What is anti-static foam and when do you use it?

Intricately manufactured electrical components can be extremely delicate, and this is particularly true of electrostatic-sensitive devices (ESDs). Even when ESDs are being created, technicians have to take extra precautions – such as ESD workstations, humidity control, anti-static garments or anti-static wrist wraps – to avoid damaging their work.

This is because static electricity is all around us and a mild shock can be caused by almost any two surfaces coming together: your shoes and a carpet, your hair and a hat, even your hand and a door handle. The shock is due to a rapid transfer of electrons between two objects with opposing charges. Unfortunately, even a shock as small as five volts can damage ESDs beyond repair, and with humans having natural sources of electricity within our bodies, we cannot be too careful.

Electrostatic-sensitive devices can often be expensive. The cost of computer central processing units (CPUs) and whole hard drives, for instance, can run into thousands of pounds.

Other common examples of ESDs include transistors, light-emitting diodes (LEDs), resistors and integrated circuits (ICs) for graphics. A great many industries use ESDs every day and in large quantities.

Bearing in mind how much some ESDs cost, the quantities involved and just how delicate they are, transporting them presents a real challenge. Thankfully, there’s an answer: anti-static foam.

The solution: anti-static foam

Foam inserts for packing, transportation and storage provide vital protection for goods, having been cut specifically for the components they house. ESDs, however, require a special type of foam.

Made using open-cell polyurethane foam, anti-static foam includes special chemicals and an anti-static agent. It is usually coloured pink during the manufacturing process, to differentiate it from other types of foam.

As well as protecting goods from static discharge, anti-static foam gives any potential electrical charges a path away from the packaging, allowing it to dissipate safely. Also, since components are housed within their own individual niches in the foam, there is no chance of frictional or triboelectric charging due to objects rubbing together.

Before such precautions could be taken, one early manufacturer of computer circuit boards found high rates of failure in their products once they left the factory and had been investigated by field service engineers. Eventually, they discovered that the field service engineers were unaware of the need for precautionary measures when handling ESDs like circuit boards and their interventions were damaging the components.

With potential sources of static electricity surrounding us and our expensive ESDs, the advent of the anti-static foam alone has saved businesses untold costs each and every day. 

CP Cases are specialists in producing anti-static foam in high or low density, which is lightweight but tough, and tailored precisely to protect your static-sensitive components. Conductive foam packaging, which performs a similar static-fighting function, is also available. 

If you have any questions about our foam engineering, feel free to call a member of our team on 0208 568 1881 or email info@cpcases.com.

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