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Question We are looking for guidelines in the use of fans around ESD protected environments and within products. Many fan blades and blowers are made of plastic materials and are suspect for creating static charges.
Answer Per ESD Association ANSI/ESD S20.20 paragraph 6.2.3.1. Protected Areas Requirement “All nonessential insulators, such as those made of plastics and paper (e.g. coffee cups, food wrappers and personal items) must be removed from the workstation. Ionization or other charge mitigating techniques shall be used at the workstation to neutralize electrostatic fields on all process essential insulators (e.g. ESDS device parts, device carriers and specialized tools) if the electrostatic field is considered a threat.”
Is it a threat? Paragraph 6.2.3.2. Protected Areas Guidance states “All process essential insulators that have electrostatic fields that exceed 2,000 volts should be kept at a minimum distance of 12 inches from ESDS items.”
If you are not employing ionization as part of your ESD control program, personal fans shouldn’t be a problem at the ESD protected workstation as gases, such as Nitrogen, Oxygen, Argon or other gases which constitute air, do not charge. If the ambient air in your work environment contains a lot of particles, then there may be a concern. For it is these larger particles (dust, dirt, pollen, etc.) that when blown across a surface having enough significant mass can cause triboelectric generation. One solution is to filter the air prior to its being used by the fan.
However, if ionization is being used, personal fans may affect the ion flow and cause poor performance of your ionizers.
Plastic fan blades in a personal fan or within products may not be subjected to the contact and separation that generate electrostatic charges. One way to check is using our Digital Field Meter to measure if charges are present and of what magnitude. Such testing would be an empirical way to determine if the plastic fan blades were a “threat”.
 
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