Cleanrooms are defined by their level of cleanliness, more specifically the amount of particles found in the air. A class 1 cleanroom or ISO class 3, which is today’s standard, typically have one .5 micron sized particle per cubic foot of air, which a typical HEPA is rated for. Cleanrooms range up to class 100,000 or ISO class 8 which include up to 100,000 particles at .5 microns. A micron (denoted as µm) is one millionth of a meter. A typical human hair is about 80 µm wide. Cleanliness can also be affected by the types of filters used. The HEPA filter (high efficiency particular arrestor) can give you class 1 through 100,000 at .5 microns depending on the quantities and the air flows used in the design. To meet a higher cleanliness level and smaller particulate level ULPA filters (ultra low particulate arrestors) are used to reduce particles sized down to .3 microns or less
Cleanliness level of a cleanroom is typically set at the beginning through the design analysis depending on the product to be produced. In some cases particulate can have a crucial impact on the performance of the product and in other cases can have an impact on the contamination of the product. The various cleanroom types, cleanroom air delivery systems, and analysis of the process and the design help determine the level to be accomplished. With today’s technology cleanrooms are tending to certify at least one class cleaner at rest than specified. However, the amount of air used to certify a cleanroom as specified in the ISO standards can vary. A facility’s energy savings, which helps the competitive nature of businesses, depends on the type of process used and the protocol maintained. These savings can be accomplished by specifying different levels of cleanliness or operating systems in such a manner that the level of cleanliness maintained meets the qualifications but uses control systems, such as particulate counters, to maintain but not exceed the cleanliness level.
Cleanrooms are typically energy inefficient compared to standard building systems. Because pressure, temperature, humidity, particulate levels, light levels, static levels, sound levels, vibration levels and other criteria can critically impact the performance of the product being made in the cleanroom. Controls are employed through the mechanical, electrical and process systems to ensure that systems do not impact the product and in fact in many cases enhance the product. As a result the tighter control means more energy expended to control these variables.
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