Harnessing Static Electricity to Hold an Object on a Surface for this Manufacturing Process

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Summary:

Can static electricity or a combination of it and magnetism be used to keep an object held on to a surface?

Main Question or Discussion Point

Hello,
I'm trying to solve a material placement issue at work and I'm exploring the idea of using static electricity to solve it.

We currently combine two materials together using a heat activated glue that's sandwiched between the two materials and pressed together using a heat press. Material A is a square piece of nylon fabric and Material B is a Polyester that's laser cut into a shape with the heat activated glue pre-applied. When material A & B are placed together and the heat press is initiated, the movement of the press and the tissue paper being laid on top of the materials sometimes missasligns the two materials resulting in an unusable sample. I can have 5+ shapes of Material B laying on Material A at a time so placement is critical. The heat press base is a Silicone mat but I also have Nomex as an option. I've already explored alternative solutions like using a strip of tape on the bottom of the press and pressing the materials upside down and that worked but I would have to replace the tape every 25-30 presses which will not be efficient long term if I'm pressing 600+ pieces.

I thought about alternative options and static electricity came to mind. I had a Van De Graaf machine lying around so I figured I would play around with it. My first test yielded some interesting results. I connected the ground end of a the VDG machine to the bottom pad (nomex worked the best) and taped a piece of insulated copper wire to the top of the VDG silver bulb. I was able to successfully get Material B to statically layflat as I passed the wire over the surface of the material. I even tried blowing it off of the material using air but to my surprise, it stayed. I don't think my VDG machine is generating a large enough field to cover the entire heat press base because it was only affecting one shape at a time as I passed over it with the wire.

Is there another safe option without cranking up the voltage on my VDG or eliminating using electricity entirely to attract the two materials?
 

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  • #2
Baluncore
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Welcome to PF.
Material A is a square piece of nylon fabric and Material B is a Polyester that's laser cut into a shape with the heat activated glue pre-applied.
A vacuum table with many small holes could be used if air could be drawn through material A, while material B was less porous or coated with glue.
 
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Thanks for the reply! The Nylon material has pelon fused to the back so air does not pass through it; a vacuum table won't work for this setup unfortunately.
 
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  • #4
berkeman
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When material A & B are placed together and the heat press is initiated, the movement of the press and the tissue paper being laid on top of the materials sometimes missasligns the two materials resulting in an unusable sample
You might contact 3M to see if they have a version of their Post-It Notes gentle adhesive that might be compatible with your heat-activated adhesive. If you can roll the 3M gentle adhesive (I'm not sure how it is applied to Post-It Notes) onto your cut pieces before placement, and if the 3M adhesive does not interfere with the heat activated adhesive quality, that may be a good way to gently hold the pieces in place in your process...
 
  • #5
Tom.G
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Since you had good results with the VDG and a wire, how about using a sheet of metal (any conductor) to apply a field to the whole work area simultaneously?

Maybe as a pre-process as you did in the experiment or build it into one of the press platens.

An intermediate approach is a straight wire across the work area that can be moved across the area for each press load. Figure out how to mount the wire on a frame and tracks so you only have to slide it. The movement could even be automated with mechanical linkage to the press (if job sizes make it worthwhile).

From this distance at least, it seems easy to try. :rolleyes:

Cheers,
Tom
 

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