If you’re working on putting together a design for your cleanroom, you’ve likely noticed that there isn’t a ton of helpful information out there. That’s because up until recently, most buyers just hired a contractor they felt they could trust, and left it at that. But if you’re here, it’s likely because you’re a part of the newer generation of buyer: the savvy, researching buyer who wants all the information before you even head to a cleanroom manufacturing pro.
Well, we’re here to help you out as best we can. We know it can be tough to find the info you’re looking for when it comes to cleanroom components, so we put together this blog to help you figure out your options for cleanroom walls. First things first, what are the most basic components you need for a successful cleanroom wall that upholds your application’s standards?
When it comes to cleanroom walls, you’re really looking for two things: smooth, dust-free surfaces. But finding the type of surface that’s perfect for your operation is a bit easier said than done. To determine what wall material type is best for you, there are a couple of considerations to keep in mind:
One of the biggest concerns for any new cleanroom, you need to decide how flexible your cleanroom should be. If you plan on housing it in the same building for a decade or more, then you can probably get by with cheaper wall options. Drywall coated with epoxy paint is, at first glance, the easiest way to go about cleanroom walls. You literally just take your building’s existing walls and paint them with an epoxy coating that’s rated for cleanrooms. The only problem with painted drywall is that those will be the walls you’re stuck with now and forever. When it comes to stick-built cleanrooms, there’s very little option for rearranging or expanding the space you started with.
If you think your cleanroom is likely to expand once business gets underway, then a modular cleanroom with moveable wall panels might be the better option. It’s true that the materials might cost a bit more upfront, but you’ll also want to consider what you’d be getting for that additional fee. Modular cleanroom wall panels are typically manufactured out of materials that are scratch and damage resistant. This is helpful because if something runs into one of your modular wall panels, you don’t have to worry about drywall particulate below an epoxy coating seeping out and contaminating your cleanroom. If a modular wall panel gets a scratch, there’s very little cause for concern, and in most cases, you can return to business as usual. Worst case scenario: if the damage is substantial, you can simply call for one replacement panel, which is easily fitted into your existing system in no time at all.
Once you’ve decided whether you’ll be going with fixed or modular cleanroom walls, it’s time to consider the cleaning agents you’ll be using on those walls. Every cleanroom classification is different and requires different levels of sterilization. Pharmaceutical cleanrooms, for example, have to be sterilized with very harsh chemicals multiple times a day. In this situation, you need a wall exterior material that can hold up to those chemicals without warping, corroding, or melting. Applications that use super-strong cleaning materials typically need walls made from stainless steel, which are then coated with a cleanroom specific paint or coating.
On the other side of the coin, if you plan on cleaning your cleanroom regularly, but don’t need to be using the highest grade cleaning supplies on the market, options like vinyl or fiberglass panels are a more cost effective choice. When you’re using lower grade cleaning materials, then you really just need a wall panel that’s going to prevent bacteria and particulate from sticking to it. You won’t have to worry about harsh chemicals eating through coatings and materials, and causing a lot of particulate buildup within your cleanroom.
As we mentioned before, durability can play a big role in your choice of cleanroom wall material. Depending on your application, you’ll need varying levels of material durability. Some materials, like lightweight vinyl modular wall panels, or epoxy coated drywall, can be easy to scratch. When the protective coatings of these types of walls are scratched, the material underneath is exposed and can give off dangerous particulate that can interfere with your processes.
What’s more, some wall materials just start to give off particulate as they age. For example, wood core wall panels are a fairly popular choice for many mid-class cleanrooms, because they’re very sturdy, affordable, and provide decent insulation. They’re an unacceptable choice for sub-Class 1 cleanrooms, however, because as wood ages, it gives off particulate in flakes and splinters. Cleanrooms with more intensive standards are typically best served by walls made primarily of aluminum structure. Aluminum is lightweight, durable, and best of all, doesn’t give off particulate as it ages. That said, it is a more costly option. So if your cleanroom doesn’t need quite that level of cleanliness, you might choose a less expensive option.
Perhaps the biggest consideration that goes into your cleanroom wall material decision, you have to stick to a certain budget. What’s different about cleanrooms is that most of the money you put into them goes into the airflow, the expensive filtration systems, and the energy you have to use to keep your cleanroom functioning properly. Because of this, a lot of cleanrooms don’t look as expensive as they actually are. Your cleanroom walls can be one of the least costly aspects of your cleanroom as they are relatively low-tech. If you’re looking for some area of the project where you can save money, this is certainly it. At the end of the day, most companies’ cleanroom wall choice comes down to cosmetic preference. There are so many options for cleanroom walls, from epoxy coated drywall and panels to vinyl and fiberglass panels, that you shouldn’t have to worry about spending a high percentage of your budget on walls.
That said, know that there are quite a few companies who do spend more on their walls because they want their cleanrooms to reflect the expense put into them. Many laboratories and manufacturers will opt to spend more money on say, stainless steel walls, even when they don’t need them because it gives their cleanroom the look of a high-tech, cutting-edge facility. Know that you don’t have to have these impressive walls to meet your cleanroom standards. If you have extra room in the budget and are looking to build a cleanroom that looks as impressive as the technology behind it, then more streamlined, shiny, expensive options are perfect for you. But you don’t have to go that route if you don’t have the budget.
Cleanroom walls are often overlooked when it comes to designing a new cleanroom. There’s not a lot of information out there about them, and it can be difficult to decide which material will work best for your application, and convey the image you’re looking for. If you have more questions about choosing the right wall material for your cleanroom, be sure to give the experts at Angstrom a call! We’re here to help you, and we’d love to provide you with any cleanroom information you’re looking for to make the best, informed choice for your company. Give our office a call at 888-768-6900, or request a quote online today!