Environmental Concerns When Designing your Cleanroom: Internal

Don’t build a cleanroom without first understanding all of the environmental factors that can cost you time and money later.

Maintaining a compliant cleanroom is a complex process. Indoor air quality is fairly fragile because even the best air filters can’t prevent all influences from tainting the system. The design process is the perfect place to evaluate potential threats. You can avoid certain contaminates and know what to be watchful for once the facility is operational. One of the most important factors to evaluate is the environment.

Environmental factors are twofold:  internal and external.

Let’s first look at internal environmental concerns.

Humidity is among the most difficult to completely control, and it can cause a heap of problems. Too little humidity, as you can imagine, can spark electrostatic buildup and discharge. Electrostatic discharge is a major issue in a cleanroom, especially in one that has any electrical components in it.

Too much humidity can lead to numerous other disasters. Photoresist processes are among those that are very sensitive to humidity. Just a little too much can destroy components, samples, and/or equipment – setting you back in both time and money.

Humid conditions also encourage bacteria and microbe growth, which will corrode sensitive materials. It also manifests into condensation and water absorption – two more processes that can ruin equipment and samples.

People working in the cleanroom are also sensitive to humidity. Sweat, fatigue, and other heat-related discomfort can increase the chances of human error, not to mention compromise employee safety.

It’s important to prepare for humidity monitoring and control when you design your cleanroom. Some of your risks to relative humidity will depend on the external environment. Next week we will focus on how the air quality is influenced by the facility’s surroundings.

When it’s time for certification or validation of your cleanroom, it’s imperative that you select a credible company. Gerbig Engineering Company has thirty years of experience, promising the best service you can find. We will help you understand anything you’re struggling with: 888-628-0056; info@gerbig.com.

4 Common Reasons Cleanroom Employees are Not up to Par

Before you take disciplinary action against an underperforming employee, make sure you investigate the reason behind poor work performance.

It’s frustrating when employees don’t meet expectations. We’ve all encountered situations where training doesn’t seem to stick, rules are not followed correctly, or employees don’t seem to be doing everything they are supposed to. Whatever the situation is with your employee who isn’t quite up to par, it behooves you to determine if the problem can be fixed before you let the person go.

As a leader, consider these four possibilities when addressing employees about poor work performance:

  1. The work is impossible to accomplish. When we don’t actually perform the tasks assigned to a position, it’s easy to ask too much of the person doing that job. If a person is given more to do than there is reasonable time to accomplish it, work is going to get left undone. Take an honest look at what is expected of the employee and whether it’s even possible to perform the way you expect.
  1. Training was missed and nobody noticed. Just because a person held a similar position with another company does not mean he or she is aware of how you execute workflow at your facility. A lot of people get thrown into jobs to learn on the fly and have to wing it. This provides a lot of opportunity for failure, especially over things that are so second nature to other employees, it doesn’t occur to a trainer to cover them.
  1. It doesn’t seem important. What kind of verbal and nonverbal message are you and other employees sending about following the rules? Not only should training be consistent for all, but also everyone should be modeling the kind of behavior you expect to see. If one person shows up a few minutes late every day and is not reprimanded despite a clear policy on punctuality, others will get the impression that the rule doesn’t matter.
  1. The person doesn’t know he/she isn’t doing something. There are many reasons a person can miss instructions. He or she can misunderstand or misinterpret them. Often, training is so complex that it’s impossible to remember and/or catch everything. Sometimes the information just wasn’t given in the first place. Make sure the person really understands his or her obligations.

When you need cleanroom certification or validation, you never have to second-guess the expert services that Gerbig Engineering Company provides. We have over thirty years of experience in the field, and it shows. Contact us at 888-628-0056 or info@gerbig.com.

Quick Checklist for Building a Test Chamber for your Cleanroom

What do you need to know before building or buying a test chamber?

Test chambers allow us to see the long-term impacts of extreme environmental conditions on product or equipment in a short period of time. This is useful to be able to make changes to the manufacturing process. Some of the conditions tested include:

  • Vibration
  • Humidity
  • Temperature
  • Weather conditions (e.g. UV degradation)
  • Environmental impacts (e.g. salt water)
  • Emissions and by-products

The test chamber you would need to test your requirements will be unique to you and your product. Often times you will need to have a new chamber built. However, there may be existing test chamber that you can buy used that will provide you what you need.

Either way, before you can purchase or build a chamber, you need all the right information to get what you need. Here is a quick checklist:

  • Understand your size requirements (product) as well as your size restrictions (facility).
  • Understand your performance parameters like getting it hooked up correctly. Talk to operations, R&D, and manufacturers to gather all the information.
  • Consider all the details, like when the product needs to be handled, if you need to observe it visually, and if light is needed inside the chamber. Additionally, would light or other surrounding conditions impact the chamber operation or the efficiency of the controlled room?
  • Know the required life expectancy.
  • What are your networking requirements?
  • What is the required level of user control and programming?
  • Know the calibration requirements for installation and ongoing use.
  • What other workflow and process considerations are there?

Armed with these answers, you can choose the appropriate test chamber for your facility. Make sure you oversee installation, calibration, and hook-up, and make proper arrangements for maintenance and repair.

When you need cleanroom validation or certification, only use trusted resources. Gerbig Engineering Company has thirty years of experience. Contact us for help today: 888-628-0056; info@gerbig.com.

Desiccators in the Cleanroom: What are the Options? Part 3

When traditional desiccators aren’t clean enough to use in your controlled environment, what are your options?

Desiccators provide storage of small quantities of pre-dried samples or hygroscopic chemical reagent that is both economical and long-term. In a laboratory, a glass jar desiccator is perfect for its purpose. However, in a cleanroom, this storage method can compromise the integrity of the cleanroom or the sample.

In part one, we looked at glass desiccators. These are the most economic, but also the least advantageous in a controlled environment. They cannot maintain the low levels of relative humidity that are required when manufacturing semiconductors, medical devices, or pharmaceuticals. Additionally, once the desiccator reaches its saturation point, it has to be manually handled to regain its adsorptive qualities.

Dry cabinets are one alternative to glass jars. They offer a controlled RH level with greater storage capacity. Products are easily accessed, and the cabinets have low relative humidity monitoring and even set point controls. However, the cabinets also pose a risk of contamination to the environment because of the fans used during operation. So both of these options have significant drawbacks in a cleanroom.

For a cleaner alternative, dry nitrogen gas is the best desiccating medium. Without contributing particles, a nitrogen-purged system provides superior RH control with automated set points far below 5% RH. It maintains an inert environment for anything that is sensitive to humidity or other chemical vapors.

The variable-purge system uses highly precise RH sensors and effective airflow engineering to minimize humidity recovery times while conserving nitrogen. All things considered, these systems are the most cost-effective for any product that will experience high defect rates with even a little exposure to moisture in the air.

Do you need cleanroom certification or validation? Looking to build a modular cleanroom? The experienced staff at Gerbig Engineering Company has 30 years of expertise that you can depend on. Call us at 888-628-0056 or emailinfo@gerbig.com.

Desiccators in the Cleanroom: What are the Options? Part 2

What are your options for using desiccators in a controlled environment like a cleanroom?

In our last article, we discussed the complications that come with using glass desiccators in the cleanroom. They can’t maintain proper levels of humidity, so they must be handled – causing disruption to the process and risking contamination. An alternative to using the glass is to incorporate desiccant-based dry cabinets.

Dry cabinets alternate between two desiccant modules that cycle in and out of the airflow unit. One provides moisture adsorption and the other undergoes regeneration through an integral heating module fan. In this way, the cabinet offers better storage capacity at controlled RH level.

This kind of system is perfect for long-term bulk storage of microelectronic components, moisture-sensitive optical devices, and other similar applications. The cabinets eliminate the need for manually removing and restoring saturated desiccant. The products are easily accessible, thereby not obstructing the process. The even set point control and low relative humidity monitoring offer benefits to this kind of system over the static, or glass jar system. However, the dry cabinet is more complex and expensive to own and operate.

For the most stringent cleanroom environments, the dry cabinet still poses some issues. Fans are used in these systems, which can cause particles to enter the airflow. HEPA filters can be added to capture the contaminants, but they also add an additional moisture load, which can compromise drying efficacy. The fans can also cause turbulence outside of the cabinet, disrupting the essential laminar airflow.

For cleanroom environments that need better contamination control than the two desiccators we’ve described, there is a third option. We will delve into that in our next article. For expert cleanroom certification and validation, contact Gerbig Engineering Company. We’ve been in the industry for thirty years helping companies with compliance as well as cleanroom construction. 888-628-0056; info@gerbig.com

The health and safety of our employees, customers and communities is our top priority.Read about our response to COVID-19.