Electronics, Bioclean Industries Drive Demand for Airlocks, Doors, and Pass-Thrus

Electronics, Bioclean Industries Drive Demand for Airlocks, Doors, and Pass-Thrus

The market is looking good for airlocks, doors and pass-thrus. By the year 2000, the market will almost double worldwide for these key cleanroom system components.

By Lisa A. Coleman

By the year 2000, about $130 million is projected to be spent worldwide on airlocks, airshowers, doors, and pass-thrus, according to Robert McIlvaine, president of the McIlvaine Co. (Northbrook, IL). Compared to the $67 million spent in 1995, the big gain will be in the electronics segments which include the disc drive, flat panel display and semiconductor industries. Asia will be the hot spot for these components as industries are forecasted to spend about $38 million in the year 2000, up 48 percent from 1995.

Of all the components needed for a cleanroom–doors and pass-thrus are almost always necessary. The upswing in the market for these products is due to the growing number of cleanrooms being built worldwide and the increasing number of non-traditional industries using cleanrooms–for example, automotive, micromachining, and food processing. “It`s just a function of the number of cleanrooms being built,” says Scott Mackler, general sales and marketing manager for Clestra Cleanroom, Inc. (North Syracuse, NY). Casimir Ruda, executive vice president of Contamination Control Products (CCP; Marlboro, NJ) concurs, “there`s a lot of retrofits out there.” According to John Nappi, Jr., CEO at Liberty Industries, (East Berlin, CT) one reason these components are seeing a market upswing is the Asian market. Says Nappi, “Air showers are in great demand in southeast Asia, the Japanese are firm believers in them.”

There are a wide variety of airlocks, doors, and pass-thrus. Here`s a sample of what`s available.


Generally, airlocks are part of the cleanroom design and as readily available as a consumable product, like a swab or garment. In the cleanroom industry, several types of products have the word “airlock” attached to them, such as a glovebox airlock and pass-thru airlocks. “An airlock is a design feature. Anytime you need pressure control especially in a validatable situation you will design-in an airlock,” says Clestra`s Mackler. Therefore, it`s up to the cleanroom user to determine what kind of “airlock” is necessary.

Some manufacturers are making an air shower/airlock part of a cleanroom`s entry system. For example, Air Crafters, Inc. (Ronkonkoma, NY) offers its Airshower Entry System as part of a line of cleanroom entry systems. These products are constructed of steel in either CRS or a bonderized polyurethane finish or polished stainless steel. Air Crafters also offers its ASET Series Airshower Entry System with modular knock-down components which fit through a standard doorway. According to Michael Hennessey, vice president of Air Crafters, the Airshower Entry System is used as an airshower and an airlock however, the air shower nozzles can be removed to create an airlock with no air shower capability.

CRP (Ronkonkoma, NY) also offers a stainless steel airlock/pass-thru. Its D4000S series uses reinforced construction to provide heavy-duty service. The units can be adapted into new construction or fitted into an existing facility. Special sizes and configurations are available. Scientific Air Systems (SAS; Tigard, OR) has an all-metal air shower designed for Class 1 to Class 10,000 environments. The shower can also be used as an airlock entry system to a cleanroom. The SAS 2000 all-metal air shower provides a minimum of 7,000 fpm air velocity from adjustable or fixed nozzles.

Liberty Industries offers a pass-thru/airshower combination for parts transfer. It`s designed to provide material cleaning and transfer to a clean area, while providing Class 100 air to the materials in the pass-thru. Liberty does offer a line of air showers that function as airlocks also. According to Liberty`s Nappi, the company has the only “airshower that`s been tested by five independent users.” AS/PT Inc. (Ontario, CA) offers airlocks and air showers. For retrofit applications, it offers a new Air Tower system which interfaces with existing ceiling grids to allow for a continuous laminar flow of air while maintaining access for service and installation.

Terra Universal (Anaheim, CA) offers a stainless steel airlock for parts transfer into and out of a glove box. The airlock design features recessed polyurethane gaskets that seal against a knife-edged lip when the air lock is closed. The glovebox airlock is made of heavy-duty double-wall 304 stainless steel. The product does have an optional pneumatic access door, isolated from the glove box in a vertical track. Finally, Air Control, Inc. (Henderson, NC) offers its Microvoid clean chambers and storage cabinets that can be used for pass-thru applications. Its standard units are available in clear acrylic or ultra-violet-shielding amber with one, two or three compartments with doors on one or two sides.

Other manufacturers and distributors of airlocks and airshowers include: Air Energy Systems, Airo Clean, Clean Air Products, Clean Room Accessories, Connecticut Clean Room, CCP, Dryden Engineering, Filtration Technology, Hemco, House Technology, Laminaire, Liberty Industries, Microzone Corp., Modular Cleanrooms, PCI, Plascore, T-Squared, Versatile Tech Engineering and Warner Industrial Supply.


Door manufacturers are reporting a trend in automatic doors for cleanrooms. “More and more people use automatic doors just for the convenience,” says Michael Jaswith, marketing and sales manager for Dor-O-Matic (Harwood Hts., IL). “There`s definitely an upswing in the market,” he adds. That`s good news for door manufacturers and distributors that market both manual and automatic doors.

Several firms manufacture and distribute doors, including Dor-O-Matic. Its Astro-Fold automatic folding door package can be used when a wide, quick opening is need for high-volume traffic. The door is also used to retrofit entrances with existing manual pairs of doors. Motion detectors activate the door opening.

ASI Technologies` Marathon Industrial Door Division (Milwaukee, WI) offers the CleanSeal door system for rapid access to cleanrooms. Both manual and power models are available and feature a stainless steel shroud, frame, and hardware. The power door model is equipped with the Softouch fail-safe reversing edge, and a wide range of actuation options. Marathon`s Spirit high-speed roll-up door is a fabric door that offers a 30-second reset that is available with USDA-rated fabric and windows for areas that require heavy washdown capability.

Automatic doors from Besam (Hightstown, NJ) were the first used in a Class 1 cleanroom at Motorola`s microchip manufacturing facility (Austin, TX). Besam`s EZ-Fit 4050 units and its Power-Glide 4000 are compatible with Class 1 cleanroom environments. The doors are offered in aluminum or glass configurations and are available for both new construction and retrofits.

Horton Automatics (Corpus Christi, TX) offers automatic door systems especially designed for use in pharmaceutical and microelectronics cleanrooms. The door panel material is non-corrosive and particle-free. The operating system and heavyweight track and wheels are concealed in an aluminum header.

Simplex Strip Doors Inc. (Upland, CA) offers Airlock Wall Panels which are designed to latch together quickly to create a cleanroom enclosure for injection molding equipment, temporary maintenance enclosures, machinery isolation, and other applications. Simplex also offers “strip doors” that use mounting tracks for attaching strip doors. Several different door strip sizes are offered from 6-in. to 24-in. wide strips.

For a list of other door manufacturers and distributors, please see the chart accompanying this article for contact information.


One trend in pass-thrus is the move to stainless steel, however some companies like T-Squared (San Jacinto, CA) are steering their customers toward polypropylene because it`s as clean and less expensive than stainless steel. “The typical wood-core laminated pass-thru is phasing out,” says Rick Taylor, general manager of T-Squared. “Because cleanrooms are getting so much cleaner, manufacturers want to take away any possibility of dust particles getting in the cleanroom,” he says. Also, Taylor reports that a trend for more aesthetically pleasing cleanrooms began in Europe and has trickled into the United States. Wall panels, flooring, doors and pass-thrus are being made of matching materials to offer the cleanroom worker a more aesthetic environment.

Of the three products mentioned in this article, pass-thrus are offered by the most companies. T-Squared has created a hybrid pass-thru that can be used for cleanrooms and chemical handling requirements. It has welded polypropylene construction with positive seal interlocking doors and custom hardware that lets only one door be opened at a time.

Halco Products (Elk Grove, IL) offers a stainless steel pass-thru with two fire-rated doors with mechanical interlocks and nitrogen purge. Clestra Cleanroom (North Syracuse, NY) also offers stainless steel pass-thru cabinets. The cGMP pass-thru has no organic materials such as particle board, or materials that would deteriorate in the presence of pharmaceutical-grade sanitizing agents. The pass-thru is made of all steel or stainless steel. Its features include mechanical or electronic interlocking, timed interlocking, UV lighting, and provisions for HEPA filtered air.

Contamination Control Products (Marlboro, NJ) offers pass-thrus that can be custom made and are lined with stainless steel. Its pass-thrus can be manufactured from laminate, laminate with stainless steel liners, cold-rolled steel and stainless steel. In addition, Atmos-Tech (Ocean, NJ) offers a complete line of pass-thrus from its Cart Pass-Thru to its Wall Pass-Thrus which can all be designed to meet any requirement. The units are made of laminated particle board, painted steel, or solid stainless steel. Options include a constant-purge HEPA ceiling, high velocity air shower nozzles, fluorescent or UV lights, and interior shelving.

Clean Air Technology (Canton, MI) also offers a pass-thru made of particle board. Its pass-thru is 3/4-in. thick with all sides and edges finished in white laminate. The pass-thrus can be used in modular, conventional and softwall cleanrooms. The cabinets have polycarbonate doors, stainless steel work surfaces and magnetic latches. n

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The McIlvaine Co. predicts that by the year 2000, the market for doors, airlocks, air showers and pass-thrus will be about $42 million in the Americas, $34 million in Europe/Africa, and $54 million in Asia.

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Simplex Strip Doors` softwall doors which are available in varying sizes and widths.

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Horton Automatics offers a cleanroom screen 11 door.

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The “standard” cleanroom door from Air Control. The door is typically manufactured with 20 gauge steel and is finished with white polyurethane enamel coating.

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Besam`s doors were the first automatic doors to be used in a Class 1 cleanroom, according to the company.

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Halco`s pass-thrus are available in stainless steel, like the one shown.

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Liberty Industries offers pass-thrus that are stainless steel; motorized ULPA-filtered; laminated; and other options are available.

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Clestra`s pass-thru uses either all steel or stainless steel construction and includes no organic materials such as particle board.

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T-Squared`s PolyPro hybrid pass-thru can be used in cleanrooms and in chemical-handling environments.

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Atmos-Tech manufactures a complete line of pass-thrus for most requirements. The pass-thrus are available in laminated particle board, painted steel or solid stainless steel.

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The glovebox airlock from Terra Universal is manufactured of stainless steel. These airlocks can be retrofitted onto any Terra glovebox.

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The Airshower Entry System (right) from Air Crafters is adaptable to any assembly configuration.


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