Cleanroom

Typically used in manufacturing or scientific research, a cleanroom is a controlled environment that has a low level of pollutants such as dust, airborne microbes, aerosol particles, and chemical vapors. To be exact, a cleanroom has a controlled level of contamination that is specified by the number of particles per cubic meter at a specified particle size. The ambient air outside in a typical city environment contains 35,000,000 particles per cubic meter, 0.5 mm and larger in diameter, corresponding to an ISO 9 cleanroom which is at the lowest level of cleanroom standards.

Cleanroom Overview

Cleanrooms are used in practically every industry where small particles can adversely affect the manufacturing process. They vary in size and complexity, and are used extensively in industries such as semiconductor manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, biotech, medical device and life sciences, as well as critical process manufacturing common in aerospace, optics, military and Department of Energy.

A cleanroom is any given contained space where provisions are made to reduce particulate contamination and control other environmental parameters such as temperature, humidity and pressure. The key component is the High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter that is used to trap particles that are 0.3 micron and larger in size. All of the air delivered to a cleanroom passes through HEPA filters, and in some cases where stringent cleanliness performance is necessary; Ultra Low Particulate Air (ULPA) filters are used.

Personnel selected to work in cleanrooms undergo extensive training in contamination control theory. They enter and exit the cleanroom through airlocks, air showers and/or gowning rooms, and they must wear special clothing designed to trap contaminants that are naturally generated by skin and the body.

Depending on the room classification or function, personnel gowning may be as limited as lab coats and hairnets, or as extensive as fully enveloped in multiple layered bunny suits with self-contained breathing apparatus.
Cleanroom clothing is used to prevent substances from being released off the wearer’s body and contaminating the environment. The cleanroom clothing itself must not release particles or fibers to prevent contamination of the environment by personnel. This type of personnel contamination can degrade product performance in the semiconductor and pharmaceutical industries and it can cause cross-infection between medical staff and patients in the healthcare industry for example.

Cleanroom garments include boots, shoes, aprons, beard covers, bouffant caps, coveralls, face masks, frocks/lab coats, gowns, glove and finger cots, hairnets, hoods, sleeves and shoe covers. The type of cleanroom garments used should reflect the cleanroom and product specifications. Low-level cleanrooms may only require special shoes having completely smooth soles that do not track in dust or dirt. However, shoe bottoms must not create slipping hazards since safety always takes precedence. A cleanroom suit is usually required for entering a cleanroom. Class 10,000 cleanrooms may use simple smocks, head covers, and booties. For Class 10 cleanrooms, careful gown wearing procedures with a zipped cover all, boots, gloves and complete respirator enclosure are required.

Cleanroom Air Flow Principles

Cleanrooms maintain particulate-free air through the use of either HEPA or ULPA filters employing laminar or turbulent air flow principles. Laminar, or unidirectional, air flow systems direct filtered air downward in a constant stream. Laminar air flow systems are typically employed across 100% of the ceiling to maintain constant, unidirectional flow. Laminar flow criteria is generally stated in portable work stations (LF hoods), and is mandated in ISO-1 through ISO-4 classified cleanrooms.

Proper cleanroom design encompasses the entire air distribution system, including provisions for adequate, downstream air returns. In vertical flow rooms, this means the use of low wall air returns around the perimeter of the zone. In horizontal flow applications, it requires the use of air returns at the downstream boundary of the process. The use of ceiling mounted air returns is contradictory to proper cleanroom system design.

Plant & Equipment Relocation Services

In challenging economic times, some manufacturing companies are faced with difficult decisions regarding the location of their manufacturing facilities. Sometimes the reason being to reduce operational costs or for enhanced Business growth and/or new product lines may be pressing companies to move their operations to larger facilities to keep up with increasing demand. Other companies may simply be responding to changing market pressures by relocating closer to their customers or supplier network.

Regardless of these reasons for relocating a manufacturing facility, when that final decision to relocate is made, it’s up to the plant engineering company and its supporting team to execute the project. Since each relocation project comes with unique challenges, detailed planning and communication in the beginning have higher turnaround ratio for being successful projects.

Layouts

Often, facility and equipment layout drawings are neglected. However, accurate and detailed layout drawings of the current facility location are essential to plan for the equipment relocation to another facility.

The accuracy of these drawings should be checked and missing elements should be replaced before any design effort begins. Items such as building column locations, equipment quantities, equipment identification and sizes, utility locations, pits, trenches and aisle sizes should be confirmed by spot checking. Don’t miss to note overhead equipment such as conveyors or cranes that may not appear on layouts.

Equipment condition review

  1. A detailed equipment review and condition assessment is required prior to relocation planning. The plant engineering company and supporting team should document the conditions and make recommendations as to whether the equipment’s condition warrants direct relocation, refurbishment or abandonment.
  2. Often, it costs more to repair, upgrade and relocate the out-of-condition equipment than it does to replace it. For equipment that will be moved, operation and maintenance manuals, maintenance records, spare parts inventories, PLC program data and structural information should be gathered and identified for each specific machine.
  3. If accurate layout drawings are not available, as-built drawings should be developed. The as-built drawing clearly indicate the building column grid, critical utility connections and equipment slated to be relocated. The equipment should be properly identified to include the equipment type, department or area, manufacturer, asset identification number, motor plate data, weight and utility requirements.
  4. High resolution, digital photographs are particularly helpful for equipment documentation. Photograph the equipment from all sides, paying particular attention to utility connection points and external control panels. Check if the facility has special foundations, pits or trenches. Provide detailed dimensions of the pit including depth, length and width, and note any utilities in the pit.
  5. Determine if the equipment from the current facility meets codes in the new location. Check control cabinets and panels for UL, NEC or comparable approvals. Check state permit requirements for boilers and pressure vessels as well.

Equipment database and identification

All equipment information gathered in the field should be added to an equipment spreadsheet or database. Equipment not clearly identified with an asset tag or ID that can be easily read should be manually tagged. During the physical relocation, all of the utility and controls tie points and connections on the equipment should be clearly identified, documented and tagged by the relocation contractor.

Utility and structural requirements

The plant engineering company coordinates with design disciplines to confirm that the utilities are installed in the correct location based on new drawings as well as at the correct time.

Coordination of pit, trench and foundation information requires coordination with a structural engineer. Overhead requirements such as cranes, monorails, conveyors and tooling rails also require structural coordination.

If the relocation is taking place within a “hot” facility (operational) or from a “hot” facility to a “cold” facility (non-operational), temporary or redundant utilities may be required to maintain operations. The plant engineering company will have to identify and coordinate these issues with the correct design disciplines to size the temporary utilities and design the required tie points.

Scheduling, evolution planning

The schedule being the most critical aspect of relocation may have to consider time for ramping down production at the current location while ramping up production at the new facility, which may require sequencing specific equipment and infrastructure to meet this requirement.

The plant engineering company will have to coordinate with manufacturing operations to develop the sequence and schedule of removal and relocation. This information will also be required by the facilities design team to schedule design, procurement and installation of utilities and structural requirements. Testing and commissioning requirements and durations should be included in the schedule. Detailed schedules should be developed and tracked using project scheduling software.

Equipment relocation work instructions

Equipment relocation work instructions (ERWI) or similar documents should be used which are detailed documents that contain all necessary information about the relocation & its specifics.

Installation coordination

The plant engineering company coordinates & syncs up with the utilities installer and the relation contractor to ensure the arriving equipment is ready to be installed and that the utility tie points are valid and available.

The relocation contractor performs a preliminary test once the equipment and utilities are connected to verify all motor rotations are working properly. Once these tests are complete, the equipment is considered mechanically functional & complete. Before turning the equipment over to manufacturing, the plant engineering company performs an inspection and checks the quality of the installation.

Testing, commissioning

Since each company has different requirements for testing and commissioning, the amount of plant engineering involvement with testing should be clear and agreed upon between the plant engineering company and his or her manufacturing organization early in the project. An ERWI containing the elements of testing & commissioning should be included if the relocation contractor has included support during this phase.

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