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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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.

How to Choose a Fan Filter Unit for your Cleanroom

How to Choose a Fan Filter Unit for your Cleanroom

In order to ensure your facility is meeting required cleanliness standards, fan filter units (FFU) are a critical component of your cleanroom design. Let’s explore more about fan filter units: how they work, what types there are, and how to choose the right one for your cleanroom.

What Is a Fan Filter Unit?

A fan filter unit is an independent filtration system mounted in a modular cleanroom ceiling grid that is used in conjunction with an air handling unit or HVAC system. It contains a fan, a pre-filter, and a filter (either HEPA or ULPA). In most cleanrooms, multiple fan filter units are installed in the cleanroom ceiling grid and are designed to provide a consistently treated workspace, minimizing dead zones.

Individual fan filter units can be added and subtracted according to the size and necessary ISO Class regulations. In general, the bigger your cleanroom, and the more stringent your ISO Class, the more fan filter units your cleanroom will likely need.

How Does a Fan Filter Unit Work?

Fan filter units work by continuously pushing clean, filtered air into your cleanroom. Air travels through a pre-filter, through the fan, and then through the HEPA or ULPA filter that treats and filters out airborne particles prior to entering your cleanroom.

When Do You Use a Fan Filter Unit for a Cleanroom?

Fan filter units provide a number of advantages over traditional air handling units. Here are a few reasons you may consider using fan filter units for your cleanroom:

  • Easy to install – Because they are mounted in the cleanroom ceiling grid, fan filter units are easy to install and are easily accessible from within the cleanroom.2
  • Easy to modify – As your facility grows and changes, your filtration system can too. Fan filter units can easily be added into the ceiling grid if you have to meet increased cleanliness requirements in the future.
  • Cost-effective – Fan filter units are generally less expensive than a completely new air system, both in terms of production cost and installation cost.

Types of Fan Filter Units: PSC vs. ECM

While all fan filter units function in generally the same way, there are two types of motors that commonly power a cleanroom FFU: permanent split capacitors (PSC) and electronically commutated motors (ECM). Each motor functions a little differently, providing distinct advantages depending on which option you choose. PSC motors operate at one consistent speed, while ECM motors have a variable speed drive and can adjust speed based on application requirements.

PSC vs. ECM: Which Fan Filter Unit is Right for Your Cleanroom?

Both of these are reliable options, guaranteed to provide the filtration your cleanroom needs. However, ECM units are often the best choice to help you meet your cleanroom goals and maximize treated space.

The Benefits of an ECM Fan Filter Unit

ECM fan filter units are known to be air-treating powerhouses for a range of applications — especially if those applications require varying filtration speeds. Its variable speed drive includes numerous benefits, including:

  • Smooth operation in inconsistent conditions
  • Great durability for big, long-haul projects
  • Energy-saving technology to help you reduce utility costs

Looking for a cleanroom that incorporates high performance filter fan units? Angstrom Technology can design a cleanroom to accommodate any equipment for your application. Contact us today to get started.

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Are Modular Cleanrooms Environmentally Friendly?

Are Modular Cleanrooms Environmentally Friendly?

Manufacturers and production facilities across the nation are on a continuous search for sustainable solutions. Of course, sustainable solutions help production facilities, labs, and fabrication plants do their part in protecting our environment and natural resources, but there’s even more to it than that.

Whether it be an increased focus on corporate social responsibility, a push towards sustainable business incentives, and/or an effort to get ahead of changing environmental restrictions, there’s a lot of value in going green.

The good news for any facility looking to build or install a modular cleanroom? Modular cleanrooms are environmentally friendly. Designed with sustainable technologies and materials, cleanrooms are helping everyone from automotive and aerospace manufacturers to pharmaceutical laboratories go just a little more green. Read on for more details.

3 “Green” Aspects of Modular Cleanroom Design

Modular cleanroom design has always been less wasteful than other construction methods, but over the years, modular cleanroom design has evolved to include more sustainable features. Cleanroom manufacturers and suppliers have taken initiatives to eliminate excess waste, conserve natural resources, and build for long lasting performance. Here, we’ll explore three green aspects of modular cleanroom design:

1. Recycled Air

Modern cleanroom technology uses fan filter units to continuously reuse and recirculate air. Originally, these fan filters were designed to ensure consistent air temperature, humidity, and cleanliness, but they were soon recognized for their sustainable features as well. Instead of the air being disposed of as waste, it’s now recycled, cutting down on environmental impact as less air has to be treated and conditioned to keep your cleanroom clean.

Another consideration: cleanroom air isn’t free. In fact, it can be rather expensive to treat. Therefore, recycling air through a fan filter unit can be a win-win in terms of sustainability and cost savings.

2. Recycled Materials

Modular cleanrooms are built with a lot of recycled materials, drastically reducing their environmental impact during the construction phase. Some frequently-used recycled materials include:

  • Aluminum framework – Aluminum is almost completely recyclable, and most aluminum used in modular construction today is already made from scrap metal. In modular cleanrooms, this environmentally-friendly material is used to construct cleanroom ceiling grids and other supporting foundations.
  • Gypsum board – Gypsum is a sustainable, durable material that can last up to 50 years, and it’s used to form the wall panels of many modular cleanrooms. Though it may not be right for every cleanroom, it’s an environmentally-friendly option should your ISO Class allow for it.

Apart from those materials, there are a few things modular cleanroom manufacturers may do to keep their services environmentally friendly as well. At Angstrom Technology, we use 100% recyclable packaging designed to protect all parts during transportation, and we ensure our systems are delivered ready for installation. This way, there is no dust, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), or construction debris left at the facility.

3. Built for Long-Term Sustainability

Modular cleanrooms are designed for long-term use. They’re highly durable and require very little maintenance, reducing the need for any new replacement materials.

Beyond their durability, modular cleanrooms are also designed to grow with your facility. Modular cleanroom components can be broken down and reassembled easily, making reconfiguration, addition, and relocation of your cleanroom easy processes. As your facility grows and changes, you don’t need to construct an entirely new cleanroom. Save time, money, materials, and even the environment by opting for a modular option you can reconfigure for decades to come.

Why Choose Environmentally Friendly Modular Cleanrooms?

From natural resources to transportation to materials, modular cleanrooms are guaranteed to reduce waste. If you’re looking to build a more sustainable production facility, modular cleanroom components deliver a sustainable solution that will grow with your business and display exceptional performance over time.

If you’re interested in learning more about modular cleanroom design, check out our Cleanroom Design Guide or get in touch with one of the cleanroom design engineers at Angstrom Technology.

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4 Questions to Ask Before Starting Automotive Cleanroom Construction

4 Questions to Ask Before Starting Automotive Cleanroom Construction

There’s a lot of planning involved in automotive cleanroom construction. From layout design to operational components, you need to figure out what you need and how to implement it before you start building.

Many experienced cleanroom designers and engineers have streamlined this process. However, it’s important to be certain that you’ve got all the details in line so you can get production started without any hiccups. From the experts at Angstrom Technology, here’s a checklist of four questions to ask yourself before starting your automotive cleanroom construction project.

1. What Processes Will Be Housed Within My Cleanroom?

Within an automotive cleanroom, there are various applications that ensure automotive parts are produced, cleaned, and packaged safely. Some of these applications include.

  • Research and development
  • Component manufacturing
  • Assembly
  • Testing
  • Packaging

Each of these applications include different manufacturing processes, which also call for differences in humidity, temperature, pressure, and particle contamination. These differences can change the type, design, and level of cleanliness of the cleanroom you choose to construct.

Other process-related elements that could alter your cleanroom plan include: how many personnel access it, how often they access it, and what protective gear they wear when they access it.

2. What Are My Automotive Cleanroom’s ISO Class Requirements?

Automotive cleanrooms are controlled environments where air and surface particle contamination is limited. They’re grouped into various cleanliness classification groups created by the International Standards Organization (ISO). Based on the allowed size and number of particles, rate of air change, and percentage of ceiling coverage with fan filter units, cleanrooms are placed into an ISO Class.

ISO Classes are ranked 1-9, with Class 1 having the most stringent regulations and Class 9 having the most lenient regulations. Most automotive cleanrooms fall into ISO Classes 5-8, but this could vary depending on your application’s specific cleanliness and worker safety requirements. By determining which ISO Class you need, you can make a more informed choice of which type of cleanroom will give you the best results.

3. How Much Space Do I Need for My Automotive Cleanroom?

Your cleanroom will only work if it provides the allotment of space necessary for your application. While some cleanrooms are relatively small in size, automotive cleanrooms occasionally require larger equipment clearances. You’ll want to plan for that ahead of time.

It’s also valuable to keep in mind that cleanrooms are built for long-term use. This means that they’re able to grow and adapt based on your facility’s changing needs. You can add to them, reconfigure them, and relocate them as you need, as long as your changes comply with U.S. building and safety codes. With that in mind, it’s best to plan and design for the space you need now, and have peace of mind knowing you can always expand down the road.

4. What Type of Air Pressure Does My Cleanroom Need?

Cleanroom air pressure is divided into two categories: positive and negative air pressure. Basically, the type of air pressure determines what is being protected by installing a cleanroom.

Positive air pressure is achieved by pumping clean, filtered air into your cleanroom. This makes the air pressure inside your cleanroom greater than the pressure outside of it. It’s meant to protect whatever is inside the cleanroom from being contaminated by the surrounding environment.

Negative air pressure is achieved by filtering air out of the room. This makes the pressure inside your cleanroom lower than the pressure outside it. It’s meant to keep possible contamination from escaping the cleanroom.

Some automotive applications like electronic manufacturing require positive air pressure to ensure products are clean and safe for us. On the other hand, some automotive manufacturing applications, like applying special paints and part coatings, can be harmful to human health. In these situations, you may prefer negative air pressure to ensure those VOCs and harmful chemicals aren’t released into the rest of the facility.

Have more questions about designing and constructing a cleanroom for your automotive application? Give the experts at Angstrom Technology a call or contact us online! We’d be happy to walk through your specific requirements and help you get the best cleanroom installed in your space.

3 Biggest Threats to Semiconductor Cleanrooms

3 Biggest Threats to Semiconductor Cleanrooms

Work involving semiconductors requires sensitive processes and a highly controlled environment. While the right cleanroom can help achieve this control and minimize risks, there are still a number of factors that threaten semiconductor cleanrooms

Let’s take a look at how these factors affect the semiconductor industry and how to design cleanrooms to defend against them.

 

3 Biggest Threats to Semiconductor Cleanrooms

 

Humidity, static electricity, and human contamination. Although they may seem harmless when encountered in day-to-day life, in semiconductor cleanrooms, these three factors can pose significant threats to productivity, products, and staff.

 

#1 Humidity in Semiconductor Cleanrooms

 

Many products developed, manufactured, and tested in semiconductor cleanrooms are sensitive to moisture, so control of relative humidity (RH) is crucial. Most semiconductor cleanrooms must maintain RH at 35-65% in addition to temperatures at 70 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.

Even within that range, fluctuating humidity can present many threats — both to productivity and product quality — from inconsistent bake-out times, evaporation of solvents, surface swelling and corrosion, and generally control during production.

To control and maintain RH, semiconductor cleanrooms require powerful HVAC systems to treat the air before it’s filtered into the space. These HVAC systems are often independently dedicated to the cleanroom to minimize risk of contamination.

 

#2 Static Electricity in Semiconductor Cleanrooms

 

Static electricity on a microscopic level is a leading cause for defects of silicon wafers and semiconductors. Static corrupts materials by drawing and adhering fine particles to the products’ surface, which can cause product rejection or failure.

Electrostatic discharge (ESD) can also pose a serious threat to worker safety. When static charges are allowed to build up, they can release suddenly in an uncontrolled manner and harm employees — either through electric shock or involuntary movement. 

Preventing static buildup starts with cleanroom design. Conductive materials are often more effective than insulative materials in sensitive applications like semiconductor cleanrooms. Conductive materials allow electrons to flow quickly away from areas where they could build up and direct them safely to ground.

 

#3 Human Contamination in Semiconductor Cleanrooms

 

Maybe the biggest threat to semiconductor cleanrooms is the human factor. From generating ESD to the tendency to shed contaminating particles, controlling humans in the cleanroom is one of the most challenging aspects of cleanroom design, yet also one of the most essential.

Gowns, gloves, hearing protection, and other PPE work to protect semiconductor processes from the human element, but they also protect workers from dangers in the cleanroom setting in accordance with ANSI and OSHA requirements. These threats include chemical exposure, fumes, static charges, and more. 

Even with a thorough gowning protocol, semiconductor cleanrooms require extra protection against airborne contamination. In addition to powerful HEPA filters in ceiling units, semiconductor cleanrooms may require ULPA filters to capture more and smaller particles, as well as the placement of filters in the make-up air handler and return air handler.

 

Semiconductor Cleanroom Design Considerations

 

The manufacturing and development of semiconductors and related products is highly sensitive and requires every system in the cleanroom to work together in order to comply with strict standards of cleanliness. Most semiconductor cleanrooms fall within ISO Class 5 or cleaner requirements, which means they have some of the most stringent particle count requirements of any other industry.

As factors like humidity, static electricity, and human contamination continue to threaten cleanroom processes and personnel, semiconductor cleanroom design must be able to address each one: using a powerful HVAC system, multi-stage filtration system, and antistatic and conductive materials. 

No matter the environmental factors you need to control, Angstrom Technology can engineer the ideal cleanroom for your application. Let us use our extensive industry experience to guide you through the design process. We can deliver the turnkey cleanroom solution you’ve been searching for. Give our team a call to get started.

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