Experts` pioneering ways lead to cleanroom advances
By Tammy Wright
Editor`s Note: This is the ninth and final installment in a series of articles celebrating the accomplishments of the distinguished members of the CleanRooms Hall of Fame. Two inductees, William Soltis and Dr. Hans Schicht, are featured in this issue.
The pioneering ways of William Soltis and Dr. Hans Schicht have been leading advances in cleanroom technology since contamination control was first recognized as a necessary component of manufacturing.
Soltis got involved in the industry in 1961 after a meeting with Dr. Willis Whitfield, the physicist who developed the laminar flow principle with the help of his associates at Sandia Laboratories, J. Gordon King and Claude Marsh.
“I was a starving air conditioning contractor when I was invited to visit with Dr. Whitfield,” Soltis remembers, citing his “reputation” for dealing with complicated HVAC systems as the reason behind the invitation. “I knew instinctively that it was my opportunity of a lifetime.”
The encounter enabled Soltis to transform the research trio`s idea into practical application. The mechanical engineer was granted one of the three royalty-free licenses issued to build a commercial laminar flow system, putting him on the ground floor of an emerging industry and positioning him as a leader of his peers.
In the years that have followed, Soltis has become known as an innovator in the design and construction of cleanroom facilities. He is the founder of several prosperous cleanroom-related companies. However, he is most proud of creating Envirco Inc. (Albuquerque, NM), which he started in 1960, sold to Becton-Dickinson in 1966 and managed under contract until 1970, and Lepco, Inc. (Houston, TX), which he started in 1981 and continues to run today as its chairman.
Soltis holds nine patents in the high efficiency air filter and cleanroom field and is responsible for many groundbreaking developments, including construction of the first laminar flow operating surgical suite at Bataan Memorial Hospital (Albuquerque, NM); a germ-free patient isolation room for cancer treatment at M.D. Anderson Hospital (Houston, TX); and a prototype space sterilization room for NASA at the University of Minnesota.
As an outgrowth of his day job, Soltis has participated in international conferences and spent a great deal of time serving on technical committees for industry associations. He is also the author of numerous papers on cleanroom design as well as a contributor to the originating Air Conditioning Engineers Guide and the Institute of Environmental Sciences and Technology`s recommended practice RP-CC-006-84-T that focuses on cleanroom testing procedures.
“I`ve had fun all these years,” Soltis says, noting one of his greatest moments as being honored by his alma mater, Texas A&M University, with a Distinguished Graduate award for his work in cleanroom design.
Soltis`s peer, Dr. Hans Schicht, who has been working in contamination control for the last three decades, feels the same kind of gratification.
Dr. Schicht was pushed into the industry in 1970, while working as a research scientist in the Heating and Air Conditioning division of Sulzer Bros. Ltd. in Winterhur/Switzerland. At the time, much attention was focused on hospital infections caused by airborne microorganisms disseminated through air conditioning systems. Dr. Schicht helped to identify sources of risk and determine the technical requirements for preventing that kind of contamination. His work was widely recognized throughout Europe, and as a result, he became active in the foundation of the Swiss Society for Contamination Control SRRT and in the International Confederation of Contamination Control Societies (ICCCS).
Dr. Schicht`s committee involvement spurred a strong interest in contamination control standardization. To that end, he has chaired the technical committee on hospital air conditioning established by the Brazilian Association for Technical Standards ABNT, a member body of ISO; he has worked on the German guideline VDI 2083 regarding cleanroom technology; and he has been striving diligently to pave the way for the adoption of international ISO/TC 209 standards. As the Swiss delegate to ISO/TC 209, Dr. Schicht has helped draft documents written by Working Group 1 on air cleanliness classifications and by Working Group 7 on enhanced clean devices such as isolators and minienvironments. His efforts have made him a respected international voice propagating a very important message.
“Clean manufacturing has developed from an exotic specialty into an amply used tool, and it continues to develop into all-embracing contamination control concepts,” Dr. Schicht says. Considering the technology`s global nature, he feels his greatest professional achievement was organizing and chairing the 10th International Symposium on Contamination Control which took place in Zurich, Switzerland in 1990.
The consultant, however, has had many honors bestowed upon him. He is a fellow of the Institute of Environmental Sciences and Technology, an honorary member of the Brazilian Society for Contamination Control, and the recipient of the IEST`s 1998 Willis J. Whitfield award. Dr. Schicht is also the author of many papers on contamination control and is frequently sought after to speak at industry conferences.
As for the future, both Dr. Schicht and Soltis are prepared to remain in their mentor roles. They see applications and markets for cleanroom technology growing steadily and they plan to continue leading the charge into new fields.
Dr. Schicht and Soltis were inducted into the CleanRooms Hall of Fame in 1995 and 1991, respectively.