Clean rooms were initially used in the aerospace industry to aid the manufacturing process of sensitive hardware, but an increase in demand has led clean room manufacturers to fabricate these chambers for a multitude of industries such as microelectronics, research and development, defense, biotechnology, manufacturing, food processing, and pharmaceuticals. In accommodating this variety of industries, numerous types of clean rooms were developed as well. One variety is known as soft wall clean rooms.
Soft wall clean rooms are enclosures that are atmospheric and climate-controlled, and are used in industries that involve carrying out sensitive testing, fabrication, and research processes, such as biotechnology research, medical testing, and semiconductor fabrication. Soft wall clean rooms differ from hard wall clean room systems in several ways. The walls of soft wall clean rooms can be made from fabric pulled taut by a frame, or translucent plastic strips that hang from a ceiling or other overhead fixture. In addition, they are not stationary once installed. They are much more portable than hard wall clean rooms, which are usually permanently in one place once installed. Some varieties of soft wall clean rooms come in a modular design for easier and quicker disassembly and reassembly.
Soft wall clean rooms are lined with curtain dividers, which are typically made from vinyl, as clean rooms can only be constructed using materials that non-fibrous, non-corrosive, and avoid generating static electricity. Curtain dividers are especially useful if more than one process must be carried out within the same environment. Soft wall cleanrooms can also feature a tubular steel frame that supports the curtain walls, mounted filter units that draw outside air and deliver the clean air into the cleanroom. Soft wall clean rooms can be used for processes that do not require drastic amounts of decontamination. Soft wall clean rooms have several advantages, which include simple installation, easy configuration, entryway options, and portability in some varieties. Because of these advantages, soft wall clean rooms are a more economical option than their hard wall counterparts, especially if a strictly controlled and decontaminated environment is not necessary for the processes at hand. Soft wall clean rooms are capable of achieving a high level of decontamination in its own right when working in conjunction with other equipment such as double doors, air filters, and protective clothing (sometimes referred to as bunny suits).
Governmental bodies such as the U. S. Federal Government and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) have implemented rating systems that classify clean rooms. The rating systems differ from each other, but both are carefully observed by clean room manufacturers. One of these rating systems, the US FED STD 209E, is based around the volume of 0.5 micrometer-sized particles per cubic foot in the clean room’s atmosphere. The higher the number of particles, the higher the rating. If a clean room must maintain an extremely low level of contaminants in its atmosphere, a set of high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters must be installed, which work in conjunction with sterilizing chemicals, personnel decontamination systems, and other measures. It is more difficult for a soft walled clean room to achieve this high of a decontamination level than a hard walled enclosure. Meeting Class 1 standards is much easier to achieve with a permanent, hard walled clean room that features double doors and decontaminating air jets. However, for some sensitive applications, a Class 1 level of decontamination is not necessary. There are many applications, including high-tech operations, for which Class 100, 1,000, and even 10,000 clean rooms will suffice. For example, a class 100 clean room can be used for processes that could cause chemical reactions, as it is made of materials that will not release fibrous contaminants into the air. Another example is that Class 10,000 clean rooms, which are not as strictly controlled and are appropriate for less-sensitive applications, such as processes that will not wear away flexible acrylics or plastics.
The ISO standards rates clean rooms on a scale of 3 to 8, with 3 being the most effective. To compare the ISO rating system with its federal counterpart, an ISO Class 5 clean room is the same as a clean room that is rated Class 100 US FED, due to both clean rooms permitting up to 100,000 contaminating particles per cubic meter. There are some industries that use the EMP EU system, which is the standard system of the European Union, and the BS 5295 system, which is used in Britain and uses cubic meters to measure airborne contaminants.
More Softwall Cleanrooms
| || |
Industrial Softwall Cleanroom – Class One Cleanrooms
Softwall Cleanroom – Abtech, Inc.
Modular Softwall Cleanroom – CLEAN3 Modular Systems
Softwall Cleanrooms – Cleanrooms by United