Understanding Cleanroom Design and Functioning

by | Jan 18, 2024 | Cleanrooms Sydney | 0 comments

Cleanrooms are specialised environments designed to maintain extremely low levels of particulates, such as dust, airborne microbes, aerosol particles, and chemical vapours. They are essential in industries where small particles can adversely affect manufacturing. Industries such as semiconductor manufacturing, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and aerospace engineering rely heavily on cleanrooms in Sydney.

1. Introduction to Cleanrooms

A cleanroom is an environment typically used in manufacturing or scientific research with a low level of environmental pollutants such as dust, airborne microbes, aerosol particles, and chemical vapours. The air entering a cleanroom is filtered to exclude dust, and the air inside is constantly recirculated through high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) or ultra-low particulate air (ULPA) filters to remove internally generated contaminants.

2. Historical Background

The concept of a cleanroom was developed during the Second World War to improve the quality and reliability of instrumentation used to manufacture precision equipment. The modern cleanroom was invented by American physicist Willis Whitfield in 1960. His design, which controlled the flow of air and the filtration system, allowed for a contamination-free environment, revolutionising the fields of pharmaceuticals and microelectronics.

3. Cleanroom Standards and Classification

Cleanrooms are classified according to the number and size of particles permitted per air volume. The most widely used standard is the ISO 14644-1, which replaced the earlier Federal Standard 209E. This standard classifies a cleanroom by the number of particles in the laboratory’s air. The class number corresponds to the maximum allowable number of particles (0.5 microns or larger) per cubic meter; for instance, an ISO 5 cleanroom allows up to 3,520 particles/m3.

4. Design and Construction

The design of a cleanroom varies based on its intended use. However, all cleanrooms in Sydney are designed to maintain positive pressure to keep out contaminants and control the flow and quality of air. Materials used in cleanroom construction are non-shedding and resistant to fungal and bacterial growth. The interiors are typically smooth and waterproof to prevent the accumulation of particles and facilitate cleaning.

5. Air Flow Principles

Cleanrooms maintain particulate-free air through HEPA or ULPA filters employing laminar or turbulent air flow principles. Laminar, or unidirectional, air flow systems direct filtered air downward in a constant stream. Turbulent, or non-unidirectional, air flow uses laminar air flow hoods and non-specific velocities to create a turbulent flow, preventing pockets of “dead air” where contaminants might accumulate.

6. Operating a Cleanroom

Operating a cleanroom involves strict adherence to contamination control principles. Personnel are a major source of contamination, and strict protocols for dressing (wearing cleanroom suits, hoods, gloves, and boots) and behaviour (minimising movement and speaking, proper cleaning procedures) are essential. All materials brought into a cleanroom undergo rigorous cleaning processes.

7. Future of Cleanrooms

As technology advances, the demand for cleaner manufacturing environments is growing. The development of nanotechnology and the increasing sensitivity of equipment and processes are likely to drive the evolution of cleaner, more advanced cleanrooms. Future trends include more automation to minimise human contamination, advanced materials for construction, and more stringent standards for cleanroom classifications.

Conclusion

Cleanrooms play a crucial role in the manufacturing and researching products that require controlled environments. Their importance spans various industries, and their impact on the quality and safety of products cannot be overstated. The continuous evolution of cleanroom technology reflects the dynamic nature of the industries it serves and underscores its significance in the modern world of manufacturing and research.

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