The Making of the StaticWorx Cartoon

10 min read, 9 min videos

The Dilemma

Designing the new site, we asked our technical service reps for a list of the most commonly asked questions or sources of greatest confusion for the people they speak with each day. Far and away the most cited questions involve resistance and charge generation. People are understandably confused. What do the terms mean—and how are they related? The quick answer is, they’re not: resistance and charge generation are two different electrical properties.

In almost any discussion about ESD flooring, the word conductivity comes up.

In case you’re wondering, conductivity is the electrical property that allows a floor to conduct—or discharge—static to ground.

Well, no, not exactly.

Conductivity—measured by its opposing force, electrical resistance—draws static away from people and objects on an ESD floor, transports the charges through the floor to the conductive adhesive or underlayment (the ground plane electrically unifying the tiles), and the conductive adhesive (or ground) plane sends the charge to an earth ground, such as an outlet or an I beam.

Electrical Resistance: Electrical resistance describes the capacity of a material to stop, or resist, the flow of electricity. We use resistance tests, measured in ohms (Ω), to predict how quickly or slowly an ESD flooring material will transport static charges to ground.

Low Charge Generation: The term “low charge generation” replaces the older, less descriptive term “antistatic” (or anti-static). Low charge generation is a property that refers to the propensity of a material (or flooring material) to inhibit static charges.

Low charge generation should not be confused with conductivity or grounding. A low charge-generating floor may or may not be electrically groundable. Likewise, a grounded floor may generate enough static to cause a damaging ESD event

This is why ESD floors should be evaluated for both conductivity (electrical resistance) and charge generation.

ESD flooring system
ESD flooring system

As shown in the cartoon, that’s only part of the story. While most laypeople have a reasonable understanding of conductivity, low charge generation is a new requirement for ESD floors. Until 2014, charge generation—aka walking body voltage—tests were not required by ANSI/ESD S20.20. Instead, floors had to pass a system resistance test. Even the term—low charge generating—is new. A floor that inhibits charges when people walk used to be called antistatic.

While we explain the terms and the way ESD flooring works in numerous articles and posts, even we know that the technical details can be boring. And we’re passionate about this!

So, we thought, how do we explain a boring technical issue without putting people to sleep? With humor, of course. And the idea to create a cartoon was born. Hopefully, people will laugh.

Play Video
Play Video

The Technical Explanation

Staticworx CartoonThe cartoon begins with the grand opening of a new multi-billion-dollar call center. Project managers, Jane and Joe, are behind a window, watching a fleet of AI robots march into the space. In a series of flashbacks, we’re given a glimpse of their decision-making process. Tasked with selecting an antistatic floor, assuming—as many of our clients do—that conductive floors are also antistatic, they purchase the most conductive floor on the market, in a color they love.

Congrats from the Big Boss reinforce their sense of accomplishment and pride in the job. As the shift supervisor enters the call center, we see a tiny static charge at her feet—and get the first inkling that Jane and Joe may not be in line for the fantastic rewards they’re envisioning.

Big Boss invites Jane to pull the lever, activating the robots. As the supervisor walks into the call center, static builds on her body. Sparks fly as she high-fives a robot. The robot touches his computer, transferring the static charge—and pandemonium erupts in the call center.

Poor Jane and Joe—they didn’t realize the conductive floor would generate static.

Generating Static

As we walk across a floor, the contact and separation between the floor and soles of our shoes generates static—as it did on the supervisor in the cartoon. Then discharges to the first person or object we touch.

Illustration broken into four panels. The heading at the top reads: "Command Center With a Conductive Floor that Generates Static". The first panel (top left) shows a command center with people working at terminals. The text underneath reads: "Functioning command center, with a new conductive floor that does not prevent static generation". The second panel (top right) shows someone walking across the floor with static being generated as they walk. The text reads: "A person enters the room. Friction between the soles of her shoes and flooring material generates static. As she crosses the floor, a static charge builds on her body." The third panel (bottom left) shows the person standing at a desk with a headset in hand which the charge has been transferred to. The text reads: “The static electricity on her body discharges to the first person or object she touches—in this case, the headset.” The fourth panel (bottom right) shows the person and a colleague talking to a maintenance man. The text reads: “The sudden rush of electrical current through the headset damages the microcircuits inside the equipment, disrupting data and damaging or destroying components.”
Illustration broken into five panels. The heading at the top reads: "Command Center With a Low Charge-Generating ESD Floor". The first panel shows two workers installing an ESD floor. The text reads: “A low-charge generating ESD floor is installed in the command center.” The second panel (top middle) shows a command center with people working at terminals. The text underneath reads: “When perseonnel move in, the room is fully functional“. The third panel (top right) shows someone walking across the floor. The chair from her shoes is carried across the floor to ground. The text reads: “When a person walks across the floor, the friction generates minimal static, and the grounding material dissipates the charge safely to ground.” The fourth panel (bottom left) shows the person talking to a colleague, a headset in her hand. The text reads: “Because she has no static on her body, when she touches the headset—or a sensitive component—there is no damaging static event.” The fifth panel shows people working at their terminals with no disruption. The text reads: “The command center remains fully functional and people move and interact freely.”

When the supervisor high-fives the robot, the sudden rush of current damages its internal circuitry, then destroys the circuits in the computers, and shuts the call center down.

Static build-upAs we learn from Jane and Joe’s mishap, even the most conductive floor can generate static. In the cartoon, we see static building on the supervisor’s body. In real life, static is invisible. We can’t even feel a static shock less than 3500 volts (3.5kV). Yet a charge of only 100 volts—and even less (only 20 V) in an electronics manufacturing facility—can destroy sensitive electronics.

The conductive vinyl Jane and Joe chose looked beautiful. Comprised of electrically insulative plasticizers, vinyl is a notorious static generator. To control static, every single person on a vinyl floor must wear special ESD-protective footwear—i.e., heel straps, toe straps, or conductive shoes—at all times, an impossible mandate in spaces like a mission-critical call center, server room, 9-1-1 dispatch center, or flight tower, where everyone wears regular street shoes.

Preventing Charge Generation

The conductivity in special ESD footwear creates an electrical bond between the shoe soles and the floor. Because the shoe soles and floor are at the same electrical potential, they can touch each other and separate without generating static—and no static builds on the wearer’s body.

ESD Shoes

Low charge-generating materials, like conductive rubber or ESD carpet, don’t generate static either—even on people wearing regular street shoes. So, people can walk across the floor, tap dance, or do a jig, and they won’t generate static. Static won’t accumulate on their body, and the electronic equipment in the room—including headsets and handheld devices—will be safe.

Low Charge Generation

Behind the Scenes

As no one at StaticWorx had any experience in producing a cartoon, we had our work set out for us. As marketers, we like to think we know how to tell a good story. With some Internet research (what other kind is there?), we figured out how to write and format a video script.

Then we went back online to look for an animator.

To our great good fortune, our search turned up Lewis Rogers. Lewis is amazing! One look at his portfolio convinced us to spring for the extra bucks, and create the cartoon in 3D. With 3D we hoped the cartoon would look like an actual film, one you might see at the movie theater or on TV.

Happily, Lewis agreed to work with us, and thus began a genuinely awesome collaboration.

Making the Cartoon

Play Video
Play Video

With our script, we gave Lewis character sketches along with a general idea of what each character should look like, how they would talk, and what we wanted each role to portray.

Lewis took it from there. As he drafted each character, he gave us sketches to approve. Once the characters were in place, he roughed out the scenes, and selected voice artists for us to audition. By the time two or three weeks had gone by, we had hired two terrific voice artists, they’d recorded their parts, and Lewis had begun to animate the scenes. Forgive us for saying, we felt like we were in Hollywood, creating and directing this movie we’d imagined and written.

Lewis shared each step along the way and gave us the opportunity to make changes as we saw fit. As we said—awesome collaboration! Once the cartoon was finished, Lewis set it to music, and—the cartoon being as amazing as we believed it was—we thought we were good to go.

Of course, over-hyped expectations and reality never match up. Early viewers, while careful to compliment us on our creativity and innovation, tell us how cool and funny the cartoon was (it is funny—at least we think it is), told us that we were not getting our message across.

Three hand-wringing weeks later, after one of our colleagues created a teaser, we saw the light.

We changed the beginning and end, adding a static expert to introduce the story and explain the technical details, and—echoing the teaser—restructured the cartoon. Now, in place of a traditional (read: boring) linear structure, we added flashback. Relieved of continuity issues, we could eliminate much of the backstory, show only the highlights, details that further the story.

If you have the time, we hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen to Lewis Rogers, animator extraordinaire, talking about how he creates and animates a cartoon. You won’t be sorry!

About StaticWorx, Inc

All StaticWorx posts are written by our technical team and based on industry standards and specifications, test data, independent lab reports and other verifiable data. We provide ESD training and offer CEU credits to architects. If you’re interested in an ESD training session or architects’ ESD workshop, give us a call: 617-923-2000.

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Background graphic is a still from the StaticWorx GroundSafe ESD Flooring – Your Trusted Partner explainer animation. In the foreground at the bottom are two boxes. The top is a bright blue with the StaticWorx logo and "GroundSafe ESD Flooring" underneath in white. The second is a dark blue-gray and includes the text in white: “GroundWorx ESD Flooring – Your Trusted Partner”
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StaticWorx high-performance static-control floors protect electronic components, explosives, and high-speed computers from damage caused by static electricity. ESD flooring is part of a system. Choices should always be based on objective, researched evidence. When you partner with us, we look at all possible items that may need to integrate with the floor, and, focusing on your goals and objectives, help you find the right floor for your application.