What Not to Wear: Cleanroom Edition

What Not to Wear: Cleanroom Edition

Obviously, your cleanroom’s construction and air filtration system are critical factors in keeping your cleanroom contamination-free, but so is what people wear in the cleanroom. People and fabrics are major sources of contaminants, and it’s crucial your control those sources with proper attire. Here’s what (and what not) to wear in a cleanroom:

Do’s:

  • Hoods
  • Hair Covers
  • Coveralls
  • Intersuits
  • Boots or shoe covers
  • Facial Covers
  • Gloves
  • Frocks

Depending on the classification of your cleanroom, there may be different requirements for the garments you have to wear. For instance, an ISO 3 Class (Fed Std. Class 1) cleanroom will likely require all of the garments listed in the “do’s” above, and will likely require that those garments be changed for new or cleaned ones every time you enter the cleanroom, whereas an ISO Class 5 cleanroom will require most of those garments, to be changed every day, and an ISO Class 8 cleanroom will require only some of those garments and that they be changed every two weeks.

Don’ts:

  • Makeup
  • Long hair (uncovered or not pulled back)
  • Fibrous sweaters or materials that shed
  • Materials that cause static
  • Dirty clothes or shoes
  • Extremely loose or baggy clothing
  • Shorts, tank tops, or other clothing that has cutouts or exposes skin

The “don’ts” here are don’ts because these items can bring contamination into the cleanroom. Dirty clothes and shoes are the most obvious of these contaminators, but a lot of contamination can come from the skin and hair cells we lose every day without us even knowing. Makeup can also shed from the skin and cause contamination, as can the fibers from clothing.

If you’re updating your current cleanroom, or starting from scratch, call the experts at Angstrom Technology.

Best Practices for Working in a Cleanroom

Best Practices for Working in a Cleanroom

Whether you’ve been working in cleanroom environments for 20 years or it’s your first day on the job, a reminder of the basic best practices for working in a cleanroom can always be of use. Here are some things to keep in mind and implement when working in controlled environments:

  1. Follow written procedures

Written laboratory procedures exist for a reason: your safety, product safety, process integrity, cleanroom integrity, customer specifications, and legal compliance, to name a few of the major reasons. Going off script could cause major harm at worst, and at best, save you a few minutes time—hardly a worthwhile trade-off.

  1. Wear proper PPE

Again, this is about safety. Many cleanroom applications deal with hazardous or toxic chemicals and materials, and so wearing the required personal protective equipment, whether it’s gloves, goggles, or just safety glasses, is a must.

  1. Wear proper attire

If your cleanroom has a dress code or a specific gowning procedure, following it is crucial to minimizing contamination from outside as well as from your self, clothes, fibers, skin particles, etc.

  1. Don’t leave doors open

This one is obvious, but worth repeating: open doors let contamination in.

  1. Don’t leave hazardous materials out

Leaving hazardous materials unattended and out when not in use can lead to chemical spills and other accidents that are dangerous to personnel and compromise the cleanroom environment.

  1. Use a fume hood

When working with hazardous chemicals, using a fume hood is critical to keeping vapors and particles out of the air, protecting you and the cleanroom environment.

  1. Report issues immediately

From injuries and accidents to broken equipment, reporting any issues immediately is necessary for resolving them quickly and preventing bigger problems down the line.

Is it time to upgrade your cleanroom? Give Angstrom Technology a call.

Choosing the Right Cleanroom Design and Installation Company

Choosing the Right Cleanroom Design and Installation Company

For facilities requiring a clean environment, the cleanroom itself is a crucial component. As a general contractor or builder, you know that finding the right company to design/build and service, your cleanroom is a critical part of your projects success. How do you choose the right cleanroom design company? Here are some qualities a good cleanroom design company should have:

Good communication—quick response times

Communication is essential in any construction project, and it’s vital for subcontracted work. The cleanroom design company that you chose should give respond quickly with a budgetary quote, and be able to answer any technical questions you may have in the design/build portion of your project. Once the project is underway supply you with weekly project updates, keeping your timeline in check.

Fast lead times and ability to meet deadlines

You don’t have months and months to get this cleanroom constructed—you need it done quickly and efficiently, within your timeframe. You have deadlines that you have to meet, and the cleanroom designer should understand and respect that. Given a reasonable amount of time and all the necessary information to complete the cleanroom project, a good cleanroom design firm should be able to make quick turnaround times and keep the cleanroom, and therefore the rest of your project, on schedule.

Customization capabilities

Good cleanroom designers will work with you to create the right cleanroom for the client, and this may include custom requests. Good designers aren’t inflexible—they won’t just provide a boilerplate, cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all cleanroom, because the needs of each client are unique, based upon cleanroom application and other circumstances. The cleanroom design firm you choose should be willing and able to design custom elements such as casework, cleanroom benches, and tables, to fit the client’s specific needs.

Ability to stay on budget   

Cleanrooms can be an enormous cost for your client, and as such, the budget must be respected. If a cleanroom designer can’t stick to the agreed-upon budget, the project can’t succeed, and problems will arise for all parties, the cleanroom design company, you, and the client. Good cleanroom designers will be able to provide a workable cleanroom design within budget constraints.

Selecting the best company for your cleanroom design and installation project is the first and most essential step in providing your client with the cleanroom their company needs. Finding a cleanroom design company with good communication practices, quick turnaround times, the ability to customize, and budget-consciousness will ensure that your cleanroom design is a success.

If you’re tasked with a cleanroom design project and have questions about designing a new cleanroom, give the experts at Angstrom a call. We install all kinds cleanrooms and have a selection of necessary cleanroom equipment and supplies.

What is the Difference Between a Controlled Environment and a Cleanroom?

What is the Difference Between a Controlled Environment and a Cleanroom?

The words cleanroom and controlled environment are often used interchangeably when talking about environment control in critical spaces. But there is a difference, and that difference is crucial. When it comes to controlled environments vs. cleanrooms, here’s what you need to know:

 

What’s a controlled environment?

 

A controlled environment, or critical environment, is an area that must have certain parameters controlled, specifically, pressure, temperature, and segregation. Many laboratories are considered controlled environments, as they have controlled temperature and pressure and are separated from other operations, such as manufacturing or shipping. Unlike cleanrooms, controlled environments do not necessarily have to meet certain standards for particle contamination.

 

What’s a cleanroom?

 

A cleanroom is a type of controlled environment, but one with much more stringent requirements. Cleanrooms require temperature and pressure control, as well as separation from the outside environment and other operations, but these things must be controlled to specific standards. Cleanrooms are classified by the maximum acceptable numbers of particles (by size) in the air per cubic meter, and must be regularly tested to ensure compliance to that standard (see more about cleanroom classifications here). Compared with other controlled environments, cleanrooms may require more energy, air, and advanced technology to maintain the cleanroom conditions.

 

Which do I need, a cleanroom or a controlled environment?

 

This depends on two factors: your application and your industry. If you’re packaging medical devices, you’ll need an ISO class 7 complaint cleanroom, or higher. If you have a process control laboratory for a chrome plating company, you aren’t required to meet a specific ISO classification, but definitely need to control the environment. You may even have different needs within your facility; you may need a controlled storage environment for sensitive materials that may not need to meet cleanroom standards, but have and ISO class 8 cleanroom for quality control testing.

 

Angstrom has the experience and knowledge to design the right cleanroom for your application. Contact us today to find out more!

How to Control Humidity in Your Cleanroom

How to Control Humidity in Your Cleanroom

Controlling the humidity in your cleanroom is crucial, not only to meet government and company specifications, but to protect the integrity of your processes and product. If the humidity is too high, bacterial growth can flourish, metal products or equipment can corrode, photolithographic degradation can occur, and condensation and water absorption can occur. If the humidity is too low, static buildup and discharge can become an issue. Plus, poorly controlled humidity can make working conditions uncomfortable for your employees. What are some of the methods you can use to control humidity in your cleanroom?

Air conditioning/mechanical refrigeration

Humidity is relative, meaning that the lower the temperature is, the lower the relative humidity is. It makes sense then if you lower the temperature in the space, the humidity will decrease. When using air conditioning systems to dehumidify a space, the system lowers the temperature of a surface to a temperature below the dew point of the airstream in the cleanroom. The surface is exposed to the airstream in the cleanroom, and the water vapor in the airstream condenses, subsequently dehumidifying the space. To maintain the desired room temperature, the air must be re-heated and piped back into the cleanroom.

Desiccants

Desiccant systems draw air through a desiccant medium, which absorbs moisture. The dehumidified air is then routed to the cleanroom. Unlike consumer-grade desiccant systems, which collect condensate in a receptacle that must be emptied (if you’ve ever had a dehumidifier in your home, say in a finished basement, which can trap moisture, you’ll recall having to empty the condensed water), commercial systems exhaust humid air through the ductwork, out of the building. This allows for greater dehumidifying power and the ability to dehumidify to lower relative humidity levels at lower temperatures.

These systems are not mutually exclusive, in fact, both work best when used in conjunction, especially where temperature control is also important, as in a cleanroom. Using a desiccant system in addition to air conditioning can also help reduce the load on the HVAC system, saving energy, wear and tear on the HVAC system, and, of course, money.

Humidity control is absolutely critical in some cleanroom applications, such as semiconductor manufacturing and pharmaceutical manufacturing, but it is an important consideration no matter your application. Monitoring and controlling your cleanroom humidity, whether through air conditioning/mechanical refrigeration, a desiccant system, or both, is necessary to meet your cleanroom’s specifications and to ensure cleanroom integrity.   

No matter your application, Angstrom can design a cleanroom to meet your cleanroom needs. Contact us to discuss your cleanroom project.

Design Options to Reduce Your Cleanroom Budget

Design Options to Reduce Your Cleanroom Budget

When you’re commissioning a new cleanroom, it can feel like a necessary evil. You need a cleanroom to start operations, but it costs a lot of money that you might not have available in the budget at the time. It’s a bit of a Catch-22. At this point, you’re probably looking for anything that will get you the cleanroom you need in the time frame you have. Luckily, there are a variety of design options that can solve some of the most common budget concerns. Here are a few cost-cutting design options to keep in mind when you’re looking for a cleanroom now:

Go Modular

One of the absolute quickest and easiest ways to save money on a cleanroom design is to opt for a modular cleanroom over a traditional cleanroom. In most cases, this is a perfectly valid solution, as modular cleanrooms can perform to almost all of the highest cleanroom standards. Additionally, modular cleanrooms can be modified to accommodate business expansions. And most importantly, they’re cheaper and quicker to build than your traditional cleanroom. When you opt for a modular cleanroom, you can get the cleanroom you can afford now without barring yourself from expanding to the larger cleanroom you really want in the future. If budget is an issue, modular cleanrooms are the way to save.


Make it Smaller

Sure, you want a cleanroom that’s big enough to handle the processes you plan on implementing in the future, but can you get by with something smaller for the time being? In the case of modular cleanrooms, there’s a lot you can do to get by with a smaller cleanroom. For example, you can use an existing wall and build your modular cleanroom off of that, which will reduce building and material costs. Remember, you can always build off of that existing cleanroom, or move it to a larger space down the road.

Additionally, by choosing a cleanroom design with a lower ceiling, you’ll also save money when it comes to energy and material costs. The smaller your cleanroom is, the less money it will cost to run it, and the less energy you’ll need to keep it to your ISO standard. If you can get by with a cleanroom with a lower ceiling and a more conservative size, and you need a cleanroom right now, then it’s not a bad idea to start small and expand later on. It’s good to note, though, that if you plan on expanding, to make sure you tell your cleanroom expert. They’ll be able to walk you through the best way to construct a cleanroom that works for you now, but will be compatible with additional processes when you do expand in the future.


Consider LED lighting

Cleanroom lighting makes up a large portion of the money spent on maintaining a cleanroom. Cleanrooms often require super-bright lighting options. While these lights are great at keeping the room well lit for employees, they’re often responsible for adding a surprising amount of additional heat to a cleanroom. This forces your AC unit to work even harder, which results in a spike in overall energy costs.

Today, there are a variety of LED cleanroom lighting options on the market that solve this problem. You can choose from a standard panel style to a strip style LED light that adheres to directly to the ceiling grid, without interfering with your cleanrooms’ laminar flow. LED lights produce little to no additional heat, and have an exceptionally long life, ensuring that you don’t have to constantly replace light bulbs and keeping your cleanroom cool.


Use your existing AC unit

Another great way to save money is to design a cleanroom that will function on your building’s existing HVAC or heating and cooling unit. This is an efficient way to control the temperature of your cleanroom, so long as your building’s unit can handle the extra load that your new cleanroom will add. Consult with your building’s heating and cooling expert to ensure the unit can handle that much energy, and if it can, you’re in luck!

It is good to note that some cleanroom class standards do require a cleanroom have its own AC module, in case the central unit fails. In this case, or in the case that your central unit is already overworked, you’ll need to ensure your cleanroom is properly ventilated to the outside. Though it’s usually cheaper to ventilate a cleanroom into the larger building, this puts a lot of additional stress on both your cleanrooms AC unit and the HVAC unit in the building. Avoid this if possible, to keep both units working in top condition for their intended lifespan.


Pre-Filters

We get a lot of questions from clients wondering if pre-filters are an acceptable option to use in conjunction with heavy duty HEPA and ULPA filters. The answer is definitely yes! Pre-filters are put in front of the larger filters and can be up to 80% efficient at capturing larger dust particles before they reach the HEPA and ULPA filters. This keeps your larger, more important filters cleaner for longer. Pre-filters are relatively inexpensive and easily cleaned and reused. By using pre-filters in addition to your HEPA or ULPA filters, you extend those more expensive filters’ lifetime and save yourself quite a bit of money.


Pass-Thru Chambers

Pass-thru chambers are another sneaky way to save money on your cleanroom. They’re a lot smaller than an access door, and they allow employees to transfer supplies or materials without having to gown up. This saves both money and time: money because in using a pass-thru chamber instead of a full door, you eliminate the possibility of contamination from foot-traffic and maintain a stable pressure during the interaction; and time because your employees won’t have to properly gown up to enter the cleanroom via the access door. In installing a pass-thru chamber as part of your new cleanroom design, you’ll save money by lowering energy costs and increasing employee productivity.

 

We hope that this list helps you find a cleanroom that works both for your application and your budget. If you have more questions regarding a cleanroom design that works for you, make sure to give the experts at Angstrom a call! We’re always here to help answer any cleanroom questions you can throw at us, so get in touch with our office at 888-768-6900, or request a cleanroom quote online today!