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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3 Cleanroom Applications that Use Seamless Cleanroom Solutions

3 Cleanroom Applications that Use Seamless Cleanroom Solutions

There are endless types of cleanrooms out there, each with their own cleanroom design, layout, features, ISO classification, and more. With all of the available customizations, each cleanroom application can have a modular cleanroom that is completely tailored to their project needs and goals.

Seamless cleanrooms are a type of modular construction that can be fully customized to any application and built within a facility’s existing structure. They have unique strengths and capabilities that make them ideal for many common cleanroom applications. Let’s take a look at a few industries that use seamless cleanroom solutions to conduct their work.

3 Cleanroom Applications that Use Seamless Cleanroom Solutions

Three common industries that use seamless cleanrooms to provide the ideal, controlled environment for their work are semiconductor , pharmaceutical , and medical device. Let’s take a look at a few of the benefits this cleanroom type offers these diverse applications and why seamless is the perfect cleanroom solution.

Seamless Semiconductor Cleanrooms

Semiconductor cleanrooms require a high level of control during the manufacturing and handling of semiconductors, due to the sensitive nature of the material. They must be able to limit contamination by air and surface particles to an extreme degree, which is why they must comply with ISO 14644-1 Class 5 or lower classification standards. 

Seamless cleanrooms are the best fit for semiconductor applications because their construction prohibits the settling of particles in any crevice where they could build up and contaminate the work in the room. The durable wall panels of a seamless cleanroom are sealed with a resistant shell that won’t corrode or shed particles during cleaning or in case of impact. 

Semiconductor production facilities rely on seamless cleanroom solutions to protect delicate work with fine electronics, silicon wafers, sensors and more.

Seamless Pharmaceutical Cleanrooms

In a pharmaceutical cleanroom, control is key. Even the slightest contamination or stray particle could skew test results, corrupt pharmaceutical products, or put employees at risk. Cleanrooms used in pharmaceutical applications require strict maintenance of air quality protocols. The materials of the cleanroom must be able to withstand thorough and robust cleaning chemicals and procedures without shedding particles or sacrificing environmental control.

Pharmaceutical cleanrooms often use seamless modular construction for the processing and development of beneficial medicines and products. For the critical applications of pharmaceutical research with sensitive substances, a seamless cleanroom solution is able to reach an extreme level of environmental control — protecting both the work and the workers.

Seamless Medical Device Cleanrooms

Medical device cleanrooms require environmental uniformity in order to manufacture, test, and package sensitive devices and medical technology. If particles contaminate medical devices or their packaging during any part of the process, the device could fail and put lives at risk. To avoid this, a seamless cleanroom can be used.

Seamless cleanrooms provide medical device applications with the ultimate control over air and surface particles. With no seams for particles to settle and collect, the cleanroom HVAC and filtration system can be fully effective at removing particles according to stringent ISO classifications. 

This cleanroom application is also susceptible to static electricity, so a seamless antistatic floor material is often used with a seamless cleanroom solution to prevent charges or sparks from corrupting devices or harming employees.

Seamless Cleanroom Design and Construction

Seamless cleanroom solutions are fully customizable and can be built to any cleanroom classification, which makes them an ideal choice for a wide range of applications. 

Your seamless cleanroom includes integration with your cleanroom systems and trades, such as cleanroom HVAC, filtration, lighting, and more. It can be installed in your existing structure and outfitted with all the special features you need to make your project a success.

If you think a seamless cleanroom would be perfect for your application, give the experts at Angstrom Technology a call. We specialize in seamless cleanroom solutions with modular construction, and we consistently deliver industry-leading cleanrooms across the country. Yours could be next.

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What are Semiconductor Cleanrooms?

What are Semiconductor Cleanrooms?

Semiconductors are used in every computerized device, from household objects like your mobile phone or coffeemaker, to complex machines like vehicles, defense technology, or spacecraft. Semiconductor cleanrooms are used in a wide variety of applications to produce semiconductors, manufacture microprocessor chips from semiconductors, and package semiconductor components and products. 

Let’s dive deeper into semiconductor cleanrooms including some common applications, cleanroom classifications, and cleanroom design features.

What are Semiconductor Cleanrooms?

Before we explore the many features of semiconductor cleanrooms, let’s back up and explore what semiconductors are.

What are Semiconductors?

Semiconductors are made using a glassy, solid material of pure silicon, which is shaped in a molten state and then cut into thin wafers. Semiconductors are prized for their special conductive behavior — which behaves both like a metal and insulator — and are a vital ingredient for manufacturing computer circuitry. 

Since the slightest inconsistency can compromise the production of semiconductors, all semiconductor cleanrooms must comply with strict standards to ensure complete sterility of the manufacturing environment.

Semiconductor Cleanroom Applications

Semiconductors are used in many industries, ranging from manufacturing of computers and devices to the development of military technology and equipment. Quality and purity in semiconductor production is crucial to ensuring success of whatever technology they will aid in powering and controlling — which is why extremely controlled semiconductor cleanrooms are essential.

Semiconductor Cleanroom Classifications

Semiconductor cleanrooms often run 24 hours a day due to the high demand for these valuable computer components. The cleanroom classification must be maintained consistently throughout the process — as any drop below strict standards could have disastrous consequences.

Semiconductor cleanrooms typically must comply with the ISO 14644-1 Class 5 or lower, which stipulates a minimum allowed particle count of 3,520 particles 0.5µm or smaller. They must also meet the requirements of ISO 14644-2 which imposes a quality control system in order to maintain strict classification standards.

Semiconductor cleanrooms likely also have industry-specific requirements depending on their unique application, such as ASTM standards or NASA standards for aerospace applications. These work with the ISO classification system to ensure that the environment is always controlled, and the products that come out of it are of a consistent and enduring quality.

Semiconductor Cleanroom Design

Semiconductor cleanrooms require a robust cleanroom design that helps them reach and maintain strict air quality standards, while allowing for easy movement and workflow. This starts with powerful cleanroom HVAC and filtration systems to condition and circulate the air to remove particles up to the allowed limits. Machines within the cleanroom may each have their own exhaust system which removes unclean air and particles. 

Staff working in semiconductor cleanrooms must also be specially outfitted to prevent any contamination. Some semiconductor cleanrooms may have robotic equipment or special safety protocols in place to protect workers from radioactive processes, toxic chemical exposure, lasers, and magnetic fields.

Semiconductor cleanrooms must be designed to control static, particulate matter, out-gassing, and other sources of contamination and compromising conditions to protect workers and consumers, and to ensure success of the project.

Think a semiconductor cleanroom is right for you? Angstrom Technology can help you design, build, and install the perfect cleanroom for you. Using static dissipative materials for flooring, wall panels, furniture, and more, you can trust that your work and employees will always be protected. Give Angstrom Technology a call for all of your cleanroom needs.

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5 Advantages of Rigidwall Automotive Cleanroom

5 Advantages of Rigidwall Automotive Cleanroom

RigidWall cleanrooms make an excellent cleanroom option for many industries. Their sleek appearance, excellent control, and customizable features make them especially suited for automotive cleanrooms. Let’s take a look at 5 advantages RigidWall cleanrooms offer your application in the automotive industry.

#1 RigidWall Cleanrooms Have an Attractive, Minimalist Appearance

Compared to other types of cleanrooms, RigidWall cleanrooms may be one of the most attractive. Their clear, flat panels give your cleanroom a sleek, professional look. They look great, and they also serve another important function: Large, crystal-clear panels are perfect for monitoring activities in the cleanroom while minimizing traffic in and out of the controlled environment. They also make an attractive showcase of your work to investors, executives, and visitors.

#2 RigidWall Cleanrooms Offer Excellent Control of the Cleanroom Environment

RigidWall cleanrooms make an excellent choice for many types of automotive cleanroom applications. Their sleek panels provide flawless floor-to-ceiling protection from outside contaminants, and integration with powerful cleanroom systems helps establish a highly controlled environment you can rely on to maintain your cleanroom classifications. 

RigidWall cleanrooms are recommended for automotive cleanrooms with ISO Classes 5-8 standards, which means they can reach incredibly stringent requirements with ease, and be adjusted to conform to your automotive industry standards.

#3 RigidWall Cleanrooms Have Versatile Layout Options 

While not as lightweight or flexible as SoftWall cleanrooms, RigidWall cleanrooms are incredibly versatile and easy to expand, condense, or reconfigure — and even more flexible than HardWall cleanrooms. Because the panels are modular, they can be removed or added with ease, allowing you to grow your operations seamlessly, or reuse the panels for other purposes in your facility. 

If your automotive cleanroom needs space to evolve, RigidWall cleanrooms can offer custom layout options while maintaining strict cleanliness standards. Talk to a cleanroom designer about building a cleanroom that suits your needs now, and in the future.

#4 RigidWall Cleanrooms are Highly Customizable

Building a modular cleanroom doesn’t mean your cleanroom looks like everyone else’s. RigidWall cleanrooms are built to your exact specifications — your cleanroom classification, your industry standards, and your custom requests. Constructing a modular RigidWall cleanroom gives you the freedom to customize your automotive cleanroom as you see fit. 

As part of your cleanroom design, the RigidWall cleanroom is already built to integrate seamlessly with your cleanroom systems and trades like a powerful cleanroom HVAC, multi-stage filtration, and more. From there, you can add special features to your cleanroom design that will ensure success for your automotive cleanroom application, like flow-through lighting modules, security panels, intercom systems, and safety features such as fire suppression and electro-static discharge materials. 

#5 RigidWall Cleanrooms are Easy to Install

RigidWall modular cleanroom panels are prefabricated with the wiring, insulation, and all the customizations your facility needs to be successful. Once designed and built, the cleanroom panels fit together easily and quickly — the speedy turnaround time for a RigidWall cleanroom is one of the great advantages it can offer your automotive cleanroom application. In just 2-3 days, you can have a fully operational, top-of-the-line, beautiful new RigidWall cleanroom for your automotive facility.

RigidWall cleanrooms provide a highly controlled, yet versatile cleanroom environment. Think a RigidWall modular cleanroom is perfect for your application? Let Angstrom Technology design, build, and install it! Our cleanroom experts can build a cleanroom to your exact specifications and cleanroom classification requirements. Give us a call or reach out online to get a quote.

How to Test Your Cleanroom Classification

How to Test Your Cleanroom Classification

Every cleanroom requires periodic testing to make sure it reaches the necessary particle count allowances for its cleanroom classification. A cleanroom is initially certified once it’s built, and then needs to be retested every 6 to 12 months to ensure it continues to comply with stringent requirements for cleanliness and control. Let’s go over what your cleanroom needs to test its cleanroom classification and how you can test your cleanroom yourself using a particle counter.

Cleanroom Classification Testing Requirements

Document ISO 14644-2, Cleanroom Testing and Compliance, stipulates that all cleanrooms regardless of classification level must be routinely tested for quality. Particle count tests must be performed annually for cleanrooms ISO Class 6 and above, or biannually for ISO Class 5 and below.

Other recommended tests for cleanrooms include:

  • installed filter leakage
  • containment filter leakage
  • recovery
  • airflow visualization

Acceptable Particle Count for Your Cleanroom Classification

 

All cleanrooms have different levels of cleanliness they must reach, as outlined in their cleanroom classification. Careful monitoring and adherence to particle counts helps to maintain cleanliness and quality across ISO cleanroom classifications. 

Here are the accepted levels of particles in each ISO class, designated by number and size:

ISO 14644-1 Cleanroom Standards
ClassMaximum Allowed Particles (per m3)
≥0.2 µm≥0.3 µm≥0.5 µm≥1 µm≥5 µm
ISO 12.371.020.350.0830.0029
ISO 223.710.23.50.830.029
ISO 3237102358.30.29
ISO 42,3701,020352832.9
ISO 523,70010,2003,52083229
ISO 6237,000102,00035,2008,320293
ISO 72.37×1061,020,000352,00083,2002,930
ISO 82.37×1071.02×1073,520,000832,00029,300
ISO 92.37×1081.02×10835,200,0008,320,000293,000

 

How to Test Your Cleanroom Classification

Whether your cleanroom requires formal testing every 6 or 12 months, it’s important to know how to test the particle count in your cleanroom to make sure you are reaching the levels set by your cleanroom classification. Let’s go through the steps of how to test your cleanroom classification using a particle counter.

  • Step 1: Determine how many sample locations you need by using the volume of your cleanroom in cubic meters. Many particle counters will calculate this for you after entering in the area of the space.
  • Step 2: Set the particle counter to record particles of a certain size, and specify the maximum count allowed and the minimum volume to be sampled at each location.
  • Step 3: Perform measurements at each sampling location. Depending on the device you’re using to measure particles, for example a handheld particle counter or a freestanding monitoring system, as well as the airflow velocity in your cleanroom, it may take varying amounts of time to collect measurements to the right volume. You may even need to take several measurements per location, after which you can average the totals.
  • Step 4: Once you have collected an average measurement for each sampling location, add the measurements together and divide by the number of locations to find an average for the entire cleanroom. 
  • Step 5: Determine if your cleanroom meets the requirements of your cleanroom classification by consulting the table above using the number you found from your test. If your cleanroom failed, use your findings from each sampling location to determine where your cleanroom requires improvement.

Your cleanroom requires periodic testing to make sure it reaches the necessary particle count allowances and is effectively maintaining a clean, controlled environment. If you’re concerned that your cleanroom is not reaching the required particle count for your ISO class, talk to the cleanroom experts at Angstrom Technology today. We design, build, and install high-quality cleanrooms that can reach and maintain any cleanroom classification, and would be happy to professionally assess yours and help you meet your standards.

Automotive Cleanroom Classifications

Automotive Cleanroom Classifications

Automotive cleanrooms house and facilitate important operations. Automotive parts manufacturing is responsible for developing vehicles that are more complex than ever before, infused with computerized components that allow them to achieve better things like more reliability, fuel efficiency, and advanced sensor technology. Automotive testing is responsible for preventing mass defects and saving millions of lives — as well as millions of dollars in product recalls. 

These operations must be conducted and closely monitored in strictly controlled environments to ensure top quality vehicles and safety ratings for the end consumer. That’s where automotive cleanroom classifications come into play. They regulate the cleanliness of an automotive cleanroom, as well as the degree to which its systems and processes must perform in order to manage quality and consistency throughout the supply chain.

 

 

Automotive Cleanroom Classifications

 

 

The International Standards Organization developed the set of standards by which all cleanroom industries and applications must follow. The ISO document ISO 14644-1 outlines the requirements for all cleanroom environments, including automotive cleanrooms. 

 

ISO Cleanroom Classifications

 

ISO 14644-1 standards are separated into Classes 1-9, where Class 9 is room air and Class 1 is the cleanest possible environment. Different automotive applications must meet different cleanroom classification standards depending on the unique threats they face to cleanliness and safety, but the majority of automotive cleanrooms fall within ISO 14644-1 Classes 5-8.

ISO 14644-1 Classes each have their own defined level of cleanliness outlined by three parameters: particle size and number, hourly air change rate (or airflow velocity), and percentage of ceiling coverage of fan filter units. 

  • Particle Count: the number of particles of a certain size per cubic meter. As the ISO Class decreases in number, more and smaller particles must be filtered out of the cleanroom air using powerful filters.
  • Air Change Rate: how quickly air is removed, filtered, and replaced within the cleanroom. ISO Classes 5 and lower require air to be changed so regularly it is instead expressed as airflow velocity.
  • Ceiling Coverage: the percentage of the cleanroom ceiling dedicated HEPA filter/fan units, or FFUs. Automotive cleanrooms with more stringent particle count requirements must dedicate a larger percentage of the ceiling space to filter coverage.

ISO requirements can change significantly as the Class number decreases. For example, ISO Class 5 automotive cleanrooms are only allowed a maximum particle count of 3,520 at 0.5 microns per cubic meter, compared to the 352,000 microns of an ISO Class 7 or the 3,520,000 of an ISO Class 8 cleanroom. Certain manufacturing processes, such as those working with electronics and microchips, will require a greater level of process control and may come with more stringent ISO standards. 

 

 

Cleanroom Design for Automotive Cleanroom Classifications

 

 

Automotive cleanrooms must be properly designed to maintain a controlled space, monitor environmental factors, and limit airborne and surface contamination to an acceptable degree, in order to reach their automotive cleanroom classifications.

The cleanroom type as well as the systems and features it contains allow this level of control to exist.

Automotive Cleanroom Types

 

To meet the cleanroom classification requirements of automotive cleanrooms, two cleanroom types can be used. These cleanrooms can be designed to be free-standing or integrate with an existing structure, including walls, windows, HVAC and ventilation equipment. 

  • HardWall cleanrooms allow the highest level of control over environmental factors and can conform to even the most stringent cleanroom classifications of ISO Class 1.
  • RigidWall cleanrooms are also an option for most plastics industry cleanrooms requiring a classification of ISO Class 5-8, and feature a minimalist, clear panel design.

The best fit for each application will depend on its specific classification requirements and industry standards. Both will be durable and high-quality, capable of supporting all your automotive projects, equipment, and systems.

 

Automotive Cleanroom Systems

 

Your automotive cleanroom’s air filtration system is responsible for removing particles from the air, keeping the air pure and helping your cleanroom reach stringent ISO Class standards. Also, the cleanroom HVAC is another vital system responsible for controlling environmental factors like temperature, humidity, and pressure.

Automotive cleanrooms also typically require control of static electricity. Uncontrolled static and electrostatic discharge (ESD) can cause defects in your products or even lead to injury of personnel. If required by your application, you can incorporate a static control system and anti-static and ESD-safe materials into your cleanroom design. 

 

Automotive Cleanroom Features

 

Other automotive cleanroom features, such as cleanroom lighting and cleanroom furniture, allow you to run your day-to-day operations smoothly and efficiently. Lighting systems, from standard to flow through modules, work with a variety of cleanroom types and layouts, and save valuable ceiling space for filtration units.

Automotive cleanrooms are designed to include all the essential furniture, storage, workstations, and surfaces your employees need to stay comfortable and productive. The cleanroom design will also incorporate any oversized, industry-specific equipment and create paths for cranes, carts, and other transport equipment. 

Automotive cleanroom classifications are necessary to regulate the manufacturing environment to ensure product consistency and consumer safety, especially in those applications where the presence of contaminants could be a risk to an employee, buyer, or other drivers. Although they require a bit of work to reach, these standards protect your facility and your personnel, and help you create the best parts and products in the automotive industry.

Interested in designing an automotive cleanroom? With Angstrom Technology, you can have a modular cleanroom designed to meet your specific cleanroom classification requirements, built with everything you need to get it running, and assembled on site by our professional installers. To learn more about our modular automotive cleanrooms, give us a call or reach out online.