ESD Flooring 101: The Non-Technical Answer to Dissipative vs. Conductive

This is the most commonly asked question. Since you have asked for a non-technical answer, I will try to use some familiar examples in my explanation.

Pretend for a moment that instead of controlling the flow of static electricity, you are trying to control the flow of water.

Let's think about the way water flows through a funnel. To control the flow of water, a funnel collects the water in a storage area and redistributes it through a smaller diameter bottom. By shrinking or increasing the diameter of the funnel orifice, we could either increase or restrict the amount of water that will “discharge” from the funnel. You could say that the exit of the funnel provides resistance to the flow of the water. The smaller diameter orifice slows down the water flow compared with just pouring the water out of a container.

If we were to compare the electrical concepts of “conductive” with “static dissipative” using a water flow analogy: a conductive floor would equate to allowing the funnel to restrict only 10% of the water flow while static dissipative flooring would equate to restricting over 90% of the flow.

Ninety-percent restriction is too much resistance. If the funnel is getting refilled periodically, it is likely that 90% restriction will not empty the funnel fast enough to keep up with the periodic refills. That is essentially what happens when a person walks on a high resistance static dissipative floor. Think of a charged person as the storage area of the funnel and think of the floor as the orifice of the funnel. The right floor should be able to drain static off the person at a sufficent rate to prevent the person from accumulating too much static. You could say that excessive static on the person would be the same as the top of the funnel over flowing.

If the floor – like the small diameter funnel – can not drain static as quickly as a person can generate static, the person will discharge static charges to electronic equipment instead of to the floor.