Force field

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Proud Uncle
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Force field

Post by Tobias_Marco » Mon Jun 25, 2018 10:00 pm

Back in 1980, some employees at the South Carolina 3M plant were inspecting the large, 20ft-wide Polypropylene spools. This plastic film was being slitten, cut, and transferred to other spools in order to create products for their signature stationery materials.

Everything seemed normal that day, but the ever-present danger of the static cling produced by the rollers proved to make it the workers' unlucky day. The level of static on that day was so powerful that it could be measured in megavolts--an intensity of power nobody would want to be near.

So on that summer day, something different occurred at that processing plant. The static field created an invisible wall similar to the ones we see in the movies. It was so powerful that it froze nearby workers in their place.

Another employee in the plant, David Swenson, heard about the phenomenon and decided to further investigate with his handheld electrometer. Upon entering the room, the needle immediately went all the way to the end. As he walked closer to the machinery, his steps began to slow down, and he began to struggle moving forward.

It came to the point that he was not able to move at all. To prove his point, he even noticed a fly that got stuck in the "force field." Thankfully, he was able to remove himself from the force field by walking backward.

The employees who were able to create the force field debated whether they should fix the issue or sell tickets ultimately decided that it was too much of a safety issue, and contacted engineers to fix the issue. It has never happened since, and we can only wish that they had decided to sell tickets.
Should be fairly easy to replicate the effect...Polypropylene sheets being wound rapidly on nylon rollers...warm temperatures (was Summer) and high humidity...could be reproduced on a small scale, table top model quite easily for those that have good prototyping skills i would have thought?
David Swenson of 3M Corporation describes an anomaly where workers encountered a strange "invisible wall" in the area under a fast-moving sheet of electrically charged polypropelene film in a factory. This "invisible wall" was strong enough to prevent humans from passing through. A person near this "wall" was unable to turn, and so had to walk backwards to retreat from it. 

This occurred in late summer in South Carolina, August 1980, in extremely high humidity. Polypropelene (PP) film on 50K ft. rolls 20ft wide was being slit and transferred to multiple smaller spools. The film was taken off the main roll at high speed, flowed upwards 20ft to overhead rollers, passed horizontally 20ft and then downwards to the slitting device, where it was spooled onto shorter rolls. The whole operation formed a cubical shaped tent, with two walls and a ceiling approximately 20ft square. The spools ran at 1000ft/min, or about 10MPH. The PP film had been manufactured with dissimilar surface structure on opposing faces. Contact electrification can occur even in similar materials if the surface textures or micro-structures are significantly different. The generation of a large imbalance of electrical surface-charge during unspooling was therefore not unexpected, and is a common problem in this industry. "Static cling" in the megavolt range! 

On entering the factory floor and far from the equipment, Mr. Swenson's 200KV/ft handheld electrometer was found to slam to full scale. When he attempted to walk through the corridor formed by the moving film, he was stopped about half way through by an "invisible wall." He could lean all his weight forward but was unable to pass. He observed a fly get pulled into the charged, moving plastic, and speculates that the e-fields might have been strong enough to suck in birds! 

The production manager did not believe Mr. Swenson's report of the strange phenomena. When they both returned to the factory floor, they found that the "wall" was no longer there. But the production workers had noticed the effect as occurring early in the morning when humidity was lower, so they agreed to try again another day. The second attempt was successful, and early in the morning the field underneath the "tent" was strong enough to raise even the short, curly hair of the production manager. The "invisible wall" effect had returned. He commented that he "didn't know whether to fix it or sell tickets."
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