Deciphering the Grade of Cleaning Agents for your Cleanroom-Assembled Products

High purity solvents are a part of every critical process. They are just as important to critical products as the quality of air. While there is a generally accepted standard for high purity laboratory chemicals, specifications vary among chemicals. Solvent manufacturers offer additional grades, as well. So how do you know whether the solvent is right for you?

Additions to the standards

The American Chemical Society (ACS)’s Reagant Grade meets the minimum impurity specification set by the ACS. This is the generally accepted standard. However, to address requirements of specific standards solvent manufacturers offer grades with additional constraints or specifications. A few examples include:

  • “Electronic Grade” for electronic assemblies
  • “HPLA Grade” for liquid chromatography
  • “Semiconductor Grade” for wafer preparation uses

For these kinds of grades, suppliers may list limits for elements not included in the ACS Reagant Grade. Currently there are no industry-wide standards for specialized grades exceeding ACS specifications. In most cases, suppliers set these specifications. As a result, it can be difficult to compare two of the same grades from different suppliers. Each might list limits for trace elements that are different from the other.

The problem is that specifications list what was tested for, not necessarily what’s present. If there is a particular substance your application cannot tolerate, check with the manufacturer if that substance isn’t listed on the specifications.

Is pure better?

Purer does not always equal safer with solvent chemicals. Depending on the process, pure chemicals may or may not be suitable for consumption. Check with the manufacturer to see how purity was obtained and what traces may be left behind.

Other things to know

Solvents can also come by way of blends, and in some cases, with additives. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Methanol and pyridine can be used to denature ethanol. Doing so makes it unsuitable to drink, and therefore circumvents excise taxes.
  • Stabilizers can be added to prevent acidification and prolong the solvent’s life. If these additives are subject to regulatory constraints, they may be unsuitable for the product or environment.
  • There are many potential issues with blends. For example, if a chemical used to suppress flammable components evaporates more quickly than the rest of the solvent, over time the solution may become flammable.

The smartest things to do are know your cleanliness requirements and communicate with the manufacturer about solvent safety. Look more closely at specifications and certifications than you do the name of the grade. You can never be too thorough when it comes to safety.

If you have questions about cleanrooms, validation, or certification, contact Gerbig Engineering Company at 888-628-0056 or info@gerbig.com. We are experts with your best interests in mind.

Do you Need Routine Maintenance for Cleanroom Gas Detection Systems?

primary_sec_piping_array_mainGas detection systems not only rescue cleanroom productivity, they also save lives. In the last few years, the technology for these systems has drastically improved. This makes them more reliable, but are they reliable enough to forego the routine maintenance plan?

The average unit for detection costs around $1,000. A maintenance plan also costs around $1000 (annually). With that kind of a price tag, it’s understandable why only about ten percent of facilities with gas detection systems have active maintenance programs.  However, this is a number that has gone up over the past few years. Let’s look at the considerations for maintenance plans.

All gas detection equipment realistically should be tested every 90 days to ensure the safest, most proficient function. A maintenance plan covers this, ensuring everything is calibrated and responding correctly, and that equipment is detecting all target gases. These tests, in a maintenance plan, are performed with gases traceable to the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Even with a new, state-of-the-art detection system, the only way to ensure it’s working is to test it with appropriate gases. The worst-case scenario in failing to check this is death. There are facilities that, in recent years, have experienced fatalities. It only takes one incident to threaten the safety of employees and cause huge liability issues for a company.

For some facilities, these possibilities are so slim they are not worth considering. The other side of routine maintenance is they prevent false alarms. Faulty or mis-calibrated equipment can be set off by ambient gas. The events following a false alarm can include chaos, evacuation, halting of production, the arrival of emergency personnel, lost confidence, and bad publicity. Also, the emergency personnel who show up may be taken away from an actual emergency.

Of course, a false alarm also comes with a high price tag. As does a situation that compromises human health. Comparing the cost of a maintenance plan with the potential cost of needing one, the choice should be clear. That shouldn’t be the most persuasive piece of the puzzle, though. Human wellbeing and product integrity are things you can’t put a price on.

 

If you have questions about cleanrooms, validation, or certification, contact Gerbig Engineering Company at 888-628-0056 or info@gerbig.com. We are experts with your best interests in mind.

Possibilities for a Greener Cleanroom?

LIGO Structural CeilingChemicals, water, and energy consumption are cornerstones of nearly all cleanroom processes. They are also the three areas that most affect the “greenness” of these operations. Reducing the use of any of these would certainly result in cost savings for companies. The question is: how plausible is to alter these things and still leave the process effective and efficient?

In manufacturing, we question how holistic regulations will affect production schedules, product quality, risks to employees, and damage to the environment. Implementing green practices are sure to change chemicals and/or processes that affect these four areas. As much as businesses support green processes, accepting changes depend greatly on their impacts to the operation as a whole.

Controlled Environments writers Barbara Kanegsberg and Ed Kanegsberg interviewed experts about the challenges and possibilities of a green, safe and sustainable future in “2020 Vision: Green, Safe, Sustainable – Part 1.”

Expert speculation on the future of going green is summarized as follows:

  • Chemicals: Predictions here revolved around A) “disappearing chemistries,” like boron and nonophenols, and B) cleaning products designed with greener characteristics, like longer bath life.
  • Conserving water: Water consumption may be reduced by “purifying and recycling the water or reusing it in less critical processes.”
  • Conserving energy: Similar to recycling or reusing water, energy can be used again. Taoward Lee, Manager of Technology at Ecosystems Inc. in Costa Mesa, CA said, “For example, process baths can be heated while making distilled water.” He adds, “One way to reduce chemical consumption is to reduce dragout, capture the remaining dragout, and return it to the process immediately. This uses less chemical and keeps the rinses cleaner.”
  • Bio-based solutions: Experts also predict that bio-based agents, using natural chemicals that can be grown, are in our future. Ideally, if cleaning products can be made from waste feedstock or waste fuel, food production is unaffected by the process of creating new cleaning agents, and nothing goes into a landfill.

Tackling these issues require multiple changes. Lee explained that reducing the heat required for pretreatment to painting or coating will lower energy consumption. However, the heat is required to tackle oils and soils, so as a result, the melting temperature of the oils would have to be lowered. John Burke, CMFS STLE Fellow and Global Director of Engineering Services at Houghton International in Valley Forge, PA, says that this kind of reformulation is being achieved through congruent chemistries. This appears to be a promising area of change. He says:

“In fact, 99% of people you ask probably won’t know what congruent chemistry means, and an engineer might say ‘I don’t care;’ but if you can reduce waste streams from 50,000 gallons per day to 1,500 gallons per day, you have an impact that is difficult to ignore.”

Overall, the wheels are turning to create greener methods for cleanroom processes. The green revolution will depend on the efforts of many, and promise to benefit the entire industry. For questions about cleanrooms, validation, or certification, contact Gerbig Engineering Company at 888-628-0056 or info@gerbig.com.

5 Tips to Make your Life Easier When Choosing a Cleanroom Filter

Your cleanroom is nothing without your air filtration system, and your filtration system is nothing without the right filter. The right filter, however, is not simply the one that fits and cleans the air to compliance. The right filter will spare you energy and headaches down the road. Here are a few things you should know before buying a filter that will help you later:

  1. Know how it’s been tested. Your filter should be tested according to application, and you want to make sure that each filter is tested individually. If the filter was only batch tested, you cannot be sure of its quality.
  2. Some filters save energy. The less resistance to airflow your filter has, the less energy is required to move the air. Deep-pleated filters offer a number of benefits in energy consumption. They increase the filter media size and reduce pressure, resulting in a significant decrease in energy required to run it. These filters do cost more initially, but they make up for it in electricity savings, and they last years.
  3. Roomside replaceable systems are easier. The process of changing a filter can halt operations for a substantial amount of time. This can be very costly. A roomside replaceable system, like a ceiling filter system, latches filters and lights and suspends them in a gridless double channel system. You can change a filter 5-10 times faster with this system, and they often improve the laminar airflow as well.
  4. Research distributors for custom or odd sizes. It happens: some cleanrooms and mini clean environments require custom-sized HEPA filters. The biggest problem here is replacing them. Some manufacturers won’t make odd sizes until enough orders accumulate. Find a distributor who can fill your request when you need it.
  5. Consider high temp specs. High-temperature environments require high-temp ASHRAE, HEPA, or ULPA filters. Additionally, you have to specify according to filter, media, frame, and sealant capabilities. Acrylic binders will also burn off and emit smoke when above 500 degrees F. Make sure the smoke is cleared before introducing products to the environment. Always ask the manufacturer if you are unsure about specifications and applications.

Knowing this information ahead of time will help you avoid unpleasant surprises and costs associated with your filter. If you have questions about cleanroom construction, certification or validation, contact Gerbig Engineering Company. We are cleanroom experts: 888-628-0056 or info@gerbig.com.