New technologies drive demand for cleanrooms

New technologies drive demand for cleanrooms

By Sheri Kovalchek

While aerospace, medical and pharmaceutical applications drove the cleanroom industry in the 1960s and 1970s, high technology areas such as semiconductors, microelectromechanical, flat-panel displays and newer industries such as biotechnology will carry the cleanroom into the next century.

“The semiconductor market has seen the most change in growth, because of the development of minienvironments,” explains Robert McIlvaine, president of The McIlvaine Co. However, “the flat-panel display industry and, most recently, microelectromechanical systems industry could grow to be even bigger than the semiconductor industry,” McIlvaine predicts.

“Every few years, a new industry comes along that needs cleanrooms. The whole cleanroom industry is on the edge of high-tech developments,” McIlvaine says.

The flat-panel display industry, which includes lap-tops, notebook computers, games, navigation systems, camcorders and up-scale telephones, will continually require new cleanroom space, due to the demand for products like lap-top computers. According to The McIlvaine Co.`s report, “Cleanroom Markets and Forecast 1996-2000,” “The flat-panel display market is the largest growth segment for the worldwide cleanroom industry, and by the year 2000 flat panels will account for 81 percent of electronic displays shipped globally.”

The defense industry will capitalize on microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) for the newest weapons of the 21st century. In addition, MEMS devices could improve reliability and keep costs down in billion-dollar weapon systems. These mini-devices, generally made of silicon, are manufactured in cleanrooms and require semiconductor-like contamination control. The automotive industry used them in airbags as mini-device air valves. They perform like little motors, opening and closing valves at a miniature level. The medical industry will soon be able to send a microelectromechanical motor into the human body and perform micro-operations on specific parts of the body.

Biotechnology applications are also responsible for driving the cleanroom market as the industry requires cleanrooms to protect both the worker and the product. Since biotech includes such technologies as molecular and cellular manipulation, biomolecular instrumentation, industrial microbiology, fermentation, cell culturing and separation and purification, industry needs include safety cabinets, benches and complete cleanrooms. The processes have also been used to produce antibiotics, enzymes, vitamins and amino acids.

McIlvaine, along with officials at chemical/pharmaceutical companies such as St. Louis-based Monsanto Co., expects the biotechnology industry to someday be the largest purchaser of cleanrooms because of increasing concerns over food safety and the health of the world population, McIlvaine says.

Even though in the past few years the semiconductor industry has experienced the most growth, the biotechnology industry is supposed to double between 1993 and 1998 to over $10 billion per year, giving an annual growth of 15 percent, the McIlvaine report claims. “In the early 1990s, biotechnology felt a short slowing down period because researchers kept taking unfruitful paths, and with so many mistakes, money was lost,” McIlvaine says. But in 1995, product sales increased by 18 percent to $9.3 billion because semiconductor and pharmaceutical industries understood the market enough to continue. Research and development in the semiconductor and pharmaceutical industries increased by 8 percent to $7.7 billion, which means more dollars for the cleanrooms industry, since biotech researchers will need cleaner atmospheres.

While new growth areas begin to offer some competition to the ever-popular semiconductor industry, semiconductors remain the mainstay of the cleanrooms industry in the 1990s.

The McIlvaine report shows growth rates all over the world to be rising. From 1995 to 2000, growth in fabs in the semiconductor industry is expected to climb 38 percent in Japan, 49 percent in the Asia/Pacific region, 40 percent in Europe, and 31 percent in the United States.

In 1994, the annual semiconductor market reached $101 billion, in 1995 it reached $144 billion, and in 1996 it fell to $131 billion, but McIlvaine predicts a continuous double-digit growth due to the development of minienvironments. According to the Cleanroom Markets Newsletter, also published by The McIlvaine Co., in 1998, the semiconductor cleanroom market will increase to $165.34 billion. In addition, because requirements have shifted from Class 100 to Class 1, the demands on cleanroom designers for the semiconductor industry are more stringent today than they were a decade ago.

Another high-tech area using cleanrooms more and more is the disk-drive industry, which is exhibiting growth in two areas — new industries and larger number of rooms, as well as cleanroom equipment and disposables, which will benefit from increased cleanliness requirements. The number of drives sold in 1995 was 90 million, and by the year 2000, the number is expected to jump to 210 million. Overall however, the worldwide market will grow from a total of $5 billion in 1995 to $12.1 billion in 2000, McIlvaine claims.

According to The McIlvaine Co., future trends include more company consolidations, and the use of minienvironments. In the past, a large number of company consolidations have accounted for changes in the cleanrooms industry, such as VWR`s acquisition of two divisions of Baxter Corp. and Isolyser`s acquisition of White Knight Industrial. In the future, more consolidations and an increase in the development of international companies will be the norm.

The use of minienvironments has also been growing steadily. “The most significant development in contamination control has been the developing acceptance of minienvironment technology. Where it was once possible to build large, energy-inefficient cleanrooms around large, labor-inefficient processes, current and future technologies demand small, precision- controlled environments within larger, less rigorous environments,” says John Potter, engineering sales manager at CRP (Ronkonkoma, NY). A minienvironment substantially reduces the cost of cleanrooms in many industries where large-scale cleanrooms can be replaced by rooms using isolation technology.

The cleanroom industry holds new and exciting changes for the future. The semiconductor market is growing and changing every day, and with the proliferation of minienvironments, requirement changes have dropped from Class 100 to Class 1.


Easily post a comment below using your Linkedin, Twitter, Google or Facebook account. Comments won't automatically be posted to your social media accounts unless you select to share.