Cleanrooms represent one of the key elements in modern industries and research laboratories. These specialized environments, in which the concentration of airborne particles is kept within precise limits, ensure that products and research are conducted in an environment as free from contaminants as possible. Air purity is essential in multiple sectors: from microelectronics, where a single solid particle can compromise an entire device, to biotechnology, where sterility is vital. In a previous article we saw what exactly a cleanroom is and why it is so crucial in various sectors of industry.
In this article we will instead explore the advantages of air filtration systems for industrial use and how the design of cleanrooms is specifically adapted to the needs of different sectors.
The Air Filtration System
The quality, purity and precision of the work carried out within a cleanroom depends largely on the air filtration system. This system is not just a simple set of filters, but an advanced combination of technologies designed to ensure that every single breath of air meets the most rigorous standards. Let's go deeper.
How an industrial air filtration system works for contamination control
Air, in its natural form, contains a wide range of particles, some of which can be harmful to certain industrial processes. The air filtration system begins with the intake of air from an external environment and the treated operating volume. This air, although physiologically containing contaminants, is then 'cleaned' through a series of phases:
- Pre-filtration: In this initial stage, the air passes through filters designed to capture larger particles. This may include environmental dust, insects, pollen, process residues, hair and other particles that are relatively large.
- Main filtration: Once the larger particles have been removed, the air is sent through more refined filters, such as HEPA and ULPA, which capture much smaller particles, including many types of microorganisms.
- Extra filtration: in some advanced systems, the filtered air can be further purified through processes such as photocatalysis, which uses UV light to destroy residual microorganisms, or through activated carbon filters that remove volatile organic compounds.
Main components and their function (e.g. HEPA and ULPA filters)
The components of a filtration system can vary, but some key elements are universal.
HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters
These are among the most commonly used filters in cleanrooms. They are designed to capture at least 99.95% of particles 0.3 microns or larger in size. These filters are essential for introducing air into cleanrooms classifiable from ISO9 to ISO5, according to the reference standard ISO14644-1.
ULPA (Ultra Low Penetration Air) filters
These filters are even more stringent than HEPA filters. They are capable of capturing at least 99.9995% of particles 0.12 microns or larger in size, making them ideal for environments that require extremely high levels of cleanliness, such as some research laboratories or semiconductor manufacturing facilities.
Fans and Air Handling Units (AHU)
These components ensure that the air is correctly introduced into the cleanroom, maintaining a constant flow as the clogging conditions of the filter sections vary and maintaining microclimatic conditions suitable for comfort and process flow rate.
To monitor and regulate parameters such as temperature, humidity and pressure within the cleanroom. These systems are crucial to maintaining ideal conditions within the environment, ensuring operations run smoothly. Even the quality of the air, from a particle point of view, can be continuously monitored to guarantee the maintenance of the contamination class of the cleanroom.
Advantages of Air Filtration Systems
The adoption of an industrial filtration system for cleanrooms not only guarantees operation within a cleanroom, but also brings a series of fundamental advantages that translate into efficiency, safety and quality. Let's look at these advantages in detail:
Product Quality Improvement
In environments where precision is crucial, such as in the production of electronic or pharmaceutical devices, the presence of even a small contaminating particle can cause serious defects in the final product. With an effective and reliable filtration system, cleanrooms can ensure an environment free of unwanted particles over time, consistently guaranteeing a superior quality finished product. This translates into lower production costs, reduced waste and an improved corporate reputation.
Safety for Operators
In addition to product quality, worker safety is of fundamental importance. Inhaling particles, fumes or chemicals can have long-term adverse health effects. A controlled and purified environment minimizes these risks, ensuring a safer workplace. This can also lead to a reduction in workplace injuries and sick days, with a further benefit in terms of productivity and operating costs.
Compliance with Standards and Regulations
Various industries, from biotechnology to aerospace, have rigorous standards that must be met to ensure safety and quality. These standards may address the concentration of particles in the air, the degree of purity or the presence of certain contaminants on the product. An effective filtration system ensures that these standards are constantly respected, avoiding possible sanctions or penalties.
With technological evolution, modern filtration systems are not only more effective, but also more energy efficient. Through the use of variable speed fans, heat recovery systems and other innovations, it is possible to maintain a clean environment while consuming less energy. This translates into a reduction in operating costs and a reduced environmental impact, aligning with modern sustainability needs
Customization Based on Needs
In a constantly evolving industrial world, where each sector has specific and peculiar needs, the ability to customize the filtration system becomes an invaluable resource. Designing a system suited to the precise needs of an organization is essential to ensure efficiency, safety and compliance with standards. Let's explore how this translates into practice.
Before proceeding with any project, the company carries out an in-depth analysis of the needs of the customer or the reference sector. This initial phase includes evaluation of the required air quality specifications, the size and configuration of the spaces, the types of processes that will be conducted within the cleanroom, and any other variables that could influence the design of the system. The objective is to understand in detail what the customer requires, in order to design a filtration system that optimally responds to these needs.
Adaptability to Different Sectors
Versatility is one of the main strengths of a good filtration system. For example, in biotechnology, it may be essential to avoid contamination by microorganisms, while in microelectronics, the focus may be on preventing contamination by ultrafine particles. In the food industry, concerns may revolve around keeping the air free of pathogens or particles that could compromise food safety. The ability of a company to adapt the filtration system to these different needs, starting from modules made in series and industrially, testifies to its competence, its versatility and its reliability.
Companies grow, evolve and change. What works today may not be adequate tomorrow. A filtration system should therefore have the ability to expand or adapt based on future needs. Whether it's increasing filtration capacity, integrating new technologies or expanding the cleanroom itself, scalability ensures that the investment made today continues to deliver value well into the future, adapting to changes and growing business needs.
The personalized approach based on modular components made in series and industrially guarantees that each company receives a unique solution, calibrated to its specific needs but with the reliability of a widely tested series product. It is a testament to the importance of careful planning, accurate analysis and design flexibility that Mitec has embraced with all its customers.