Boosting cleanroom efficiencies

Jay Tourigny explores the role of vapour degreasing in cleanrooms

Cleanrooms are essential to the pursuits of scientific research, technological advancements and industrial production. Their controlled environments, free from contaminants and air particulate, allow scientists to successfully run experiments by removing outside variables to gain the most accurate results possible.

Strictly monitoring the cleanroom environment is necessary for precise, nanoscale industrial production of semiconductors and electronics components most commonly found in smartphones, tablets, cars and medical devices. These include LCDs, batteries, optics, lenses and disk drives. The strictest levels of cleanliness are required in the manufacturing environment because even the smallest speck of dust or airborne particle could render the device inoperable.

The cleanroom efficiency challenge

Running a cleanroom efficiently is challenging. Each activity must be constantly monitored and precisely controlled to ensure purity, safety and cost-effectiveness. Scientists and other employees inside the cleanroom must follow strict protocols including gowning, hand hygiene, glove use, surface wiping and the proper entrance and exit procedures. Cleanroom managers must simultaneously manage cleanroom production levels to meet business goals. They must implement efficient, cost-conscious cleanroom processes, but not compromise product quality or their customer’s requirements.

Cleaning and coating fluids for cleanroom efficiency

Nearly all products manufactured in a cleanroom require cleaning. It is important to remove particulate, oils or inorganic contamination leftover from production. This is especially true for parts with complex geometries and intricate shapes. Using modern, non-flammable solvent-based cleaning and carrier fluids is one way cleanroom managers can produce products more quickly and efficiently.

When used inside a vapour degreaser, these fluids provide simple, consistent and reliable parts cleaning. Plus, they use only a small portion of valuable cleanroom floor space relative to their production output which translates to lower overall operating costs in the expensive cleanroom environment.

How vapour degreasing works

Vapour degreasing is a closed-loop system that requires two elements: a specially designed cleaning machine, and a low-boiling, cleaning fluid. Vapour degreasers have two chambers: the boil sump and the rinse sump. The boil sump heats the cleaning fluid to generate a vapor cloud. The soiled parts are lowered through the vapour cloud and immersed in the fluid. Once cleaned, the parts are mechanically transferred to the rinse sump for a rinse in pure, uncontaminated fluid. The parts come out clean, dry, spot-free and immediately ready for assembly operations, coating/marking, or packaging.

Modern vapour degreasing fluids

The unique low-boiling cleaning fluids combine high densities, low surface tensions and low viscosities to completely dissolve contaminants and remove particulate. In addition to thorough cleaning, modern cleaning fluids offer these added cleanroom benefits.

Modern cleaning fluids do not get trapped inside tight spaces or deep grooves on parts. The cleaning fluid evaporates away without leaving any residue, spots or stains. This is imperative since any leftover moisture, oils or particulate left behind could negatively impact the parts quality, and may lead to expensive rework or scrapped parts.

The vapour degreasing process, once established and tested, remains constant and can be automated for more efficiency. Cleaning outcomes remain repeatable and consistent. The solvent-based cleaning fluid remains stable inside the vapour degreaser for thousands of uses and does not require daily monitoring, making cleanroom operation process controls simpler and less costly.

Today’s sophisticated electronics are made from a variety of materials including metals, ceramics, and plastics. Modern cleaning fluids offer high enough solvency (or Kb value) to selectively clean soils, yet won’t damage surfaces or delicate components. This allows cleanroom managers choose a single cleaning fluid for all materials, therefore streamlining processes and reducing cleaning fluid inventories.

Easily recycled for less waste

Lastly, modern cleaning fluids are constantly recycled through the vapour degreaser. They are purified, recycled and re-used hundreds of times without fine-tuning the formulation.  This ensures consistency without any unexpected variances to manage. Plus, the vapour degreaser concentrates the soil, minimizing the amount and frequency of waste disposal.

Cleanroom operations that use modern cleaning fluids and associated vapour degreasing equipment are improving cleaning performance while maximising associated costs. Vapour degreasers, when used in combination with modern fluids, are an excellent way to clean parts effectively and to streamline cleanroom production. 

It is important to work with a supplier that has experience in the special requirements associated with vapour degreaser cleaning in a cleanroom environment to ensure the best fluids and methods are used. 

Jay Tourigny is senior vice president at MicroCare Medical

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