THE BUSINESS OF A CLEANROOM: IT’S ALL ABOUT THE DRAFT
Though a CLEANROOM is a tightly controlled, enclosed space, any engineer will tell you, to create a successful design, it’s all about the “draft”.
Cleanrooms are enclosed spaces engineered and constructed to control contamination by addressing the environments’ airborne particles with airflow, air pressure, filtration, temperature, humidity, vibration, noise, lighting, Etc. Creating the environment is only step one. Maintaining the environment involves following strict protocol standards by facility staff as well. Cleanrooms are generally used in critical manufacturing, pharmaceutical, university laboratories and medical device facilities or any industry where particulates must be restricted.
Design must take into account surface makeup and coating materials (walls, floors, ceiling, furniture) in addition to the systems conditioning the space. Hard surfaces such as stainless steel, epoxy and laminates for example, are selected to prevent material exfoliation contamination.
Cleanrooms are classified depending upon the level of necessary particulate restriction, from ISO 1 to 9. For example an ISO 1 level cleanroom being the “cleanest” of the cleanrooms, would be used for semiconductor research spaces or nanotechnology facilities. What that means, without getting into the “nano-particulars” of the various micron size of the particles; the maximum number of allowable particles in an ISO 1 cleanroom is 10 per cubic meter. In comparison, the average amount of particles in a city environment is about 35,000,000 per cubic meter (ISO and particulate statistical data via WIKIPEDIA).
KEY TO A CLEAN ROOM
But the ultimate key to the success of a cleanroom is the HVAC. Engineering the airflow to continually “draft” or “wash” away any possible particulates down into the return vents. The air is then laundered through a complex system of HEPA filters and fresh makeup air to reintroduce the purified air into the environment.
Though cleanrooms date back to the 1960s, with the boom in packaged food and electronics manufacturing, exponential rise of the pharmaceutical industry and laboratory testing of all kinds, the business of cleanroom engineering has risen to an art form.