Louise Smyth reports on the latest advances in the cleanrooms sector
Cleanrooms are an integral component of many scientific applications, allowing valuable research to be conducted in a wholly sterile environment. The rooms and the equipment used inside them are big business. A recent report estimates that the global cleanroom technology market will grow to US$3.83 billion over the next five years. Here we showcase some of the companies thriving in this busy sector.
One well-known player here is Connect 2 Cleanrooms, which creates modular cleanroom solutions for critical environments, both in the UK and internationally. The company designs and manufactures panel, hard and soft wall cleanrooms in-house and delivers solutions to meet the ISO 14644-1 standard required; adherence to which is frequently necessary for lab-based applications.
Senior business development co-ordinator, Andrew Cressey, explains that the firm’s recently introduced panel system is different from other solutions in the range. “The panels provide a flush finish that offers a robust solution with reduced particle retention. The panel system complements the existing range, offering increased customer choice for the laboratory sector. The modular design allows for a quick cleanroom installation as components are pre-engineered off site. The panels are FM rated and built with a honeycomb construction that makes them extremely strong and therefore ideal for high rooms.”
When asked to provide an example of a laboratory that’s benefited from his company’s cleanroom options, Cressey recalls a recent project for a university featuring the firm’s Hardwall solution. “This involved a 7.74m2 UV-filtered Hardwall to be used to protect a light-sensitive process. Our client, a building services company, required an ISO Class 5 cleanroom for its redbrick university client. The project specification also stipulated a change area for good gowning practice, UV-proof panels and a hatch for goods transfer.
“We worked closely with our client to maximise on the footprint of the cleanroom, despite the installation area having an irregular layout. We designed the cleanroom to have an inset on one corner to accommodate trunking in the existing room, making it be a perfect fit.”
Clean air for cleanrooms
Another UK-headquartered leader in cleanroom kit is Monmouth Scientific. The firm designs and manufactures a large range of clean air technology equipment. The company’s key news from 2015 is the launch of a new microbiological safety cabinet, the MSCT1200. To ensure the best possible containment and product protection, the MSCT1200 cabinet has been independently tested for compliance to BS EN12469:2000 by Public Health England.
The company’s MD, David Pomeroy says that, “the innovative design and integration of the front screen, fan systems, HEPA filters and control system means the cabinet offers exceptional internal height of the work area, while giving a low overall height of the cabinet.” He adds: “For instance, when sat on a 900mm high work surface or base stand, the total height of the unit is 2230mm.” Where this height is too much, the company can offer reduced height base stands to allow greater versatility and laboratory compatibility.
The MSCT1200 cabinet is also fitted with a Visionaire touchscreen control system. The Visionaire system controls and monitors all other aspects of the unit’s operation and maintenance such as: hours run, hours since last service, service dates and intervals, UV light hours run, filter fitted dates and replacement product codes, commissioning date. It alerts the user by way of audible and visual alarms should any of the operating parameters not be met.
In the glove box
Glove boxes are a crucial part of many cleanroom applications and one key player in this sector is the USA-headquartered Terra Universal. The firm recently launched its open-loop filtration glove box, which it says is ideal for applications in cleanrooms or laboratories where both internal samples as well as the outside environment need clean, ULPA-filtered air.
Terra says that applications that generate particle contaminants, such as pharmaceutical packaging, will benefit from these open-loop glove boxes. Processes inside the chamber are protected with ULPA-filtered intake air, and the cleanroom or lab is also shielded from internal contaminants with the use of a second, optional ULPA filter. Air is not recirculated within the negative-pressure chamber.
Terra’s open-loop glove box features a brushless, electrically commutated motor that does not release particles into the controlled environment. Glove boxes are available in a choice of cleanroom-compatible plastics, and come with either two (one-person) or four (two-people) glove ports. The back is removable for placement of equipment.
Other news from recent months comes from Singapore, where Esco Pharma, a manufacturer of clean air and containment solutions, has added a containment barrier isolator (CBI) to its portfolio.
The company says the Esco CBI retains the same functionality and platform engineering pioneered by Esco Pharma in its existing suite of isolators while adding new features.
The CBI is suitable for applications in pharmacy compounding (chemotherapy/TPN); as a Class III cabinet for Biosafety Levels (BSL) 3 and 4; and for small batch sterility testing. It can also be used for small-scale potent material handling, cell processing, aseptic processing and for research and development, the company says.
The new isolator provides full unidirectional airflow across the entire work zone and is available in re-circulatory or single-pass options, in either positive or negative pressure. It is built with a single-piece carcasse and 19mm coved ball radius corners on all four base corners. This allows third-party equipment and other process instrumentation to be incorporated.
Esco CBI is also available with two different dynamic pass-through hatches sizes: a larger one with optional glove ports and a smaller one without glove ports that allows integration of a CCTV.
2015 has also been a productive year for UK-based Powder Systems Ltd (PSL), which has been supporting its customer’s global expansion via innovative nano-containment technology.
PSL worked closely with the end user to develop suitable solutions for its high-potent facility and is providing a dispensary isolator including a contained drum hoist mechanism. This safe solution is part of a Global Supplier Agreement and PSL exhibited it first one at the Achema show back in June 2015.
PSL has installed the dispensary isolator into a GMP manufacturing plant in the USA. Numerous operations will be processed inside this nano-containment isolator, including drum offloading with safe drum chamber, dispensing, weighing and sampling. All these operations will be carried out with a Containment Performance of 30-100ng/m³ in eight hours TWA that will be tested and certified by a third party hygienist prior to starting the production.
Reliable measurement in cleanrooms
Rotronic’s new CRP5 Clean Room Panel is fitted with a diaphragm sensor and is validated according to GMP directives. Its maker says that its well thought-out design makes the CRP5 ideal for applications in laboratories and cleanrooms.
The CRP5 clean-room panel is a valuable tool wherever a high degree of cleanliness is vital, in addition to precise measurement of differential pressure, humidity and temperature. Optical buttons, and the magnet-mounted, removable HC2-CRP humidity and temperature probe permit efficient and effective cleaning.
Up to six measurement values and messages can be displayed via its graphical colour display. The colours of the display can be adjusted individually. Alarms – such as faults, exceeded limit values or warnings – are highlighted on the CRP5 display, and can also be forwarded digitally via MODBUS, Ethernet or relays. Thanks to its analogue and digital communication capabilities, the CRP5 is easy to integrate in any monitoring system.
The new panel is used particularly in cleanrooms in hospitals, in the pharmaceutical, electronics, and foodstuffs industries, and wherever small variances in pressure are monitored. Its comprehensive functional capabilities provide solutions for many measurement and control tasks.
New cleanroom facility
Clean Room Construction (CRC) has secured a multimillion-pound contract to design and build a new cleanroom facility for specialist pharmaceutical manufacturer, Aspar Pharmaceuticals. The new 3,800m2 purpose-built facility in St Albans, Hertfordshire will replace Aspar’s smaller existing tablet manufacturing premises in Colindale, London and will provide Good Manufacturing Practice-compliant facilities. Kent-based CRC has been appointed as the lead principal contractor with responsibility for the full turnkey design, build, commissioning and validation package and will start work on site next month. Aspar Pharmaceuticals is a major supplier of analgesics to the pharmacy and grocery sectors across the UK. CRC Projects Director, Richard Rowe, comments: “Clean Room Construction has a successful track record of engineering and delivering first class cleanroom facilities right across the science and technology sectors. We are delighted to have secured this major pharmaceutical manufacturing contract and we look forward to delivering a facility of which we can all be proud.”