Forth Rolls Out Cleanroom Wheelchair
Scottsdale, AZ–Forth Research, Inc. has cleared its last regulatory hurdle–510K approval from the FDA–to market the first cleanroom-compatible wheelchair for evacuating workers from the cleanroom in case of accidents, illness or injury–the Protocol-SE. Forth Research, a cleanrooms research firm specializing in microcontamination control technology, and Arizona State University invented the first cleanroom-compatible wheelchair, the Protocol-CE in 1993.
Like its predecessor, the Protocol-SE is intrinsically clean and cleanable and meets Class 101/M2.5 cleanroom requirements. Developed by Dr. Michael N. Kozicki, professor of electrical engineering at Arizona State University in Tempe, the SE`s frame is made of one-inch od. Cr/Mo steel alloy with low-contamination Delrin brushings on the folding mechanism. It is covered with an electrostatically applied, non-particulating/low out-gassing, polymer coat similar to that used in many cleanrooms.
According to Victor Lyn, Forth`s vice president for operations and standards, the new wheelchair is a lower-cost version of the Protocol-CE, which was designed for the occupational use of disabled workers. The SE will allow swift emergency response, while reducing the risk of compromising the environment. The wall-mounted unit can be kept with other emergency equipment and supplies, folds to a width of 11 in. and is light enough for cleanroom personnel to handle easily.
Many new facilities are being designed and built with wheelchair access in mind. The controlled-environment wheelchair system features variable width to accommodate narrow aisles, utilizing different-sized pad frames, variable wheel positions, removable arm and footrests, tool and product trays, and clean seat belts. The system can also accept accessories such as a removable underseat, a sealed motor drive/battery pack, a seat elevator and various electronic systems.
The University of Arizona at Tempe became the first academic institution to use cleanroom wheelchairs in its solid state research facilities. Advanced Micro Devices (Austin, TX) was the first company to evaluate cleanroom wheelchairs in a working environment. In their study, the Protocol-CE was used and evaluated by a disabled employee in a component test cleanroom. Digital Equipment Corporation offered to beta test the wheelchairs at its Hudson, MA facilities, identifying a number of jobs which could be performed by a wheelchair-using employee. Intel Corp. (Hillsborough, OR) and Motorola (Austin, TX) have also embarked on their own studies.n