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

Desiccators in the Cleanroom: What are the Options? Part 1

Desiccators in cleanrooms are usually glass jars used to store pre-dried samples of hygroscopic chemical reagent. They’re sometimes also used to cool substances that were heated in a beaker. In a laboratory, they are very useful, but in a cleanroom, they can be a contamination hazard.

One of the primary issues with glass desiccators is that cleanrooms usually require very precise humidity controls. The devices manufactured in semiconductor, medical device, and pharmaceutical cleanrooms are moisture-sensitive devices (MSDs). The desiccators cannot maintain these extremely low levels of relative humidity.

Desiccators create a drying effect through adsorption using a desiccant powder like calcium chloride or silica gel on the bottom. The sample sits on a small platform, and the jar is sealed using silicone grease. Once this system reaches its saturation point, it can’t provide moisture protection. Saturation is visible when the powder changes color from blue to pink. To return to its adsorptive abilities, the desiccant has to be regenerated through a 24-hour heating cycle to bake out the moisture.

At this point, the desiccator has to be manually handled. This is both disruptive to processing and poses a risk of contamination. In any case, these jars generally provide insufficient drying.

The vacuum desiccators will effectively dry samples that can withstand the vacuum environment. However, the entire system brings noise and contaminants to a cleanroom.

These options are clearly very poor for cleanroom applications. In our next article, we will look at the alternative that desiccant-based dry cabinets provide. If you need cleanroom validation or certification, talk to Gerbig Engineering Company. We have tried and thorough expert services: 888-628-0056info@gerbig.com

Is your Cleanroom Training Effective for Millennials?

Years ago, “Millennial” seemed like a dirty word. As they began infiltrating our workforce, generations above them judged harshly, finding them entitled and lacking a work ethic. Now that they are fully immersed in our working culture, we have found that they bring opportunities for growth and evolution. However, the youngest of this generation are getting their first jobs out of college, and their worlds are very different from those of us who have been working for fifteen years or more. The question is how do we train these young people?

It’s important to recognize that Millennials do have different needs when it comes to learning a job. Their reality has always included advanced technology. They have access to an infinite amount of information. They learn and process information differently than generations before, so if you current training strategy has been the same for a decade, you do need to make changes to help this group to succeed.

Here is what your training should include:

  • Use technology. Incorporate the platforms they prefer to use, like mobile devices.
  • Create modules and lessons that are short, digestible chunks of information. Give them relevant pieces that they can absorb quickly. They are used to a fast pace and will get distracted if they feel they don’t need what you’re telling them.
  • Deliver key concepts using videos and other animated images. These often get information across in a more effective way than text or speech.
  • Ask for their feedback before and during training. Millennials want to participate in shaping the company and their own jobs. Ask them for ideas and suggestions about how they will get the most value out of their training and how they best understand information.
  • Include your company values. These employees want to work for a business whose company values match their own. They want to believe in the company leaders, and they want to feel good working for the company.

You don’t need to completely overhaul your current training strategy. You are the expert. Use what is successful, but deliver it in a way that will align with the needs of the Millennials.

If you need cleanroom verification, certification, or construction, contact Gerbig Engineering Company. We have thirty years of experience that will guide you to success. 952-960-4400info@gerbig.com.

Pros and Cons of The Marangoni System in the Cleanroom

If you’re looking to avoid evaporation as a drying technique in a cleanroom, you may be interested in the Marangoni System.

When water evaporates, because it is leaving as a gas, it leaves behind water spots. In a controlled environment, this is something to avoid; the water spots are basically made of contaminants. In order to remove water, then, some people consider the fascinating Marangoni System.

James Thomson found that gradients in surface tension arise from concentration differences in solution. After that, Carlo Giuseppe Matteo Marangoni found that liquid will flow along a gas-liquid or a liquid-liquid interface from areas of low surface tension to high. These two combined discoveries led to the Marangoni System.

The Marangoni effect is stimulated by anything that reduces surface tension. A cleanroom dryer would use a DI water bath with a headspace of IPA in nitrogen. IPA dissolves in water, resulting in lowered surface tension, allowing water to flow away from the surface of the object being cleaned, thereby leaving it dry. The object experiences the effect as it is slowly withdrawn vertically from the bath.

The huge benefit to this method is that all the unwanted water – containing soluble materials like minerals – is removed as a liquid. Therefore, they are not left behind as water spots.

Unfortunately, only flat surfaces can be dried with this approach. Fluid force produced by differential surface tension is diminished when in competition with other forces like convection or gravity.

Also, the slow rate of withdrawal yields only about 1 to 10 single pieces dried every two minutes. This really limits the application when you need multiple pieces dried. What may benefit most from this method, then, are large flat surfaces, like flat panel displays.

As with any cleanroom decision, the efficacy of the Marangoni System will depend on the application. If you need cleanroom validation or certification, contact the experts at Gerbig Engineering Company. 888-628-0056; info@gerbig.com.

Renovating or Building a Cleanroom? What to do and What to Avoid

Whether you’re renovating or building a cleanroom, there are numerous factors that come into play. Without the right planning and preparation, your cleanroom build can be a headache at best and a disaster at worst.  The purpose of your cleanroom and your unique facility are individual to you, so do your homework. Here is a quick list of do’s and do not’s.

You Should Definitely:

  • Know the purpose and functions of the space. Clearly establish this by using a recognized standard like ISO 14644. You want to set the class of cleanliness and criteria like humidity setpoints and temperature.
  • Have clearly identified requirements for maintaining your operations during construction.
  • Create requirements for vibration performance.
  • Make sure you have adequate space for mechanical systems by checking vertical clearance. Also check the vertical clearance for moving equipment – do you need to use elevators?
  • Check that there is enough vertical shaft space from the cleanroom to the roof for your exhaust ducts. Also make sure they’re accessible.
  • Find out what kind of hazardous materials will be used, and make sure your building can accommodate a hazardous occupancy if need be.
  • Establish what utilities, capacities, and quality are required.
  • Understand that your power requirements will change and confirm your source is sufficient for growth.
  • Budget with a contingency for unexpected conditions and atypical line items like cleanroom certification and temporary setups during construction.

What Not To Do

  • If possible, don’t locate the cleanroom on an exterior wall.
  • Cleanrooms are ideally located where a dedicated mechanical room is directly above it; don’t put one beneath wet laboratories.
  • Don’t assume that all users have completely considered their requirements.
  • Don’t assume the design team has experience with cleanroom design; you need to verify.
  • Don’t expect any contractor without experience building cleanrooms to be able to complete this work.
  • Don’t assume your contractor understands what “building clean” means. Establish in writing how to start the project correctly, how to get the space clean, and how to keep it clean.
  • You do not want air intakes above a loading dock or service yard.
  • You do not want exhausts at grade level or in building sidewalls.
  • Don’t underestimate the amount of space required for support equipment.
  • As you read these tips, surely it is clear what kinds of catastrophe can occur if you miss a step. You don’t want to lose any time or money fixing what could have been avoided to begin with.

If you are considering a modular cleanroom, choose an expert with sufficient experience and a strong reputation. Gerbig Engineering Company has over 30 years of expertise in cleanroom design, manufacturing, installation, and validation. Contact us at 888-628-0056 or email info@gerbig.com.

Quick Tips for Fume Hood Exhaust Monitoring Part 2

Proper airflow is vital to personnel who are working with corrosive, hazardous, or volatile materials in a cleanroom. Safety hinges on proper fume hood exhaust monitoring; it alerts workers when the airflow drops below calibrated levels. In Part 1, we discussed some available options in fume hoods. With a fume hood selected, you can focus on maintenance, replacing equipment, and selecting the monitoring system.

Maintenance

Regular maintenance will likely be an annual or semiannual certification consisting of a velocity test with a thermal anemometer at predetermined points. The points depend on the size of the sash opening. The certification also includes calibrating the alarm and performing a smoke visualization test to prove airflow direction and smoke containment. In addition to certification, facility personnel should carry out scheduled checks on the blower motor belt.

Replacing Equipment

Your fume hood monitor does not need to be replaced until the system doesn’t function any longer or it doesn’t calibrate properly.

Selecting the Monitoring System

The monitoring system is obviously a critical part of the fume hood as it is what will tell you when levels are dangerous. Your choice will ultimately depend on how much data you want to receive. Some systems will set off an audible and visual alarm when velocity drops a set percentage; others will actually give a read out of the velocity. Your customer may require the read out for documentation. There are monitors that don’t give both alarms, but your safest bet is to go with one that has both the audible and visual alarms.

Remember that when installing your fume hood, you need to look at the layout of your lab. You don’t want supply vents or filters directly in front of the hood. It’s best to have a full ASHRAE 110 test at the initial certification. Additionally, it is best to have your fume hoods on dedicated exhaust systems. If one unit needs an adjustment, it usually requires a rebalance of any other hoods within a shared system.

For cleanroom certification and validation, contact the experts at Gerbig Engineering Company: 888-628-0056 or info@gerbig.com.