Semiconductors are made with a glassy, pure silicon material which is cut into very thin wafers, and they’re responsible for the performance of circuitry in computerized devices. They’re extremely sensitive materials, so without a sterile cleanroom to manufacture them in, you’re risking contamination that could lead to various production issues and product failures. 

All that being said, if your facility manufactures computerized devices of any type, size, or application, it’s likely that you’ll need to install a semiconductor cleanroom. Let’s take a look at what components go into setting one up. 

Where to Start: Understanding the Requirements of a Semiconductor Cleanroom

Even the slightest bit of contamination or settling of particulate produce can ruin semiconductor production and performance, sometimes leading to disastrous consequences. Therefore, it’s important to understand the strict cleanliness standards that semiconductor cleanrooms must abide by. 

Semiconductor Cleanroom Classifications

Semiconductor cleanrooms have some of the most stringent ISO standards. They usually need to comply with ISO 14644-1 Class 5 or lower, which means the maximum amount of particles allowed per cubic meter is 3,520 particles that are 0.5 µm or smaller. They also need to comply with ISO 14644-2, which requires a minimum requirement for quality control and a monitoring plan to consistently ensure these standards and parameters are met.

Semiconductor cleanrooms may also have industry-specific requirements depending on their application, such as unique NASA standards for aerospace applications. In those instances, the industry-specific requirements work in tandem with ISO requirements to build a controlled environment that produces consistently safe and quality products.

Potential Issues Associated with Semiconductor Cleanrooms

When working in a semiconductor cleanroom, operators face a number of challenges regarding detailed processes and contamination control. In fact, human workers are often the main source of contamination during the semiconductor manufacturing process. They can create unwanted electrostatic discharge (ESD) that can compromise the sensitive electronic circuits in the material. 

However, there are a variety of other factors that can disrupt the cleanroom’s sterility, including:

  • Power glitches
  • Pressure malfunctions
  • Broken fans
  • Dropped equipment, tools, and parts
  • Outgassing
  • Static
  • Particulate matter

 

Yes, that’s a lot to keep in mind! But semiconductors are so fragile that even the tiniest speck of dust can ruin them. Luckily, a reliable, controlled cleanroom environment can do most of the work for you. When installed properly, your semiconductor cleanroom can maintain the level of environmental control you need to optimize productivity and profitability. 

Setting Up Your Semiconductor Cleanroom

Now that you understand the cleanliness requirements of your semiconductor cleanroom, it’s time to start setting it up. Below, we’ve outlined four considerations you’ll want to keep in mind during the design process. 

1. Start with Airflow

Air flow is one of the most important components in a semiconductor cleanroom, as it determines how particles travel and prevents them from building up on equipment. The most popular type of airflow in cleanrooms is unidirectional or laminar airflow, which involves air blown at a constant speed, in a straight, unimpeded path. The air is pushed through a filter at the top of the cleanroom, directed down to the floor, then flows through holes in the flooring where it is retreated and recirculated before entering into the cleanroom again. 

2. Consider Furniture and Machinery Placement

It’s also a good idea to map out where your large furniture and machinery will be placed in order to build the most efficient, sterile cleanroom. One of the best design recommendations for a semiconductor cleanroom is to place furniture and machinery along the outer walls. This helps decrease the chance of those large objects obstructing the main airflow. 

Many cleanrooms are also designed with wire racks and shelves instead of regular tables or shelving. This eliminates a portion of the flat surfaces that particles may build up on. 

3. Implement Anti-static Protection

In order to prevent electrostatic discharge (ESD), your semiconductor cleanroom needs to take preventative measures against static. Aside from maintaining a consistently sterilized, pressurized environment, this can also include the implementation of various ESD-free products, including protective clothing, flooring, workstations, tools, and wipes. 

4. Plan for Daily Operations

Your semiconductor cleanroom will be used daily in order to keep production moving. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that all the daily operations are accommodated for. You should know things like how your operators will enter the cleanroom via access control systems, ESD testing, gowning rooms, airlock rooms, air showers, etc. This information can help you set up a design and layout that works around those necessities. 

Not sure where to start when setting up your semiconductor cleanroom? Let the experts at Angstrom Technology help. Our design experts can help you make the tough choices, and ensure you get the cleanroom that’s perfect for your application.

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