Prefabricated cleanrooms fit every scenario

Configured in any size, from many materials, prefabricated rooms provide business flexibility and facility expandability. The choice is application driven – what is being done in the cleanroom and what are the cleanliness requirements? Applications for prefabricated cleanrooms range from pharmaceutical filling lines and assembly of medical devices to semiconductor fabrication and food processing.

Prefabricated cleanrooms come in many styles, from the soft-walled models offered by Simplex (above), to the cleanable steel-clad models offered by Celstra Cleanroom (below right)
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As far as applications go, the good news for users is that there are more and more suppliers. The bad news for suppliers is that the applications are more and more diverse in nature, some requiring strength for tough manufacturing areas, some requiring ease of cleaning. Most importantly, says Doug Haines, president of Class One Technology (Huntington Beach, CA), “Users need to be sure of their own requirements, both in terms of the process and production floor.”

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Explains Mike Rexine, business development manager at Clestra Cleanroom (North Syracuse, NY), “Pharmaceutical and life sciences applications require cleanable, steel-clad walls inside, while for the semiconductor industry, where outgassing of materials can be critical, modular construction is considered better than stick built because the finish is pre-applied.” Although a modular room requires more time in the factory than a stick-built room, it is erected more quickly on site.

The issue of modularity is key for other reasons as well. A start-up company located in a leased building may find a modular cleanroom attractive because it is easy to reconfigure to accommodate changes in production and location. “Class One Technology's largest audience is in southern California, where there are a lot of medical device companies,” says Haines. “They need a controlled environment and one that can be easily made larger when the need arises.”

Prefab cleanrooms are often useful for companies that need a clean operation in one or several parts of their facilities. For example, in the production of silicon reactors, the log must be manufactured in a clean space, but a company doesn't have to dedicate a whole floor or room to do so. According to George Mitchell, CEO of AiroClean (Exton, PA), his company can form a frame over a piece of equipment – using plastic soft walls, see-through hard walls, not see-through hard walls, and so on – to enclose a device within an operation.

An increasingly important application is in food processing because of recent scares with listeria. “Although the bacteria are softball sized in comparison with the particles concerned in the semiconductor industry,” notes Mitchell, “the effects are just as important.” If a modular cleanroom is utilized in the prepackaging of foods for dietary consumption, it could impact the product's wholesomeness as well as its shelf life. “If it is clean-packed, it could last three weeks,” Mitchell predicts.

The bottom line is that users need to know all aspects of their application. Know what federal regulations you must adhere to and understand the particulars of your industry. Mitchell of AiroClean suggests that prospective buyers use the Internet. If a company's Web site is current and accurate, he asserts, users can learn much of what they need to know to make their purchasing decision.


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