Chandler, AZ —It should come as no shock that electrostatic discharge, or ESD, can be a problem with the blower-vacuums that keep our lawns leaf-free. Static discharge builds up as the engine cycles and as high-velocity air, leaves, and debris fly though plastic tubes. "The static buildup is very quick, and the shock can be quite high," says Dean Bacalzo, a project engineer at Ryobi Outdoor Products, a maker of blower-vacs and other outdoor appliances.
In the past, Ryobi's engineers believed that ESD was an unpleasant, but inevitable, menace to consumers. "We thought it was a phenomenon we had to live with—the nature of the beast," says Bacalzo. But with the introduction of the new 340 BVR blower-vacuum, which blows air at 210 mph, Ryobi's engineers decided to do something about the problem. So they designed one of the new blower-vac's handles from Stat-Kon, a statically dissipative thermoplastic from LNP Engineering Plastics (Exton, PA). "We're able to bleed off the charge from the unit so there is a steady trickle of electricity going into the user via the handle and back into the ground," Bacalzo explains.
Before adopting Stat-Kon, the unit's design team considered and rejected several other static-control methods. They considered static-fighting sprays too messy and too temporary. Bacalzo reports that they also thought about dragging a grounding wire from the blower-vac, but that potential solution required extra components and was deemed too complex. Stat-Kon, by contrast, simply dropped in to a handle design the team had already finished. "We didn't even have to change the wall thickness of the part or anything," says Bacalzo.
So far, the new blower-vac has won raves from the users charged with testing the unit in different climates and condition, Bacalzo reports. "Eliminating static has really enhanced customer comfort," he says.