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Belt Drives and Dissipating Static Charge Buildup

Hose & Rubber White Papers
All types of belts can generate electrical charges while operating in belt drive systems. Factors such as humidity and operating speed influence the charge potential. With static charges present there is potential for arcing or sparking in flammable environments. Other possible issues may be found with material handling processes or sensitive electronics.

In order to minimize possible issues with static charge build up, V-belts are generally manufactured in conductive constructions (Predator and PowerRated belts are not static conductive), and rubber synchronous belts can be produced in conductive constructions on a made-to-order basis. Note that Poly Chain GT Carbon belts cannot be produced in a conductive construction. The Association for Rubber Products Manufacturers (ARPM; formerly Rubber Manufacturers Association) defines standards for static conductive belts in their bulletin IP-3-3.

Static conductive belts meeting the ARPM Standard IP-3-3 should have sufficient conductivity to prevent measurable static charge buildup, thus preventing static discharges. Belt drive systems operating in potentially hazardous environments, though, must be properly grounded. A continuous conductive path from belt to ground is necessary to bleed off static charges. This path includes a static conductive belt, a conductive sprocket, a conductive bushing, a conductive shaft, and conductive bearings, all along the path to ground.

In hazardous environments, additional protection should be employed to assure that there are no accidental static spark discharges. Unusual or excessive debris or contaminant on belt contact surfaces or sprocket grooves, for example, can reduce the ability of belts to conduct static charges into hardware. In addition, belt conductivity properties are known to decline over time from normal use. Static conductive brushes or similar devices should be employed to bleed off any residual static buildup that might remain around belts.