Automation tuned for the rest of us

I've been both praised and jeered for being a big picture guy. When I see any new technologies that can be applied to general cleanroom applications, I tend to forget that integration of any new system takes time, money, acceptance, validation, patience and a great deal of salesmanship on the part of the implementer.

Coming out of last month's issue, I read and re-read our Special Report, “Tying the Great Machine Together,” and thought here are advanced process control technologies that will undoubtedly trickle down to impact a variety of manufacturers across a broad spectrum. Applications will obviously change, but the general idea of a seamless, measured and monitored manufacturing system remains.

Of course, I'm also constantly reminded that our chip makers are a little behind the curve when it comes to factory automation; however, I trust that the chip industry can take an idea, re-work it, max it out and eventually create a “robust” system—absorbing great expense in the process, of course.

Just the idea of manufacturing execution systems (MES) is something that can bring a tear of joy to a contamination control practitioner's eyes. Software designed to integrate material-handling systems, robots and minienvironments and monitor all the tools on your manufacturing line to maximize yield sounds like contamination control utopia.

It's considered an inapproachable luxury to most of us, but now that the chip makers have set their sights on increased automation controls and critical suppliers such as Brooks-PRI and Applied Materials are meeting demands with software to orchestrate new automated masterpieces, other manufacturing industries will undoubtedly benefit from this advanced R&D and subsequent implementation.

Intel, AMD, UMC, among others, are currently pushing the envelopes of advanced process control (APC), tying a measuring device to every nook and cranny of the fab via developmental partnerships that will take some of the sting out of colossal research and development costs. This kind of partnering is running rampant throughout chip making; as a matter of fact, it can be considered the only good news coming out of that market this year.

But don't think that these early-stage luxuries are the sole ownership of the big spenders. Like cleanroom developments currently employed in life sciences and biotech areas, there's nothing wrong with waiting for the chip industry to work out the kinks before there's solid, validated evidence that they'll work for you.

Minienvironment identity

Just a quick end note to congratulate Mike Fitzpatrick, Ken Goldstein and the members of the Institute of Environmental Sciences and Technology (IEST; Rolling Meadows, IL) Working Group Minienvironments (WG028) on the recent publication of Recommended Practice CC028.1.

The publication is the culmination of six years of work and offers end users the first document that officially defines what some call the ultimate answer to localized contamination control. To follow the thought process, read this month's Unfiltered on page 30.

Michael A. Levans
Chief Editor

You have something stuck in your teeth

What would you do if your date had a piece of food stuck in his or her teeth, or you saw someone towing a stream of toilet paper out of a rest room?

Not that it's anyone's business, but these two questions were posed to visitors of a major metropolitan newspaper's Web site, and as luck will have it, most people would indeed alert another person to that harbored piece of spinach or at least fight the urge to blurt out, “Hey buddy, nice train, when's the wedding?”

Poll subjects vary, but one thing's for sure, the results are almost always good information, and Web sites are continually turning to readers for insight.

CleanRooms has been doing the same thing with QuickVote, a feature that has been added to PennWell Corp. Web sites, including,, which allows readers to point, click and vote.

Over the past several months, CleanRooms has solicited readers for thoughts on all kinds of things; from the downturn to gloves to earning educational credits, and, most recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) initiative, “Pharmaceutical cGMPs for the 21st Century: A Risk-Based Approach.”

While we've been able to gain valuable reader insight into the FDA initiative through QuickVote, I found one aspect of a recent poll somewhat disturbing. Out of the thousands of life sciences readers who visit our site daily, we found that quite a few readers feel that revamping cGMPs is a “waste of time.” [See p. 4]

This same kind of apathy has been seen before where the majority of respondents believe the cGMPs initiative is either a gamble or waste of time. Even as this column is being penned, 63 percent of you believe the FDA's back is against the wall and the agency is being forced to catch up with the very emerging industries and technologies it polices.

How can life science industries turn its backs on the opportunity to get involved, build and ultimately fine-tune what is being called the most far-reaching regulatory overhaul in at least 25 years?

Whatever the case may be, CleanRooms will continue to poll readers on a host of issues, including the FDA initiative when appropriate.

But if for some reason the multiple-choice answers that we supply do not represent your stance, call or drop us E-mail. Let your thoughts be known and included in our reports, for the goal of the QuickVote is to provide you, the reader, with good information. And please, visit, or better yet, sign up for our E-newsletter to stay up to date with news and QuickVote polls.

Just the same, if the results of our recent poll on the FDA initiative are an accurate barometer, the naysayers, in the end, will most certainly be picking bits of humble pie out their teeth, while paying a price for impassiveness that dogs their existence like that stream of toilet paper.

Mark A. DeSorbo
Associate Editor


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.