Considerations in Choosing Cleanroom Equipment

wwd clnrmThere are several criteria to consider when selecting equipment for your cleanroom. Making the best choice doesn’t need to difficult, but it does need to be well thought out. Here are some guidelines for you and your coworkers to follow when making this decision.

 

Compliance requirements: Your first concern with new equipment is that it is compliant with your specific cleanroom. Clear communication between you and the supplier is the key to choosing the right equipment for your cleanroom. Tell the supplier in writing your:

  • Class level
  • Type of industry
  • Any ESD or AMC concern

 

The supplier or manufacturer should send back clear specifications including:

  • Everything the proposal entails
  • Construction materials
  • Standard product features
  • Dimensions
  • ESD or AMC compliance
  • Other available features

 

Once you have this, review everything with the appropriate coworker(s) to ensure the specifications match your needs.

 

How the materials stand up to the environment: You will be cleaning this equipment regularly, thereby exposing it to whatever chemicals you use to sterilize and disinfect it. Materials that are more easily damaged include PVC, acrylic, high-pressure laminates, polycarbonate, and other synthetic products.

Materials that tend to stand up to degradation include aluminum, stainless steel, and powder coat finishes.

Additionally, the cleanroom environment itself may compromise the integrity of the material. You need to consider how the product will hold up against humidity, UV light, or anything else that can potentially damage equipment.

 

Long-term cost: While you may want to keep your initial investment as low as possible, don’t forget to factor in the long-term maintenance and upkeep of your equipment. As stated above, you will prolog the life of your equipment by choosing materials that can withstand the environment. Quality workmanship and parts will also make a difference in the future of your investment. Consider the cost of fixing or replacing less expensive equipment versus investing in something that costs more.

 

Prepare for maintenance: If a part needs to be replaced down the road, you don’t want it to uproot or stall your entire process while you wait to fix it. When ordering your equipment, ask the supplier for:

  • Make and model number of each piece of equipment
  • A complete parts list for each piece of equipment
  • Life expectancy in years for each part

 

Keep this list where it is easily accessible. Additionally, order crucial replacement parts along with the equipment. Having this on hand will allow you to immediately fix anything down the road, limiting the broken part’s impact on the timeliness of your process.

 

Taking care and consideration before you buy equipment will save you headaches later. Be sure to discuss all factors with relevant team members to be certain that the equipment you’re buying is what’s best for you.

Gerbig Engineering Company manufactures Airecell cleanrooms. Its expert staff also performs cleanroom certification and validation.  For questions about cleanroom equipment or services, call: 888-628-0056 or email: info@gerbig.com.

 

This list of tips was modeled after those in Controlled Environment’s article, “Selecting the Right Equipment for your Cleanroom.”

Glassware Safety: Experts Offer 12 Tips to Proper Glassware Handling in the Cleanroom

class_10_storage_unit.jpgEmployees who work in labs that handle glassware know all too well the frequency of injuries that happen in this environment. Minor cuts are most often the result of an accident, but more serious injuries do occur. Flying glass, exposure to chemicals, and fires are all realistic scenarios that can inflict serious harm.

According to ALN Magazine’s online article, “Twelve Tips for Working Safely with Laboratory Glassware,” by Vince McLeod, CIH: cuts, punctures, and scrapes alone accounted for nearly a quarter of workers’ compensation claims between 2006 and 2008. The cost of these claims totaled over $100,000.

For the sake of safety, time, resources, and cost, be sure you’re following these 12 tips for handling glassware:

  1. Choose the right Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Working in a cleanroom, you may already have your arms, legs, and hands covered. Be sure to also wear eye protection and closed toe shoes. Choose garments that are approved for your cleanroom class.
  2. Follow the proper procedure for apparatus setup. When clamping glass to supports, remember that over tightening the clamp can cause mechanical stress. Only hand-tighten to firm, not extreme, pressure.
  3. Carefully inspect all glassware for chips. Chips weaken the glass.
  4. Be extra cautious when washing glass by hand. According to McLeod, “This single task is the source for most of the injuries. Wear heavy duty gloves and handle glassware delicately.”
  5. Develop SOPs to ensure that no one mishandles hot glass. Appearance alone will not indicate whether glassware is hot. Keep protective gloves near stations where glass is heated. Establish a cooling station for hot vessels.
  6. Lubricate glass tubes before inserting into rubber stoppers (and the like.) Use a grease or product that is approved for your cleanroom class. If nothing else, deionized water is better than no lubricant.
  7. Use care when applying or removing plastic tubing. Use lubricant when applying tubing to an apparatus, and delicately work it in. For removal, McLeod says, “Put the tubing and nipple against a strong support and cut the tubing close to the end of the glass. Finish by then cutting the tubing lengthwise along the nipple and removing the waste material.”
  8. Be careful when mating your fittings. Mishandling fittings is a very common cause for accidental cuts.
  9. Be patient and cautious with frozen joints. If you have lab grease that meets the requirements of your cleanroom class, it will help prevent joints from “freezing.” Soaking the joints overnight can loosen joints, and if not, heat may be used. A heat gun or glass torch can be effective, but be diligent about following safety protocol. Remove all flammable solvents; heat outer surfaces quickly enough to not heat inner glass too much; do not heat for more than 30 seconds. Be very gentle when tugging on the glass during heating.
  10. Use extra caution with equipment under pressure or vacuum. Surface scratches will lead to glassware weakness and breakage, so ensure there are none. Check that you are using all equipment properly and with all safety precautions in place. Round vessels withstand more pressure than flat-sided ones.
  11. Routinely test for stressed glass. Polarized light will identify stress lines.
  12. Properly dispose of broken glass. Remove all hazardous material before disposal. Use a sharps container, and don’t fill above the “max” line. Be sure it is closed securely and properly labeled before dumping or recycling.

As a general rule, always make sure you’re using PPE and materials that are approved for your specific cleanroom class. Safety is not only in the handling; it is also in the right supplies and tools for the environment. Find McLeod’s full article here.
Gerbig Engineering Company cares about the safety of your employees and the integrity of your cleanroom. We manufacture cleanrooms as well as provide certification and validation services. Contact us for questions about your cleanroom needs. 888-628-0056; info@gerbig.com

Tips for Cleaning your Cleanroom

softwall gownroomCleaning a cleanroom sounds redundant, but routine maintenance and cleaning are a big part of what keeps these environments compliant. Of course, cleaning procedures will differ according to required cleanliness levels, processes occurring in the cleanroom, and the individual company. However, experts agree that there are some universal steps to follow.
1. Establish Environmental Monitoring (EM) and identify viable and/or nonviable contaminates.

2. Using the results from the EM program, select cleaning chemicals and disinfectants. Choose appropriate cleaning materials for your specific class of cleanroom. This includes everything from buckets to vacuums. Remember that ESD materials are available for those environments concerned with static discharge. Test that all solvents and materials perform as expected.

3. Establish Standard Operational Procedures. The Institute of Environmental Sciences and Technology (IEST) is a great resource for protocol. Create your SOP based on your needs. You want to verify your protocol once it is written and make any necessary changes.

4. Train your cleaning staff. It is important to know in what order and fashion all cleaning responsibilities should be done. Some things to detail:

  • Always empty the trash first
  • General purpose equipment should be cleaned outside the cleanroom and covered with clean bagging material
  • Know and follow instructions for the proper amounts, methods, and allotted time to use for all cleaners and solvents. It is important to use cleaning agents exactly the way they are intended for your specific needs.
  • Extra caution is necessary when cleaning delicate ceiling HEPA filters
  • The 4 main aspects to a cleanroom – the ceiling, walls, surfaces, and floors – each requires very specific cleaning processes. Tools and cleaning agents will vary for each.

 

5. Self-audit to ensure that all protocols are followed and remain appropriate.

 

Since most surfaces are cleaned with hand wipes, one tip Karen Henke offers in Controlled Environment’s “Proper Maintenance for Compliance” is to implement wipe dispensers. This ensures easy storage and distribution of the wipes while eliminating cross contamination.

Remember, these are basic guidelines; each organization’s specific cleanroom specifications will affect individual protocols. Different areas may require different procedures as well. For example, the cleanliness levels in gowning areas may be less strict but also require more frequent cleaning.

Overall, compliance depends on a properly maintained cleanroom. People along with cleaning agents and materials will impact contamination levels, so it is important to be vigilant about getting it right from the start.

Gerbig Engineering Company manufactures Airecell cleanrooms. Its expert staff also performs cleanroom certification and validation.  For questions about cleanroom equipment or services, call: 888-628-0056 or email: info@gerbig.com.

Printed Circuit Boards and Cleanrooms

small softwall cleanroom.JPGAs you may have noticed, we depend on more and more electrical and electronic equipment every year.  We rely on this equipment for everything from safety to entertainment. Almost all of this equipment relies on printed circuit boards (PCBs). Manufacturing PCBs is a very delicate process.  For some high density circuit boards, humidity or contamination can cause yield or field failures.  Therefore, the process of creating a PCB must be carried out in a cleanroom.

 

The class of cleanroom required – or the number and size of particles allowed per cubic meter – differs for all materials. You need to know what the specifications are for the product and materials you are manufacturing. PCBs are typically manufactured in ISO 7 or 8 cleanrooms. Flexible printed circuits production is an imaging-intensive operation. Imaging processes may be done in an ISO 6 cleanroom.

 

In its most basic form, a PCB is an insulating substrate with conductive traces. Chips and other electronics are mounted and interconnected on top of it to form an electronic package. Conductive traces may be on one side of the board, both, or within the board. You’ve seen that our electronic devices tend to get smaller as they become more sophisticated. As chips get smaller, PCBs get smaller, too. Contamination can occur between the line widths of the circuit boards. The smaller the line width and spacing, the more particles can contaminate it.

 

In fabricating a printed circuit,  photo resist is used to mask circuit lines for the etching process. The photo resist can attract and hold water molecules from the air.  Moisture can affect the photo resists integrity and reduce its performance during the imaging and etching operations. Humidity control is a paramount concern in the PCB cleanroom. According to Bryair.com, “…exposure to high humidity/moisture can lead to microscopic corrosion on the surface of the circuits. This causes adhesion failures, surface defects and decreased performance of the Circuit Board.”

 

Maintaining  imaging artwork  for multilayer circuits at a consistent temperature and humidity will also help layers align properly. For optimal control, humidity levels are usually maintained at 20% – 35% at about 68 degrees F.

 

Once the PC board is fabricated,  the component assembly step can involve static sensitive components, so electrostatic discharge needs to be controlled.   Additionally,  electrostatic discharge (ESD) attracts contaminates, so controlling it in the cleanroom is an ongoing, necessary process. People and machinery generate the most ESD, but so can products. Using air deionizing fans and bars can help eliminate electrostatic discharge along with proper grounding of operators and machinery.

 

The environment makes all the difference in the precise assembly of PCBs. Gerbig Engineering Company can build you the right class of cleanroom and help you factor in humidity and ESD control as well as your other specific needs.