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  • Writer's pictureCleanroomsUSA

Cleanroom Components and Classification Part 3

Below is a short list of some of the equipment that can be found in a cleanroom:

Automatic Shoe Cleaners

In a clean room, every aspect of an occupant’s presence must be thoroughly sanitized before entry to prevent contamination. One of the most challenging aspects of maintaining a clean room is preventing contaminants from being introduced via personnel, particularly on their shoes. In some cases, personnel must change into special footwear before entering the clean room to avoid this risk.

Automatic shoe cleaners are designed to remove large particles from the bottoms and sides of shoes. The cleaning process is straightforward: employees place their feet into a vacuum-like box that sucks loose material off their shoes and deposits it into a disposable collection bag. While there are various shoe cleaning methods, automatic shoe cleaners are the most effective as they clean the entire shoe, not just the soles.

These cleaners come with external and built-in vacuums, and some models include HEPA filters. They can be self-contained units within the clean room, pass-through systems, or connected to an external collection system. Automatic shoe cleaners can accommodate any shoe size or design and can be integrated into the clean room structure.

Clean Room Pass Throughs

Pass throughs are essential for minimizing traffic and potential contaminants in a clean room. They provide a sealed opening for transferring documentation, tools, and other materials without allowing untrained personnel to enter the clean room, thereby improving operational efficiency.

Pass throughs come in various forms, from wall-mounted units to those designed for cart access. Their design depends on the clean room’s ISO rating and specific operational requirements. Features can include showers, HEPA filters, and UV sanitizing modules. Pass throughs help save space and provide easy access while reducing contamination and minimizing clean room traffic.

Containment Hoods

Containment hoods are critical for providing an extra layer of protection in clean rooms, which are already highly controlled environments designed to be free of microbial contamination. These hoods come in various forms to meet specific needs, such as laminar flow hoods (both vertical and horizontal), biological safety hoods, fume hoods, solvent hoods, and wet processing fume hoods.

Containment hoods are pressurized units with a single HEPA filter and external exhaust ducting. They feature powerful, adjustable fans to pull air away from the operator across the workspace and through the filter. They are designed for handling pharmaceutical compounds, powder weighing, and measuring drug dosages, and come in sizes ranging from 2 to 4 feet, available as full-sized cabinets or countertop units.

Particle Counters

Particle counters are essential for monitoring the size and quantity of particles in a clean room, which determines the room’s classification. These devices can detect particles as small as 0.1 microns (µ) up to those larger than 5 µ, ensuring compliance with certification requirements.

Using light scattering technology, particle counters employ a laser sensor block to measure particle size. A pump creates a vacuum that pulls air samples over a laser diode. As the air passes through, particles reflect light, with larger particles reflecting more light. This reflected light is converted by a photodetector to quantify particle size.

Airborne particle counters, which include condensation and optical types, are crucial for monitoring, classifying, and diagnosing contamination sources in a clean room. Optical counters are the most common, measuring particles as they pass through light.

Desiccator Cabinets

Desiccator cabinets provide a controlled environment for long-term storage of items sensitive to atmospheric humidity. These cabinets are extremely dry or filled with nitrogen and are tightly sealed and purged. Constructed with a stainless steel outer shell and compartments, they ensure durability and longevity, crucial for maintaining a sealed environment.

The success of a desiccator cabinet lies in its tight seal, which preserves the contents. They can be made from welded stainless steel or thick, clear acrylic, which allows for easy observation and monitoring. The doors feature a spring-loaded latch with a gasket for an airtight seal.

Desiccator cabinets also protect against electrostatic discharge, which can damage sensitive tools and equipment. They feature a fast electrostatic decay rate and specific surface sensitivity to ensure the safety of their contents.

Clean Room Air Showers

Clean room air showers are self-contained units that remove particulate matter from personnel before they enter a clean room. These units are placed at clean room entrances and efficiently remove contaminants from workers' garments using high-velocity HEPA-filtered air jets.

The operation is similar to a car wash: when the shower door opens, a sensor activates an interlock magnet, locking the shower and clean room. Nozzles then blow high-velocity air at the worker, scrubbing off particulate matter. The process takes four to eight seconds, followed by a short decontamination period for the shower itself. Once complete, an indicator light signals that the clean room door can open.

Clean room air showers are customized to meet industry needs and accommodate the number of personnel using them. Designs vary, including 90° entry/exit configurations and multiple door setups for continuous operation.

Environmental Monitoring Systems

Environmental monitoring systems provide real-time data on particle contamination with alarms and feedback. They integrate counters, sensors, and software to stream constant environmental data, enabling immediate response to contamination events.

These systems display data as easy-to-understand graphs, allowing for quick action to prevent contamination spread. They can be integrated into any clean room, with strategic sensor placement tailored to specific needs.

Environmental monitoring systems ensure air pressure, temperature, humidity, and particle counts are at required levels, storing data for compliance verification with ISO standards. They continuously monitor critical areas, checking personnel, floors, walls, ceilings, equipment, and air content to maintain clean room classification and prevent delays in processes.

Laminar Airflow

Natural airflow is turbulent and can deposit particles on workspaces and surfaces. Laminar airflow creates a consistent pattern that eliminates turbulence, drawing air through filters that clean and decontaminate it before release into the clean room. This ensures a clean environment essential for sensitive technical production.

Laminar airflow systems use pre-filters to remove large particles and HEPA filters to eliminate 99.99% of particles as small as 3 microns (µ). The filtered air is then released into the clean room, meeting clean room requirements. Most clean rooms are classified as laminar, meaning air makes a single pass through the room, either entering through the ceiling and exiting through floor outlets or entering through one wall and leaving through the opposite wall. HEPA filters are positioned at the air entry points, with ductwork typically made of stainless steel or non-shedding metal.

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