Flexible Packaging recently caught up with Kim West, Simco-Ion marketing manager, for an overview on the perils of improper static control, new developments for hazardous environments and why static control is arguably more important than ever in the winter months.
Q: What’s new with your company and in the world of static control? Did you release any new products in conjunction with the fall trade shows?
A: Simco-Ion is excited to announce the introduction of its HL monitored sensors as part of the innovative IQ Power HL System for use within Class 1, Div 1, Group D classified areas. The new sensors are intrinsically safe, active modules that are easy to install without the use of conduit. They allow for numerous sensing ranges and flexible mounting distances. The HL Sensor interface acts as a gateway, connecting up to eight sensors, which displays fault and warning status as well as individual charge readings for each.
Simco-Ion is also highlighting the 2017 launch of its updated IQ Power Control Station, which features innovations, including a larger user-friendly display, robust M12 connectors, screen-orientation rotation, built-in PLC interface, flush mount options and a standby mode that disables high voltage during neutralizing bar and equipment maintenance.
Q: Aside from a sap in production, lesser quality and potential employee danger, what are other hazards of poor – or nonexistent – static control?
A: Managing static electricity is crucial for several reasons. Contamination is a significant problem in film manufacturing environments, especially in critical applications such as food, medical or pharmaceutical packaging. Static charges attract particulate and electrostatically hold it in place, making it more difficult to remove, resulting in higher rejects or defects in print quality. Static has also been known to cause web tension and handling issues, leading to improper web feeding and jams.
Q: Where is static control most likely to occur in a flexible packaging converting process?
A: In flexible packaging converting applications, electrical charges are generated from continuous contact and separation of the web, from the time it leaves the unwind roll at the start of the process, through the web handling idler rollers, coating stations and many other operations until completion at the rewind roll. High static charge levels on flexible films can result in roller wraps and mechanical feed problems. Discharges from charged film surfaces can cause lockup or unpredictable failures in control electronics or PLCs. Static neutralizers should be applied at critical steps in the process or areas where any high charge levels occur.
Newer applications involve flexible circuits, where electronic circuits are printed or mounted on various plastic substrates. Static charges on these circuits can cause failures as well as increased waste.
Q: It seems that the future of static control is trending further toward “intelligent” equipment that can better react when static is present. Care to comment on this?
A: Static electricity has always been an issue within packaging and converting operations, such as slitting, printing, coating and many other applications. Today’s modern machinery and quality standards demand more than just a basic static bar or other types of passive ionizers, such as tinsel. To meet the demands of today’s customer expectations, an active static management system that fully monitors, adjusts and records bar conditions and static charge levels is the best way to control static. A monitoring system can quickly and clearly advise operators of the condition of the ionizer, charge on the substrate, and can react to any changing conditions in real time. Advising operators on the limitations of older technology and then demonstrating the benefit of a monitored control system has led to increased safety and output for many of our customers.
Q: I’ve seen several static control products recently that are designed for hazardous work environments. Could a packaging converting environment be considered hazardous? What’s the significance of these purpose-built products?
A: Yes. In the packaging converting process, it is typical that there are flammable, solvent-based printed inks or coatings applied to the web. High levels of uncontrolled static charges on these webs pose an ignition hazard. HL neutralizing bars should be installed between the hazardous operation roller and each drying and turning roller in the hazardous location. A static eliminator qualified to operate in this type of environment, such as Simco-Ion’s IQ Power HL neutralizing bar, should be installed between the web roller and the hazardous operation roller to diminish the risk of fires related to static electricity.
Furthermore, the IQ Power HL line offers two power supply options. The HL power supply is approved for mounting outside the hazardous area, whereas the HLC power supply is approved for mounting inside the hazardous area. The HLC requires a remote display monitor, which is used to display all critical indicators, such as status and fault conditions.
Q: Is there anything else you’d care to share about static control or static control equipment?
A: The winter months are here, bringing low humidity levels that present significant static issues for packaging converters located in colder regions of the country. Additionally, these static issues are not isolated to just colder regions of the country, but can occur in any region or environment with low relative humidity levels, such as California or Arizona. Moisture, or water, is a conductor of electricity, and the lower the moisture level in the air, the greater your static problem will be, and vice versa. The static charge that occurs during the handling of flexible films is intensified when humidity is low.