Do I Need An ESD Chair?

Jul 28, 2016 1:30:00 PM / by Albert Cappello

Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) is a growing problem in industry.  In an increasingly technological age requiring more sophisticated electronic components, the familiar shock we receive when walking across a carpet or shuffling around in a chair can be costly or dangerous.

esd chairStatic discharge can ignite flammable mixtures or vapors in laboratories and damage electronic components in electronics manufacturing. Static electricity can attract contaminants in clean environments or cause products to stick together.

Some industries like semiconductors and electronics have a long history and built-in protocols to combat its effects.

However, many emerging technologies such as Flat Panel Displays and businesses that require cleanroom environments are becoming increasingly concerned with the damage and contamination that can occur in non-controlled environments.

The cost of ESD-damaged can range from pennies for a simple diode to several hundred dollars for more complex components.

While there are many actions that we take that can cause ESD, the simple act of sitting and moving in our chairs can create a significant static charge, and cause damage in the workplace.

ESD chairs can solve this problem.


How Do We Create ESD by Sitting?

ESD occurs when static electricity builds up on the surface of any non-conductive object that rubs against another similar non-conductive object. When you sit in a chair the contact between your clothes and the chair can generate a lot of electrostatic charge on your clothes.

While you stay in contact with the chair your body voltage stays low. If you lean forward so your back moves away from the chair back, or if you get up out of the chair, then you take the electrostatic charge with you.

Your body voltage can rise very rapidly to a high voltage as the charge is separated from its counter charge on the chair. 

Why does this matter?

This is important for a variety of reasons.

As an example, data shows that ESD damage can occur to sensitive devices with as little as 1 volt of electricity. Most devices need about 100 volts before they are damaged beyond repair.

The human body can't feel the static discharge until about 2,000 volts and higher. So just because you didn't feel the zap, doesn't mean it didn't occur.


A Problem That Has Been Around for Centuries

For most of us, Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) is something that we experience when touching a metal doorknob or getting out of our car in the wintertime, and we give little consideration to expect for the nuisance of being shocked. For industry, however, ESD has been a problem that has been around for centuries.

According to the ESD Association, “As early as the 1400s, European and Caribbean military forts were using static control procedures and devices trying to prevent inadvertent electrostatic discharge ignition of gunpowder stores.”

“By the 1860s, paper mills throughout the U.S. employed basic grounding, flame ionization techniques, and steam drums to dissipate static electricity from the paper web as it traveled through the drying process. Every imaginable business and industrial process has issues with electrostatic charge and discharge at one time or another.

"Munitions and explosives, petrochemical, pharmaceutical, agriculture, printing and graphic arts, textiles, painting, and plastics are just some of the industries where control of static electricity has significant importance.”

“The age of electronics brought with it new problems associated with static electricity and electrostatic discharge. And, as electronic devices become faster and the circuitry getting smaller, their sensitivity to ESD in general increases.” (Source: ESD Association)


What exactly is ESD?

ESD is the rapid exchange of electricity from one object to another. It occurs when static electricity builds up on the surface of any non-conductive object that rubs against another similar non-conductive object.

For example, wool rubbing against rubber will cause static to build up on BOTH surfaces. One of the objects will become positively charged while the other object will be negatively charged. Many objects you wouldn't expect to hold a charge can cause ESD. Items such as wood and wood products (desks, cardboard boxes), styrofoam (packing peanuts, cushioning foam), and other items such as clothing. Our own skin also holds a charge.

Have you ever noticed, the spark that occurs by touching a doorknob actually jumps a few centimeters to your hand BEFORE you touch the doorknob?

A static charge can jump from one object to another as well. You can cause ESD damage to an electrical component just by waving your hand a few inches from it.

Despite a tremendous effort over the past thirty years, ESD can still pose major difficulties for industry. It can affect production yields, increase manufacturing costs, wreak havoc on quality and product reliability and seriously diminish the bottom line. In environments where ESD is a concern, such as clean rooms or electronics laboratories, a solution is needed.


ESD Chairs – A Modern Solution

Your workers need the same comfort, adjustability and ergonomic support in electronic assembly, repair areas and other highly sensitive environments as they do in other areas that are non-sensitive to ESD.

Some areas require the static protection provided by ESD laboratory furniture for workers that deal with delicate electronic circuitry or work areas that require minimized environmental pollutants such as a cleanroom environment.

In these areas, ESD safe lab chairs that offer resistance to static electricity are a modern solution that has become an essential part of the industry.

ESD chairs are manufactured with high-quality non-flammable ESD fabrics and vinyls.

Key Features of high quality ESD Chairs are:

  • Conductive backrests that feature height adjustment option
  • Heavy-duty, robust metal frames
  • Pneumatic height adjustments
  • Ergonomic seating
  • Outstanding comfort
  • Sturdy base

ESD chairs provide the following benefits:

  • ESD Chairs are specifically designed to protect yourself from electrostatic discharge problems
  • ESD chairs use non-conductive materials, static-free fabric and static-free casters in a chair that's attractive and comfortable
  • Urethane foam is used in the seat and back to make it more comfortable
  • ESD chairs are specifically designed for use in electrical and electronics industry
  • Maximum ergonomic support for sitting or standing workers
  • Minimizes environmental pollutants in clean room environments
  • Ensures product reliability and worker productivity due to total body support

If your company is concerned with ESD and deals with sensitive electronic components, hazardous chemicals or needs environmental pollutants to be kept to a minimum, then YES, you need ESD chairs to keep your workplace safe and protect your products.

Image: Photo by Kasey Eriksen / CC BY


modular laboratory furniture

Topics: Laboratory Furniture

Albert Cappello

Written by Albert Cappello

Albert Cappello is the CEO of Workstation Industries, Inc. WSI is a manufacturer of Industrial, Technical and Laboratory Furniture based in Southern California.

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