Visionaries lead industry advancement

Visionaries lead industry advancement

By Tammy Wright

This article celebrates the accomplishments of CleanRooms` 1998 Hall of Fame inductees, Dr. Robert Knollenberg and the late Henry B. McNeilly, Sr., who were recognized at CleanRooms West `98 held in October in San Diego, CA.

Dr. Robert Knollenberg and Henry McNeilly, Sr. are two industry pioneers who had the foresight to recognize the growth potential of the contamination control market and to seize the opportunities they found within it.

Dr. Knollenberg could actually be considered a man ahead of his time. He is credited with the development of a variety of particle-sizing techniques with applications to multiple scientific disciplines. He was building instrumentation for environmental science that was more sensitive than it needed to be, when he piqued the interest of other companies. As a result, Dr. Knollenberg built an OEM product for Royco Instruments, known today as HIAC Royco, a developer and manufacturer of advanced particle-counting systems for liquid-based applications.

“We became familiar with (cleanrooms) through Royco`s product and then we entered the market more directly,” Dr. Knollenberg explains.

Among his peers, he is best known for designing light scattering and particle-size spectrometers for use on aircraft, and for using “in situ” light scattering and extinction particle-size spectrometers in liquid contamination measurements. Dr. Knollenberg also invented laser resonant cavity techniques for sub-micron aerosol measurements. He holds numerous instrumentation patents and he served as the principal investigator on the Pioneer Venus Particle-Size Spectrometer Experiment in 1978 — the only particle-sizing device having flown to another planet.

During his career, Dr. Knollenberg has held teaching positions at the University of Chicago and Colorado State University. In 1972, he founded Particle Measuring Systems Inc., where he held positions ranging from chairman of the board to research and development director. The company spun off its electro-optics division in 1994, creating Research Electro-Optics Inc., where Dr. Knollenberg currently serves as CEO and chairman of the board. He sold Particle Measuring Systems in 1996 to Fairey Group plc, a holding company in the United Kingdom.

While his list of achievements is long, Dr. Knollenberg believes his most important contribution to industry has been bringing lasers and laser cavities to applications in cleanroom particle counters.

To keep that kind of innovation in high-tech industries, Dr. Knollenberg used the proceeds from the sale of his parent company to create Sensor Technology Development Fund, which invests in early phase start-ups focusing on sensors and instrumentation front-ends with emphasis on electro-optics technologies.

While Dr. Knollenberg keeps technology in an advancement mode, the industrious efforts of the late Henry McNeilly are still shaping the present-day operation of cleanroom laundries.

In 1965, McNeilly founded Micron-Clean Uniform Service, one of the world`s first facilities dedicated to precision laundering and specializing in the whiteroom/cleanroom market. In the early 1970s, McNeilly began to offer sterile cleanroom apparel service to the pharmaceutical aseptic market. He started using Eto sterilization, and soon after, undertook the challenge of validation in order to utilize gamma irradiation sterilization, which is considered a safer laundering method.

“It`s important to remember that such undertakings were fraught with developmental problems. There were no books written on the subject and no easy place to turn for answers,” says Cintas Cleanroom Resources` Director of Technical Marketing Brad Whitsel, a professional associate and close friend of McNeilly`s. “Special garment designs, construction techniques and materials, special packaging — all things we tend to take for granted today — were developed by Henry and other early pioneers.”

In the 1980s, McNeilly`s peers say that he continued to set benchmarks for quality, price, service and critical reliability. He expanded Micron-Clean, starting an international division that serviced the United Kingdom and Europe; he created a scholarship/grant program to support research and academic projects; and he was instrumental in forming Micronclean International, a cooperating consortium of precision laundries that shares technologies to advance the general state of cleanroom and particle management disciplines.

In early 1997, McNeilly merged his business with Cintas Corp., forming Cintas Cleanroom Resources — an organization that operates on a foundation McNeilly cemented 33 years ago.

“Henry believed and preached to his employees that to succeed in this marketplace, you have to think about the future practice of contamination control, not the present,” says Whitsel. “He was constantly pushing to exceed the immediate requirements with an eye to the future.” CR


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