Understanding the Value of Modular Cleanrooms

Understanding the Value of Modular Cleanrooms

At Angstrom Technology, we like to take a step back every once in a while, taking the time to acknowledge and appreciate the impact of our work in various industries. It helps us put our work into perspective, and it motivates us to deliver excellence each and every day.

As we’ve reflected throughout the past years, we’ve always been astonished at how much innovation happens within modular cleanrooms. These quickly built, easily modified, heavily treated chambers truly make groundbreaking work possible. As a resource that helps scientists, and engineers test, manufacture, and package products safely, cleanrooms bring tremendous value not only to the workforce, but to society as a whole. 

In this article, we’ll explore some amazing ways that various industries have used modular cleanroom technology to trailblaze a path of innovation.

The Value Modular Cleanrooms Bring to Various Industrial Applications

Modular cleanrooms have proven themselves to be beneficial for a number of applications, in a number of industries. Some of history’s most important inventions required cleanrooms’ quality control, and some of the future’s best and brightest innovations are being tested in them today. Below, let’s discuss some common industries that use cleanrooms, and what important things they’re using them for. 

Aerospace

Aerospace cleanrooms are crucial for the development of aircraft and spacecraft hardware, fine electronics, engine components, and more. In order to manufacture, assemble, and test those components, the aerospace industry needs a high level of control over the cleanroom environment — usually meeting an ISO Class 7 requirement, at minimum.

Each day, aerospace engineers are working hard to develop technologies that help us continue our journey of exploring the unknown. Modular cleanrooms give them the space they need to do that revolutionary work. 

Semiconductor

Semiconductor cleanrooms prevent particles from contaminating certain parts of nanotechnology — like semiconductors and microchips — that allow us to operate phones and computers more safely and efficiently. When even the smallest bit of contamination can lead to serious product issues and failures, a stringent modular cleanroom environment of ISO Class 5 or lower is necessary. 

Our world is reliant on constant technological innovations in order to stay connected, do business, and maintain a quality lifestyle. Modular cleanrooms will always provide a space to make those technological advances happen.

University Labs and Research Facilities

University labs and research facilities encompass a variety of applications, from medical research, to forensic science, to hazardous chemicals. Additionally, the university setting requires that spaces are able to be reassigned and restructured as student, research, and funding needs change throughout the years. Therefore, the versatility of quickly built, easily modified modular cleanrooms is extremely valuable here. 

Universities host some of the most advanced, highly recognized research facilities. Students and faculty are working with state-of-the-art technology to solve some of their industry’s most perplexing problems. A modular cleanroom can provide a controlled environment to foster that learning, no matter what the specific application may be. 

Military 

In regards to the military, weapons manufacturing is a critical component in upholding national security and protecting American citizens. Due to the deadly nature of the products and volatile compounds used in this industry, a controlled cleanroom environment is crucial in maintaining the safety of information, products, and personnel. 

Weapons manufacturing is, and always will be, dangerous. However, it plays a key role in protecting our nation’s infrastructure from devastating threats. Modular cleanrooms can help lessen the risk and bolster the production. 

Angstrom Technology can design a modular cleanroom to meet all your requirements and design considerations. If you’re interested in designing and installing one for your facility, speak with one of our design engineers to get started.

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How to Set Up a Semiconductor Manufacturing Cleanroom

How to Set Up a Semiconductor Manufacturing Cleanroom

Semiconductors are made with a glassy, pure silicon material which is cut into very thin wafers, and they’re responsible for the performance of circuitry in computerized devices. They’re extremely sensitive materials, so without a sterile cleanroom to manufacture them in, you’re risking contamination that could lead to various production issues and product failures. 

All that being said, if your facility manufactures computerized devices of any type, size, or application, it’s likely that you’ll need to install a semiconductor cleanroom. Let’s take a look at what components go into setting one up. 

Where to Start: Understanding the Requirements of a Semiconductor Cleanroom

Even the slightest bit of contamination or settling of particulate produce can ruin semiconductor production and performance, sometimes leading to disastrous consequences. Therefore, it’s important to understand the strict cleanliness standards that semiconductor cleanrooms must abide by. 

Semiconductor Cleanroom Classifications

Semiconductor cleanrooms have some of the most stringent ISO standards. They usually need to comply with ISO 14644-1 Class 5 or lower, which means the maximum amount of particles allowed per cubic meter is 3,520 particles that are 0.5 µm or smaller. They also need to comply with ISO 14644-2, which requires a minimum requirement for quality control and a monitoring plan to consistently ensure these standards and parameters are met.

Semiconductor cleanrooms may also have industry-specific requirements depending on their application, such as unique NASA standards for aerospace applications. In those instances, the industry-specific requirements work in tandem with ISO requirements to build a controlled environment that produces consistently safe and quality products.

Potential Issues Associated with Semiconductor Cleanrooms

When working in a semiconductor cleanroom, operators face a number of challenges regarding detailed processes and contamination control. In fact, human workers are often the main source of contamination during the semiconductor manufacturing process. They can create unwanted electrostatic discharge (ESD) that can compromise the sensitive electronic circuits in the material. 

However, there are a variety of other factors that can disrupt the cleanroom’s sterility, including:

  • Power glitches
  • Pressure malfunctions
  • Broken fans
  • Dropped equipment, tools, and parts
  • Outgassing
  • Static
  • Particulate matter

 

Yes, that’s a lot to keep in mind! But semiconductors are so fragile that even the tiniest speck of dust can ruin them. Luckily, a reliable, controlled cleanroom environment can do most of the work for you. When installed properly, your semiconductor cleanroom can maintain the level of environmental control you need to optimize productivity and profitability. 

Setting Up Your Semiconductor Cleanroom

Now that you understand the cleanliness requirements of your semiconductor cleanroom, it’s time to start setting it up. Below, we’ve outlined four considerations you’ll want to keep in mind during the design process. 

1. Start with Airflow

Air flow is one of the most important components in a semiconductor cleanroom, as it determines how particles travel and prevents them from building up on equipment. The most popular type of airflow in cleanrooms is unidirectional or laminar airflow, which involves air blown at a constant speed, in a straight, unimpeded path. The air is pushed through a filter at the top of the cleanroom, directed down to the floor, then flows through holes in the flooring where it is retreated and recirculated before entering into the cleanroom again. 

2. Consider Furniture and Machinery Placement

It’s also a good idea to map out where your large furniture and machinery will be placed in order to build the most efficient, sterile cleanroom. One of the best design recommendations for a semiconductor cleanroom is to place furniture and machinery along the outer walls. This helps decrease the chance of those large objects obstructing the main airflow. 

Many cleanrooms are also designed with wire racks and shelves instead of regular tables or shelving. This eliminates a portion of the flat surfaces that particles may build up on. 

3. Implement Anti-static Protection

In order to prevent electrostatic discharge (ESD), your semiconductor cleanroom needs to take preventative measures against static. Aside from maintaining a consistently sterilized, pressurized environment, this can also include the implementation of various ESD-free products, including protective clothing, flooring, workstations, tools, and wipes. 

4. Plan for Daily Operations

Your semiconductor cleanroom will be used daily in order to keep production moving. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that all the daily operations are accommodated for. You should know things like how your operators will enter the cleanroom via access control systems, ESD testing, gowning rooms, airlock rooms, air showers, etc. This information can help you set up a design and layout that works around those necessities. 

Not sure where to start when setting up your semiconductor cleanroom? Let the experts at Angstrom Technology help. Our design experts can help you make the tough choices, and ensure you get the cleanroom that’s perfect for your application.

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Medical Cleanroom Technology that Aids Surface Sterilization

Medical Cleanroom Technology that Aids Surface Sterilization

In order to keep operators and consumers safe, medical cleanrooms have some of the most stringent cleanliness requirements. Depending on whether they’re used for medical research, medical device, or pharmaceutical applications, their ISO standards can range from ISO Class 4-7.  

All that being said, if your facility hosts one or more medical cleanrooms, you may also want to invest in some innovative technologies to ensure consistently sterilized air and surfaces. Below, we’ll explore some of the new medical cleanroom technology on the market, including various portable HEPA filtration systems and peroxide sanitizing solutions. 

Portable HEPA Filtration Systems with UV-C Light Integration

While your cleanroom may already host a number of HEPA filters, some of the newest trends in medical cleanroom technology deem portable HEPA filters a rewarding investment. New portable HEPA filters can be mobile, ceiling mounted, or standalone, and they usually contain a UV-C light integrated for extra cleansing power. This way, you’re able to sterilize any specific area or surface more quickly and effectively than ever before. 

How Do HEPA Filters with UV-C Light Integration Work?

HEPA filters are known for effectively capturing microscopic viruses and bacteria with ease. Generally, airborne viruses are moved through the air via particles with a diameter between 10-100 µm. HEPA filters are capable of capturing large infectious loads of particles that are responsible for virus transmission and exponentially reducing them. 

HEPA filters can remove many of the common human pathogens from air circulation, including (but not limited to) the following:

  • Escherichia coli: Gastrointestinal infections
  • Aspergillus brasiliensis: Sinus infections
  • Mycoplasma pneumoniae: Pneumonia
  • Haemophilus influenzae: Meningitis
  • Mycobacterium Tuberculosis: Tuberculosis

When HEPA filters are combined with UV-C light technology, they can inactivate airborne-mediated microbial disease and microbial resistant bacteria even faster. UV-C lights and lamps are extremely effective, even against some of the most contagious airborne diseases. And while HEPA filters primarily cleanse the air, UV-C lights help sterilize water, hard surfaces, and nonporous objects as well. 

Portable HEPA Filtration System Features and Accessories

Along with your portable HEPA filtration system, you’re able to add on a variety of optional features and accessories for advanced performance, including:

  • Portable UV torches – Portable UV disinfection torches are about 5 feet tall, and designed to sterilize objects and tools within a medical cleanroom. They stand on their own, include 8 UV-C bulbs, and are built with an open center that allows for comprehensive sterilization within a 10-foot radius. 
  • Handheld UV light wands – Handheld UV light wands work similarly to portable UV torches, but are even more mobile. They have a lightweight, ergonomic design that is especially helpful in surface sanitation, and cleanroom inspection procedures. 

Dry Hydrogen Peroxide

Dry Hydrogen Peroxide (DHP™) is the true gas form of hydrogen peroxide, and it attacks microbes like viruses, bacteria, and mold before they can be damaging, both in the air and on surfaces. Developed by Synexis, this technology is designed to flow freely and constantly throughout your controlled space to effectively eliminate pathogens — without any reliance on air exchange rates. It works by taking the oxygen and humidity naturally present in your environment, then breaking them down in the Synexis device through a photocatalytic reaction (chemical reaction involving the absorption of light). Those molecules are then put together again, but as DHP™.

Not only is DHP™ cool and effective technology, but it’s also completely safe — falling far below safety limits for human exposure established by OSHA and meeting UL2998 certification requirements for zero ozone emissions. You can learn more about how DHP™ works and benefits various applications here

If you’re looking to upgrade your medical cleanroom technology to include some of the newest innovations, contact Angstrom Technology! Our cleanroom design experts can make sure your facility is outfitted with the best gadgets and gear to protect your work and workers.

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Cleanroom Classification FAQs

Cleanroom Classification FAQs

Cleanroom classification is often one of the most confusing parts of designing and building a cleanroom. However, it’s also one of the most essential parts, so it’s important that you understand all the relevant information.  If you’re installing a cleanroom for the first time, you probably understand that every type of cleanroom requires a different classification, but you’re bound to have a number of other questions — and that’s okay! We’re here to help. Below, we’ll provide answers to some of the most common cleanroom classification questions we receive.

1. What are cleanroom classifications?

Cleanroom classifications regulate a cleanroom’s degree of cleanliness. They’re defined by the allowed amount of contamination, by particle count and size, as well as the air change rates necessary to maintain that.  There are a variety of classification types that regulate cleanroom cleanliness, but the main system was developed by the International Standards Organization (ISO). ISO classifications apply to all cleanroom industries and applications, and range from Class 1 (most clean) to Class 9 (least clean, regular room air). 

2. What cleanroom classification do I need?

It depends on your industry and application. The requirements will vary depending on the size of particles that need to be filtered, the sources of contamination present, and the recommended air change rates. If your industry is regulated by the government, you can check applicable regulations to see what cleanroom classification is required. If you work in a sector that isn’t regulated by the government and that doesn’t have an industry default, you’ll need to determine the appropriate classification for yourself, based on your application’s needs.  Below, we’ll explore recommended cleanroom classifications for a few popular industries. For a full list of industries and their cleanrooms classifications, visit our cleanroom industries page

What cleanroom classification is best for aerospace applications?

Aerospace applications require control over mechanical, thermal, chemical, and electrical properties within the cleanroom. In most cases, their cleanrooms need to meet at least a Class 7 ISO classification. However, in highly sensitive applications like spacecraft hardware, fine electronic, and optical device development, a more stringent classification is necessary.

What cleanroom classification is best for manufacturing applications?

There are various types of manufacturing processes, all with different needs in terms of humidity, contamination, pressure, and temperature control. However, most manufacturing cleanrooms tend to be required to meet ISO Classes 7 or 8. 

What cleanroom classification is best for medical applications? 

There are a few sub-categories that fall under the broad category of medical cleanrooms, including medical research, medical device, and pharmaceutical cleanrooms. All of these cleanrooms have some of the most stringent classifications in order to protect the safety of operators and consumers. 

  • Medical research: ISO Class 5-7
  • Medical device: ISO Class 5-8
  • Pharmaceutical: ISO Class 5

What cleanroom classification is best for semiconductor applications?

Contamination is a large source of production issues and product failures in semiconductors and microelectronics, so it’s critical that the cleanrooms they’re manufactured and packaged in are filtered appropriately. In most cases, semiconductor cleanrooms will hold ISO Class 4-6 requirements. 

3. How often should I test my cleanroom to see if it’s meeting classification requirements?

ISO requires that air pressure difference and airflow be tested every 12 months for all classifications. For ISO Classes 6-9, particle tests must also be performed every 12 months, but for ISO Classes 1-5, those particle tests must be performed every six months.  The following tests are recommended for all ISO Classes, every 24 months:

  • Installed filter leakage
  • Containment filter leakage
  • Recovery
  • Airflow visualization

4. How often do I need to have my cleanroom inspected?

That depends on your cleanroom classification. The more stringent the classification, the more regular the inspections. Inspections may coincide with compliance testing, so they could occur every 6-12 months, depending on your specific requirements. 

5. How does cleanroom classification affect my budget?

In general, the more stringent your cleanroom classification, the greater the cost. Strict classifications require more air, energy, advanced technology, and equipment, so their prices reflect that. For a more detailed breakdown of the costs, you can check out our blog, “How Does Cleanroom Classification Affect Your Cleanroom Budget?”

6. Can I redesign my cleanroom to fit a different classification?

Yes. Every facility’s needs change over time. A cleanroom from Angstrom Technology can change right along with them. All of our cleanrooms are “backward compatible,” meaning their size can expand or decrease and their fan filter units can be added or removed to keep up with any changes in cleanroom classification requirements.  Have any questions about your cleanroom classification and how to reach it? Contact the experts at Angstrom Technology! We’re happy to walk through your specific requirements and help design and build the best cleanroom for your facility and application.

Horizontal vs. Vertical Laminar Flow Hoods: What’s the Difference?

Horizontal vs. Vertical Laminar Flow Hoods: What’s the Difference?

Laminar air flow is air flow that constantly moves at the same speed, in the same direction. That being said, a laminar flow hood is a device or enclosure, most commonly used in laboratory applications, designed to carefully guide that filtered air and use it to sweep particles in a uniform speed and direction — from the hood’s most treated area (near the filter) to its exit area. 

Cleanroom airflow uniformity and laminar flow hoods are essential to ensuring that sensitive products placed under the hood are always upstream, and therefore suffer little to no contamination. Flow hoods come in two configurations: horizontal and vertical. Both configurations provide effective sweeping action through the work zone and meet ISO Class 5 cleanliness standards, so your application will help determine which is better for your facility. 

In this article, we’ll discuss the differences between horizontal vs. vertical laminar flow hoods, and help you figure out which is best for your application. 

Horizontal Laminar Flow Hoods

Horizontal laminar flow hoods direct air, well, horizontally. The air is pulled from behind the hood, then is pushed through a HEPA or ULPA filter to move forward across the work surface until it exits the enclosure. 

By sweeping the air across the work surface and towards the operator, horizontal laminar flow hoods provide the lowest level of turbulence (random air movements), and therefore the highest level of protection from contaminating particles. This is because there’s no turbulence caused by vertical air striking a perpendicular surface, and no disruption caused by the hands of the operator, since they’re always further downstream than the materials being worked on. 

However, the size of the hood, positioning of the filter, and direction of the air flow can result in some negative consequences, as well. Below, we’ll detail the full list of pros and cons for these types of hoods:

Pros

  • Low turbulence on work surface, due to air flowing parallel to work surface
  • Easy to position products and materials close to the filter on the work surface
  • Little contamination from hands or gloves, due to operator being downstream from products and materials

Cons

  • Requires hood repositioning in order to gain rear access for filter changes and servicing
  • Large materials or pieces of material can obstruct the flow and contaminate anything downstream
  • Operator could suffer from fume and/or powder contaminants blowing at them if sash is used improperly

Vertical Laminar Flow Hoods

In contrast, vertical laminar flow hoods take air from above the unit, push it through the HEPA or ULPA filter, then direct it downward onto the work surface, where it eventually disperses and exits the enclosure out of a front access area. They resemble the model of a laminar flow cleanroom with fan filter units on the ceiling, just on a much smaller scale. 

Vertical laminar flow hoods are a popular choice because of their size, layout, and operator safety. Since the filter is positioned on top of the unit, rather than behind, these flow hoods require less floor space, but can be taller to fit larger products and materials. Also, since the laminar air isn’t blowing toward the operator, there is much less risk for them to suffer any contaminants. 

Vertical laminar flow hoods are a great choice for plenty of applications, including handling sterile, non-hazardous drug compounding in research labs, pharmacies, and microbiology. Here’s a quick overview of their pros and cons:

Pros

  • Requires less floor space
  • Increased operator safety
  • Easy access for filter changes and servicing
  • Less cross-contamination of items on the work surface, due to no parallel air flow
  • Taller system that can accommodate tall and large products and materials

Cons

  • May require overhead clearance for changing and servicing filter
  • Increased work surface turbulence, due to vertical air hitting a perpendicular surface
  • Products and materials can’t be stacked without obstructing air flow

Things to Consider: Horizontal vs. Vertical Laminar Flow — Which Hood Is Right for Your Application?

Both horizontal and vertical laminar flow hoods can be used for a number of applications involving sensitive products and materials, including (but not limited to):

  • Injectable drugs
  • IV solutions
  • Tissue culture
  • Optics
  • Microelectronics

While both flow hoods are great options for reducing contamination while working with sensitive objects, there are a few applications that lend themselves more toward one or the other. Usually, the most important factors to consider when making a decision between one or the other include process location, clearance requirements, size of materials, work surface design, and operator safety. 

That being said, horizontal laminar flow hoods generally work best for applications that require minimal turbulence on the work surface and the highest level of object contamination control. They may also be preferred if your product must remain within the work zone for extended periods of time. 

If your application’s process is performed above the work surface, a vertical air flow configuration may be ideal; particles inside a vertical configuration settle at the bottom of the work surface before exiting the enclosure. These are also a popular choice for any applications involving materials that could be especially large in size or dangerous to the operator.

If your cleanroom requires laminar flow hoods, Angstrom Technology can design a cleanroom that will meet your classification and industry requirements seamlessly, whether it’s vertical or horizontal. Contact us to talk to one of our design engineers today.

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