Anti-Static Apparel Market Set To Grow
Static electricity is generally harmless to the individual but it causes US$5 bn of damage to products each year in the electronics and computer industry. As computers and electronics become ever more pervasive in consumer products so an increasing number of manufacturers will need to apply anti-static control measures. One such measure is anti-static apparel because people are the greatest source of static charge in the workplace.
The amount of static electricity we feel varies according to factors such as our body and foot size -- a larger body and bigger feet require more charge to be stored to produce the same voltage. The material our clothes are made from and the soles of our shoes can influence static electricity too. Weather affects it as well -- there is more build-up of static charge when the air is dry.
Most people feel harmless shocks at around 2,000-4,000 volts. However electrical components can be damaged by as little as a few volts. It is estimated that between 8% and 33% of product losses -- the proportion of products which are rendered faulty -- are due to static electricity.
Anti-static clothing is required to prevent damage to electrical components or to prevent fires and explosions when working with flammable liquids and gases. If not controlled, static electricity can cause product damage and lead to machinery downtime, lost man hours, returned products and warranty costs particularly in the semiconductor and electronics industry. Therefore it has become high priority in this industry.
The market for anti-static apparel
To neutralise static electricity, anti-static garments are made from fabrics which are conductive. This is achieved through the addition of conductive fibres, or through the application of a treatment to a finished textile product.
Many anti-static garments are made with a grid or stripes of conductive thread present inside a matrix of cotton, polyester or a mixture of these materials. A dense grid (eg 5 mm x 5 mm) is better at conferring anti-static capability than a loose grid (20 mm x 20 mm).
The largest end use for anti-static apparel is in the workwear category. The largest consumers are companies working in electronics and computers. Motor vehicle manufacturers are also significant consumers because of the increasing number of electronic circuit boards in vehicles.
Anti-static materials are also used in carpets, filters, electrostatic brushes, conveyor belts, underwear, cleanroom fabrics and smart textiles. All are niche markets for anti-static products.
Anti-static garments include wrist-straps, anti-static shoes and anti-static clothing. Wrist straps were a popular solution in the electronics industry for many years because they are not expensive and they ground the wearer's body. But as electronics became smaller, the wrist strap became less effective. They are also impractical when a worker needs to walk around.
Few companies specialise solely in anti-static fibres or yarns. Some companies specialise in anti-static or electrostatic discharge (ESD) products ranging from flooring to packaging and garments. More commonly, fabric or apparel companies in the workwear or protective wear market include an anti-static capability within their range. Many flame-retardant fabrics also have an anti-static capability.
Whichever way they approach it, companies can expect to see growth in anti-static apparel in line with growth in consumer electronics. But, in common with the textile industry in general, much of the growth may be in Asia.
SOURCE: Performance Apparel Markets