a caller. But they’re worried about a system, in this case, their entire communication system, being sensitive to static electricity. Those are two very diverse applications.
So you need to think about what your application is. And one of the key factors is, is my static control flooring application one where I can control other things besides the floor? So we’re talking about a factory here, and that would be we can control the workbench that you work at; we can make your chair static control; we can tell you what kind of shoes to wear; what kind of items to put on top of your shoes, so that as you walk on the floor, you can be grounded.
At the other end of the spectrum back to this 9-1-1 application, we would be talking about a floor that has to get rid of static electricity by preventing static electricity, regardless of what kind of chair someone’s sitting in, regardless of what kind of footwear they’re wearing. So that’s a dichotomy, very extreme differences in the way the floor would possibly perform. So that’s a factor that you need to think about. Because when you’re looking at specs and you looking at brochures, it’s not going to be clear to you – if you’re a specifier – on the applicability of that floor based on your application, because it’s going to be assumed by the manufacturer of the floor, that you understand whether or not that floor will work based on the kind of footwear that you might be using. And as I can attest, from talking to thousands of people over the last 35 years, that that’s not the way it works.
Rick: Your business environment and the work performed in that space are key factors in determining the most suitable type of static-control flooring. Every business has unique needs. And the marketing materials provided by flooring manufacturers couldn’t possibly address all of them. What are some other factors to consider?
Dave: So the next thing I want to talk about is your vision for the floor. What do you want it to look like? What do you want it to feel like? And I’ll give you a really good example: A couple years ago, we did a job for a semiconductor company in North Carolina and one of their architects and their management’s actual requests was we want to have a fun place to work. So they had clean rooms and they had manufacturing areas where they had to do certain things with the flooring in order to meet the criteria of those spaces. But they had a lot of lab areas. And in that particular space, they decided they wanted to have a very dynamic environment. They wanted it to be a place where people were energized where they worked. So they actually purchased from us static-control carpet, we call them ESD carpet tiles, but they bought this carpet in the form of planks. And they did this really cool thing where a certain number of the planks had this blue stripe in it. If you go on our website, you can see pictures of this particular job, but it made for a very dynamic environment. So their vision for the space was one where people would feel energized.
Your vision for your space might be, this is a lab area and we’re trying to get funding from banks and different types of organizations that might fund our business. And we need this to look like a hospital or a laboratory. So your vision might be I want the floor to be white. I want the floor to maybe have the logo of my company in it, but I want it to look like something where if I spilled food on the floor, I could eat it. So vision for space is kind of a big deal. I can’t tell you what your vision should be. It’s going to be dependent on your needs and on the impression you want to make on people who come into your space. What do you expect people to think about your company? These are things that have nothing to do with static control, but they have everything to do with what you’re going to get when you’re done.
Next key factor would be installation strategies. Let’s pick a really difficult one. You own a clean room. For years that clean room did not handle a static-sensitive product. Now it does. The clean room has an old VCT floor. That’s vinyl composition tile. It’s in perfect condition but it has no static-control properties. The cleanroom is operational, and you really don’t want to tear it apart, or lose the capability of the clean room for a period of time, while you basically do demolition where you remove the old floor. You might be interested in something that can float on top of the old floor. That’s going to influence what options you have. You might be looking at an interlocking floor because you can snap it together without generating contamination, and it will sit on top of the old floor. Or you might be looking at an option where you’re buying rubber like our gf rubber that has an adhesive already bonded to the back of it. That would allow you, if you do the installation properly, to adhere to the old floor and have a seamless floor that meets any clean room application.
Back to the 9-1-1 call center, could be a situation where you want to put in new static-dissipative carpet tile, but because you can’t shut down that call center, the people working in the call center might not appreciate the idea of liquid adhesives being used. You might need carpet tile that can be attached to adjacent carpet tiles with something that looks kind of like a plastic sticky label that has adhesive on it that will bond the corners of tiles in a permanent way without exposing people to chemicals that they may or may not understand. So installation logistics are an important factor.
Rick: With that we can add aesthetics and installation methods to the list of key factors in the process of selecting an ESD floor. What else is there to consider?
Dave: Maintenance. So maybe you’re looking at a static-control floor, but you’ve got certain restrictions that might affect you maintenance-wise. So let’s, let’s take a really interesting example. It’s an MRI room. MRI rooms, if you know anything about MRIs, they have giant magnets in them. If the maintenance materials that you need to use are attracted by a magnet, you might discover that the vacuum cleaner that you bring into the MRI room is going to end up inside the MRI machine. And you can google this kind of stuff and you’ll actually see some interesting pictures of chairs and vacuum stuck inside of MRI machines.
So a floor like that you may have to use plastic mops to take care of it. That means you can’t use carpet. You might have to use a rubber floor because obviously in an MRI area, people who are getting MRIs have problems with their knees, with their ankle, with their backs. They’re going to walk on a floor, and the floor needs to be maintained in a certain way that requires it to get wet. They can’t slip and fall; they’re already in a position where they’re compromised, otherwise they wouldn’t be getting an MRI. So maintenance is something you need to think about. If you’re going to be shutting down an area to do maintenance, like some of these vinyl floors that need certain waxes, that’s a problem in a lot of cases because that means that for four or five hours, if you’re running a three shift operation, a particular area cannot be used.
Rick: So far, we’ve discussed application and aesthetics as well as installation and maintenance methods as key factors in the selection process for static-control flooring. We will continue this conversation in our next episode of Static Bursts when we cover factors such as ergonomics, sound attenuation, and perhaps most importantly, the total cost of ownership over time.
Dave: We hope you learned something today. If you have questions about the podcast, give us a call at 617-923-2000. Even though we specialize in solving problems with flooring, if you have a question about static discharge, how to install a floor, how to test the floor, we’ll be glad to help you. Thanks for listening.