Dealing with the Effects of Static Electricity in Your Print Shop
Static electricity can cause havoc in your print shop – here are some tips for keeping it under control.
Substrates from plastic to fleece are stacked in piles and dragged across each other, exchanging electrons and creating a static charge. The high levels of static electricity in a print shop leave printers frustrated and searching for solutions.
The Problem with Static in Print Shops
Static electricity in a print shop is certainly an annoyance, but the problems with static electricity can go far beyond that. Too much static electricity in the shop can slow production and interfere with the printing process. It can even cause problems for your printers. Some problems caused by static electricity include:
Stuck-together substrates or films. When two objects are generating a static charge, they cling together. One of the places this becomes most frustrating in a print shop is with plastic sheets that are being sent through a printer. These sheets can stick together, causing printer jams or misprints.
Dust. Ask any printer what the primary concern with static electricity is, and they’ll likely say dust. When your substrates or films are electrically charged, they will attract particles of dust and lint to them. A piece of lint on one substrate can cause a flaw in the print, while a piece of dust on a screen or film positive can cause a flaw that impacts every print that rolls off the press.
Ink manipulation. Just like static attracts dust, it can attract or repel ink (inkjet printers actually use static electricity to place ink in the right spot). If your substrate has static electricity, ink can either be drawn to the wrong spot, or it can fail to adhere to the proper place.
Shocks. Anyone who has worked in a print shop long enough is probably aware of the nasty shocks that the high levels of static electricity can produce. While these shocks are generally more annoying than anything else, in extreme cases, they can have a detrimental health effect or even spark a fire.
Taming Static Electricity in Your Screen Printing Shop
Fortunately, there are solutions for taming the static electricity in your shop. Some shops use simple, homemade solutions, while others use high-tech gadgets or devices made specifically to “erase” static electricity. No matter the method, nearly all ways of reducing static electricity come down to neutralizing the ions that cause static problems. Some ways to reduce static electricity in your print shop include:
Using a humidifier. While print shops usually try to keep moisture at bay, adding moisture to the air, especially in the winter, can help to eliminate static electricity. That’s because water conducts electricity well; the ions clinging to your materials will bond harmlessly to the water in the air instead.
Invest in static eliminators. There’s no shortage of goods that are designed to eliminate static electricity. You can buy brushes, bungees or wands to wave between plastic sheets or over shirts; you can place specialized tape on your pallets to neutralize garments; or you can look for a special air filter made for the job.
Use fabric softener or wipes. Obviously, you don’t want to use static guard on an item that’s about to be printed, as that can interfere with the ink, but there are ways to use commercial static eliminators to reduce static in your shop. If you’re working on carpet, static eliminator can be sprayed onto the carpet to avoid stirring up electricity on the ground. Fabric sheets can be used to wipe down work surfaces to eliminate static electricity, as long as it won’t interfere with your substrate or materials.
Don’t let static electricity drive you mad, lower your production or ruin your prints! There are plenty of simple ways to reduce static electricity in your shop; just find which solutions work best for you.
Looking for some more tips on how to maintain high production and high quality in your screen printing shop? Check out these blogs: