CleanRooms West 2000: Turning the tables on product development

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One of the images ingrained in my mind coming out of CleanRooms West 2000 is of a convention center full of conversations and hand shakes, new product introductions and inquisitive attendees searching for cost-effective solutions—all signs of a solid show.

While this image is heartwarming for the CleanRooms Group, I never fail to wonder just how often the vendor/attendee conversation is turned around. How often does the attendee, or end-user, tell the vendor what's needed as opposed to the vendor telling the end user what's available? And by the way, end-users, if you feel as if you've established this level of communication with your prime vendors and have your product needs for the future sorted out you can stop reading here.

At CleanRooms West this year we launched an idea that, if built upon and developed, could usher in a new dimension of industry conferences and shows for our group.

Thanks to the work of Associate Publisher Bill Burris, CleanRooms West hosted the first ever CleanRooms Executive Business Conference Forum, a morning-long session that brought top-notch end-user minds together with some of the industry's keenest cleanroom-equipment manufacturing talent.

The format was based on a simple assignment: Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), Amgen, The Centers for Disease Control, Nestle, look into your crystal ball and tell the vendors what you see and what you'll need.

What we got in return were various levels of advice, some specifics and news of startling innovations that will remain off the record. What we started was a high-level discussion that both sides of the industry must continue.

AMD's Lynn Armentrout didn't pull any punches. “Your products and my products are inner-related. But we're stretching our imaginations, now we need you to stretch yours because the [cleanroom] equipment we need to do what we do doesn't currently exist.”

Arementrout, who oversees yield management at AMD, went on to mention the inevitable development of the fabled, fully automated “Blue Jean Fab” where minienvironments virtually eliminate the human element. The industry has been talking about it, but are there proper plans in place to make it happen? How far off is 400-mm production? What will be needed for 400-mm? He's basically challenging the industry to keep up.

Dr. Richard Knudsen, who keeps a watchful eye over the clean spaces at the CDC's Building 15, has sent a challenge of his own out to the market. “We're moving into something I'll call 'Biohazard Containment' where we'll need more specific bio-lab equipment, better gloves and gloveboxes devoted to work on humans, animals and plants.” Some of the growth that Knudsen foresees will focus on cell culture, organ culture and genetic transfers.

Amgen's Doug Farrar was quick to agree with Armentrout's vision of the fully automated manufacturing facility. “It will move to full-automation in bio-tech as well,” says Farrar, “but that doesn't mean fewer people. There will be just as many positions, maybe even more, they will just be different types of jobs.”

Farrar called for the cleanroom industry to start thinking about developing a method for more multipurpose, modular facilities with bio-tech-specific flooring—and build them faster.

“We've talked about the increased use of isolators, and it has to move that way,” says Farrar. “Isolators protect the product and the operator while reducing overall operating costs.” But there are some kinks that have to be worked out, he adds. “Ergonomics, cleanablity, cost and space occupied will have to be improved.”

This dialogue must continue. Tell the vendor what you'll need. You just may get it.

You'll see another session like this at CleanRooms East 2001 in Boston in March and you'll see more ways to stay in touch as we announce a re-design of

Michael Levans
Chief Editor


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