Rent-a-technology catching on

By Mark A. DeSorbo

ANAHEIM, Calif.—It looks like nothing more than a propped up dryer hose attached to toaster-like box that emits a vaporous fog, but the Clean Air Trakker from Clean Air Solutions can cost as much as a new Hyundai automobile.

Some industries maintaining cleanrooms spare no expense when it comes to environmental monitoring, shelling out thousands for water foggers, particle counters and other devices. But others, like Pat Law, certification manager for Protocol Inc. (Beaverton, Ore.), take an outsourcing route when providing micro-contamination-consulting services.

“We may have jobs that require more equipment than we have on hand,” says Law, as he walked the show floor at CleanRooms West 2003 in late September. “Rather than purchase it, we rent it.”

There is a certain degree of pride in ownership, but with it comes hidden costs of maintenance and, in an age of ever-evolving technology, the inevitable pitfall of obsolescence, says Richard Shaw, regional account manager for Irvine, Calif.-based Ashtead Technology Rentals.

“People who are building cleanrooms often don't know what they need, but once it's finished, they will need particle counters and foggers,” he says, adding that purchasing those devices are not always an option after completing multi-million dollar projects.

Renting the $13,000 Clean Air Trakker costs $600 a week, or $150 a day, while a $10,000 Met-One 237B particle counter from Pacific Scientific Instruments rents for $420 a week, or $105 a day.

Along with weekly and daily rates, four-week rates are available—the Clean Air Trakker would cost $1,500, while the Met-One particle counter would cost $1,050. There are also multi-month contracts, with the rate varying depending on the piece of equipment.

“Plus, we handle the maintenance, we handle the calibration. And because technology is always changing, you have to update every few years,” Shaw says. “These are all hidden costs of ownership.”

There's also the issue of availability and long lead times for cleanroom equipment. The ability to rent environmental monitoring devices fills that void, adds Protocol's Law.

“At times, a manufacturer may have the product in stock to sell, and it could be back-ordered and take two months to deliver,” he says. “Most of the time, for us, it's an immediate need.”


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