Early in the cleanroom design process, all of the cleanroom terminology and jargon can be confusing, especially when designing a controlled environment is a complex process with many factors to take into account. Here’s an explainer on one of those terms, air showers, that may help you determine whether your cleanroom requires an air shower.
What are air showers?
Air showers are enclosed spaces that use high-velocity air jets to remove contaminants from people and items entering the controlled environment. They are placed at all entrances to the cleanroom and are connected to a HEPA or ULPA filtration system. Air showers can be used to prevent contaminants from entering the cleanroom, but they can also be used to remove contaminants from people and objects exiting a quarantine or other controlled environment to prevent cross contamination.
All air showers function in the same way—air blows onto the person or object in the air shower, blowing loose contaminants off before the person or object enters the cleanroom space. The differences are really in size, materials, and filtration system.
The size of your air shower will depend on what needs to pass through it. If only people will be passing through your air shower, then you won’t need a large one (depending on the number of people). However, if carts with product need to enter your cleanroom, your air shower will need to accommodate the person pushing the cart as well as the cart.
Air showers are generally constructed from either steel, aluminum, stainless steel, or plastics. The material used may depend on your budget as well as the application and requirements of the air shower.
Air showers can use HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters or ULPA (ultra-low particulate air) filters, depending on your needs. HEPA filters remove particles greater than or equal to 0.3 µm with 99.99 percent efficiency; ULPA filters remove particles greater than or equal to 0.12 µm with 99.9995 percent efficiency.
Angstrom Technology designs cleanrooms that can incorporate a variety of design features, including air showers. Talk to an engineer today to get started designing your cleanroom.
When first starting the cleanroom design process, a lot of people are confused or intimidated by the new vocabulary, which can be complicated. Suddenly you have to understand classifications and all sorts of design features and figure out which of these are right for your application. Here’s a breakdown of one of the common terms you’ll hear in cleanroom design: airlocks.
What are airlocks?
An airlock is a system of two doors that are electronically interlocked so that both cannot be open at the same time. This can prevent contamination and prevent particles from outside the cleanroom from entering the cleanroom when personnel enter or exit the cleanroom. An airlock system will also help maintain the controlled temperature of a cleanroom space. Airlocks can also be used as security features to prevent unauthorized access to a space.
What kinds of airlocks are there?
There are secure and non-secure airlocks. In a secure airlock system, all doors remain locked until a request to enter is granted. This generally occurs through some kind of request to enter device, like a button or keypad. A non-secure airlock means that the doors remain unlocked until the first door is opened; then, the other doors lock.
You also have the option of making your airlocks supervised or unsupervised. For high-security areas, you may choose to have a supervised airlock, where personnel must press a request to access button and that request must be approved via a CCTV or viewing panel verification system. An unsupervised cleanroom could control access through a biometric reader or keypad to gain access. Such systems are useful where only authorized personnel may enter the cleanroom environment.
Depending on the classification and application of your cleanroom, you might want additional security features in place on your airlock. Some of these include breach alarms, which alert you to when the airlock has been breached and contamination may have occurred, alarms for when a door has been open for too long, and door status indicators. These features can ensure that airlocks serve their purpose and limit outside contamination entering the controlled environment.
If your cleanroom requires an airlock, Angstrom Technology can design a cleanroom that will fit the bill. Talk to one of our design engineers today.
An air shower is designed to function as a sort of gateway controller between your cleanroom and the rest of the world. When used properly, an air shower can cut down on a vast majority of potential contaminants and helps ensure that your product remains safe and uncontaminated. Today, air showers have become relatively commonplace because of their benefits, and comparatively small price. So what exactly does the term cleanroom air shower mean, and why does your cleanroom need one?
How Does a Cleanroom Air Shower Work?
Well, first let’s start with how a cleanroom air shower works. Essentially, it functions as a high velocity, low pressure, self-contained system. To clarify terms, the air shower is the actual high-velocity airflow fan that turns on once the employee is in the room, and the room itself, with dual locking doors, is called the air lock. For the sake of brevity, we will refer to the system as a whole as an air shower.
In a one-person air shower, the airlock has two doors that cannot be opened at the same time. The employee enters the room from the outside, the doors lock, and then the air shower begins blowing air in what we call a “flapping manner,” or high-velocity streams. These streams of air effectively “scrub” the employee of any lingering particulate, blowing them to the low-pressure side of the room. Typically, an employee will be cleaned for 4 to 8 seconds, and then will wait for an additional 2-4 seconds for the room to be purged of the contaminants. The second door, leading to the actual cleanroom, will then be unlocked, allowing the employee contaminant free entry into the production area.
Most smaller cleanrooms equipped with an air shower simply implement a one-person air shower, but cleanroom air showers do exist for many employees at once. These larger air showers are built kind of like tunnels and are beneficial for operations that have a shift change of 30-40 employees at a time.
Why Do You Need a Cleanroom Air Shower?
Well, if you think about it, why wouldn’t you? A cleanroom air shower provides your product and your employees with an extra layer of protection from any harmful contaminants or particles that could make their way into your cleanroom. One instance of too much particulate can result in a ruined batch of pharmaceuticals or a malfunctioning piece of electrical equipment. An air shower functions to prevent these major issues from happening. They’re also a helpful reminder to employees about the importance of remaining particulate-free. And on the off chance that an employee wasn’t as careful as they should have been when donning a gown, an air shower will help ensure that any extra particulate is scrubbed off before they enter a contaminant-free space.
Is a Cleanroom Air Shower Worth the Cost?
It always comes down to the bottom line. Clearly, air showers are effective, but are they worth the additional cost? Well, believe it or not, an air shower actually adds up to just a tiny percentage of an overall cleanroom installation fee. Compared to the rest of the cleanroom that you’re paying for, the cost of a cleanroom air shower is simply minuscule. Add that to the fact that if an air shower prevents even one contamination of a pharmaceutical batch, you’re saving way more than the air shower even cost you, making its price a very small concern. If you’re in the following applications, an air shower can save you big bucks in mistakes and contaminated product:
In addition to the money an air shower saves you in product consistency, cleanroom air showers have also proven to increase cleanroom efficiency, and lower the amount of particulate buildup within the cleanroom itself. Since the air shower is ensuring that as much particulate as possible is eliminated before anyone enters the cleanroom, less particulate buildup occurs over time. This means that a cleanroom with an air shower will require less maintenance than a cleanroom without. It also means that a cleanroom with an air shower will put less stress on HEPA filters–making them more efficient–since they won’t have to work as hard with additional particulate and contaminants.
No matter the cleanroom application, an air shower is guaranteed to decrease particulate and the presence of contaminants. And when it costs just a fraction of the price of your cleanroom itself, it’s a practical addition to your project. If you have more questions about cleanrooms, or if you’re considering adding an air shower to your new or existing cleanroom project, make sure to give the experts at Angstrom a call! We’d love to answer any questions or help you design a cleanroom that’s perfect for your application, your space, and your budget. Call our office at 888-768-6900 or submit a free request for a cleanroom quote online today!
And if you’re looking for more information on cleanroom design, or you’re hoping to get started on your new cleanroom construction project, make sure to check out our Cleanroom Project Design Guide below!
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