Category Archive: Knowledge Base

The Impact of Humidity in Electronics Manufacturing

Electronics manufacturing involves the handling and assembly of several delicate, moisture-sensitive components. Maintaining optimal humidity levels during the manufacturing process is key for protecting these components from electrostatic discharge, de-soldering, and other occurrences that can decrease the quality of the final product. This article highlights the importance of effective humidity control for avoiding product damage and maintaining a safe work environment in electronics manufacturing facilities.

Electronics manufacturing

Reducing Electronic Damage with Humidity Control

In electronics manufacturing, both low and high humidity levels can have negative impacts on product quality as well as the safety of the work environment. Three major risks associated with incorrect humidity control are as follows:

  • Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) – Electrostatic discharge describes the sudden release of static electricity when two electrically charged objects meet. In addition to damaging electronic components, ESD events can create significant safety hazards such as fires or explosions. Since low humidity levels increase the risk of ESD, it is important to maintain a humidity level of at least 30% when working with electronic components.
  • De-Soldering – Low humidity levels can cause solder paste to dry too quickly, compromising the strength of the solder joint and reducing the quality of the final product. Conversely, elevated humidity levels can cause condensation to form within the components and facilitate short-circuiting. Proper humidity control minimizes these risks by maintaining a consistent relative humidity level that meets the facility’s specific process requirements.
  • Brittle components – When a facility’s humidity levels are too low, components are prone to becoming brittle and weak. Keeping humidity levels in the appropriate range is key for maintaining the desired material properties. 

 

The Benefits of Humidity Control in Electronics Manufacturing

Effective humidity control in electronics manufacturing is essential for the following:

  • Maximizing production output – Proper humidity control ensures a more consistent product output, leading to greater production yields. 
  • Creating a safe work environment – Maintaining optimal humidity levels is critical for reducing electrostatic energy and minimizing the risk of explosions or fires.
  • Prolonging the lifespan of components and devices – Tight humidity control ensures longer-lasting and higher-quality products by preventing corrosion, eliminating ESD, and keeping materials from becoming brittle.
  • Maintaining compliance – Implementing an effective humidity control strategy is important for maintaining compliance with the electronics manufacturing industry’s strict requirements regarding the production environment.

 

The Optimal Humidity Level for Electronics Manufacturing

The ideal humidity range for an electronics manufacturing environment will depend on the following:

  • Components – A facility’s humidity levels should be optimized according to the individual specifications and sensitivities of the components being manufactured and assembled. 
  • Location – The physical location of the application and the ambient environment will also influence the optimal humidity range. For example, applications in drier environments tend to require slightly higher humidity levels to avoid static discharge, brittle materials, and other issues caused by insufficient humidity.

For most electronics manufacturing environments, optimal humidity levels tend to range from 30% to 70%. The ideal humidity level typically depends on factors such as the ambient environment and the specifications of the electrical components and devices being manufactured. For example, maintaining a consistent relative humidity of 50% may be ideal for some manufacturing environments, whereas others may require slightly lower levels to avoid condensation and corrosion in highly moisture-sensitive components.


Contact Air Innovations for Premium Humidity Control Solutions

Maintaining the proper humidity levels in electronics manufacturing facilities is critical for preserving component quality and minimizing the risk of safety hazards. At Air Innovations, we provide state-of-the-art humidity control solutions that optimize humidity levels for a range of sensitive electronics manufacturing environments. Designed, manufactured, and tested in-house, our systems are capable of meeting even the most challenging process parameters.

Humidity control solutions

 To learn more about our humidity control options for the electronics manufacturing industry, please contact us today or visit our humidity control solutions page.  

Custom vs. Off-the-Shelf HVAC Environmental Control Units

Standardized HVAC units are a reasonable air handling solution for facilities with typical comfort cooling needs and few special concerns. A custom HVAC system or environmental control unit (ECU) can cool specialty spaces and processes within a facility, integrating with a standard ECU. Here, we will explain why custom ECU/HVAC systems are better suited for specialized air handling challenges and offer unique benefits to your space or process.

 

Benefits of Customizing Your ECU/HVAC Unit

No two facilities are identical, so standard solutions cannot serve the needs of every application. Whether it’s a completely new system or designed to integrate with your existing air handling systems, a custom HVAC solution offers advantages not possible with standard units.

Adapts to Climate/Operating Conditions

Off-the-shelf HVAC units are standardized for installation in some environments. But, if your facility is located in an area that is colder, warmer, more humid, drier, or otherwise deviates from standard conditions, that system won’t perform as well. A customized ECU is specifically set up to work best in your precise environmental conditions. Custom systems can also be designed to unique specifications, such as explosion-proof, high filtration, pressurization, or rugged environments.

Targets Specific Applications

If you need to maintain a reliable cold chain, keep a server room cool, have special air filtering needs, or control precise temperatures, a standard HVAC system is insufficient. A customized ECU installation will not only perform better and maintain desired conditions, but it will do so more efficiently. Custom air conditioning can target specific rooms while keeping conditions comfortable for the rest of the facility.

Better Efficiency

An HVAC system too large (too much capacity) for its facility consumes more energy than necessary. A system too small for its facility (not enough capacity) constantly works at maximum capacity without effectively maintaining proper filtration, temperature, or humidity levels. A customized system can eliminate these inefficiencies and save on energy expenses. Constructing new buildings gives technicians the opportunity to customize the HVAC system according to the correct configuration of rooms, windows, doors, hallways, heat loads, and other factors.

Meets Code Requirements

Local and national codes for ventilation and safety are frequently updated, so a custom HVAC solution can make sure your facility keeps up with those changes and stays compliant.

Environmentally Friendly

Because they run based on the precise needs of a space, customized ECUs may also reduce environmental impacts and energy consumption versus a standard solution, while still meeting all the requirements for the space they are cooling. Custom HVAC contractors can recommend special designs, filters, or capabilities to improve indoor air quality and lower operational costs while complying with environmental standards.

 


Custom Environmental Control and HVAC Systems at Air Innovations

Air Innovations’ custom environmental control systems are designed to meet specialized needs for controlling temperature, humidity, and filtration. We serve both OEM and non-OEM markets with prototyping and testing as well as mass production. We also design and build systems to a variety of international standards and electrical systems.

Installation

Custom ECU/HVAC installation options include the following:

  • Integrated
  • Mounted
  • Standalone

ECUs configurations

Installations can also be designed for unique sizes or configurations and for mobile units.

Control Specifications

Our systems have been tested for operation in ambient conditions from 0 °F to 100 °F (-18 °C to 38 °C) and up to 95% humidity. Our customized systems can be precisely controlled according to these specifications:

  • Temperature: tolerances down to +/- 0.02 °C
  • Humidity: tolerances down to +/- 0.5%
  • Cooling: DX, chilled water, or thermoelectric
  • Refrigerants: standard (DX) or specialty
  • Filtration: HEPA, ULPA, or molecular
  • Humidification or dehumidification: steam or ultrasonic
  • Pressure: positive or negative
  • Safety and performance standards: CE mark, milspec, ANSI, or other standards

 

Tailored Solutions for Your Specific Application & Industry

Air Innovations can customize an ECU to meet your facility’s needs. Common industries and applications we serve include the following:

  • Aerospace
  • Agriculture
  • Explosion-Proof Applications
  • Homeland Security
  • Library & Museum Archive Storage
  • Life Sciences
  • Medical/Healthcare
  • Military
  • Mining & Drilling
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Process Manufacturing
  • Research
  • Semiconductor

Contact Our Experts Today for Your Environmental Control Needs

At Air Innovations, our goal is to solve your unique HVAC and environmental control requirements with customized systems, especially when off-the-shelf options are inadequate. Contact us today to start planning a custom air handling solution or to request a quote.

 

Environmental Control & Custom HVAC Systems

Semiconductor Clean Room Design Requirements 101

Semiconductors are in almost every electronic device, from everyday items like smartphones and coffee makers to complex automobiles, defense equipment, and spaceships. Manufacturers make semiconductors in special semiconductor cleanrooms because the wafers are extremely sensitive to environmental contaminants.

Semiconductor cleanroom

Here we explore semiconductor cleanrooms in more detail, including all their design requirements.

 

Semiconductor Cleanroom Design: Meet Air Quality Standards

Semiconductor cleanrooms are enclosed environments located within semiconductor foundries or fabs, that have tight control over the following:

  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Airflow
  • Temperature change over time
  • Noise
  • Vibration
  • Lighting
  • Airborne particles

Semiconductor facilities must precisely regulate these parameters to maintain the highest air quality standards, all while optimizing productivity. Following these standards is paramount as even a particle of dust can render a chip useless.

A proper cleanroom design must have a well designed HVAC system that focuses on temperature, humidity, filtration, and the attributes noted above to treat and circulate air within acceptable limits. Each machine may have individual exhaust systems for removing contaminated air and particulates. Every cleanroom must be able to control particulate matter, static, outgassing, and equipment failure, which can lead to contamination events. These failures can include power glitches, pressure malfunctions, fan motor failure, and wafer handling machine breakdowns.

 

Controlling Temperature, Humidity, and Airflow

Semiconductors have an inverse relationship between temperature coefficient and resistance. When heated, semiconductor conductance increases and resistance decreases. The outermost electrons separate from the material compound’s atomic nucleus. As free electrons multiply, resistance drops accordingly. When manufacturing semiconductors, it is vital to keep temperatures within a certain range so the finished chips perform properly in their application.

Relative humidity in semiconductor cleanrooms should fall between 30-50%. This range is optimal for both inhibiting bacterial growth and the comfort of cleanroom personnel. Airflow should follow vertical laminar flow, where air blows from the ceiling to the floor. The air should enter vents in the floor, be purified by HEPA filters and regulated for temperature and humidity, and then recirculate into the room.

 

Cleanroom Classifications for Semiconductor Manufacturing

Semiconductor cleanrooms are required to meet ISO 14644-1 Class 5 or lower, which mandates a maximum of 3,520 particles at 0.5µm or smaller per cubic meter of air. They must also comply with ISO 14644-2, which requires the implementation of a quality control system that meets rigorous classification criteria.

Depending on the application, a semiconductor fabrication plant may also have industry-specific regulations from the EPA, the SEMI Standards Program, a variety of industry task forces and technical committees, and other regulatory bodies. There is further variation based on the type of fabrication process, wafer size, and line width. All these standards are followed in conjunction with ISO to ensure the cleanroom environment is under control 24/7 and that the products produced are of consistent and long-lasting quality.


Custom Environmental Control Solutions for Semiconductors

Air Innovations’ custom environmental control units (ECUs) provide precise temperature and humidity tolerances to meet even the most exacting requirements. Minor temperature differences in the environment during semiconductor scanning can result in false readings. Our semiconductor ECUs control for temperature variations within 0.02 °C, resulting in more accurate readings. Other tolerances include the following:

  • Airflow: up to 4000 CFM
  • Humidity: ± 0.5% relative humidity
  • Setpoint temperature: 19 °C – 23 °C
  • Temperature change: max of 1°C/5 minutes
  • Humidity change: max of 1% relative humidity/3 minutes

Our skilled team of engineer can design and develop a custom ECU to satisfy nearly any semiconductor manufacturing application or customer specification. We design our ECUs to fit inside or next to the fabrication environment, and they are available in vertical or horizontal configurations.

 

Semiconductor capabilities

Contact Us for Your Semiconductor Cleanroom Air Conditioning Needs

To meet and maintain stringent quality standards, your semiconductor cleanrooms require a custom ECU. At Air Innovations, we are experts in specialized HVAC, environmental control, and cleanroom systems. We test and validate all our engineered solutions through a dedicated R&D department. Our products are certified to meet ETL, CSA, UL, CE, ANSI, SEMI, or MIL-STD safety and performance standards. Contact us today for more information.


Dispatch Desk Design Tips for Personal Comfort and Productivity

Dispatch centers are tasked with receiving communications and initiating appropriate responses. Different agencies and sectors, such as manufacturing, transportation, and law enforcement, use dispatch centers to coordinate and manage operations. Police departments, for instance, use 911 dispatch consoles to respond to calls and establish the proper response needed for each situation.

dispatch desk

Since dispatchers spend long hours at these workstations, ergonomics and desk comfort are critical. Comfort and efficiency directly impact performance in these workstations, so the dispatch desk setup, climate control, and surrounding factors must be optimized.

Dispatchers play an important role, so any upgrade that increases their performance is worthy of consideration. Here are some tips on how to make your workspaces more comfortable.

 

Key Dispatch Desk Features for Creating Optimal Workspaces

Here’s how to design a dispatch workspace for comfort and productivity.

Provide an Ergonomic Chair and Desk

The furniture in the dispatch center greatly determines how comfortable and productive dispatchers will be. Recurring pain due to an uncomfortable chair or desk can lead to distractions, reduced productivity, and even absences from work. Ergonomic workspaces are important because they prevent repetitive motion injuries, lower back pain, fatigue, and other forms of physical discomfort.

Properly Position Office Supplies and Equipment

Office supplies and equipment should be easily accessible to maximize efficiency. You should consider the positioning of items to ensure they are within reach but not so close they cause distraction or cluttering. Paperwork should be organized and quick to access because delays in dispatcher response could mean life or death.

Install Personal Climate Control Systems

Optimal temperature is also crucial for comfort and productivity in dispatch console stations. However, since each person tolerates temperature differently, it may be not ideal to have a “one-temperature fits all” approach in the dispatch center.

Regulating heat and airflow for every workstation is the best solution to keep every dispatcher attentive and comfortable during their long work shifts. Specific solutions include filtered air fans that circulate room temperature air, built-in console fans, and separate standing fans. These personalized solutions also prevent frustrating thermostat wars in the dispatch center and reduce workflow disruptions associated with temperature variations.

 

Benefits of Having a Personal Climate Control System

Adding personal climate control systems to dispatch console workspaces is an essential step toward enhancing comfort and productivity. Below are some of the advantages of having a personal climate control system.

Optimizes the Workspace

Every office setting has many demographics and people with different climate preferences. Since there is no perfect temperature that fits everyone all of the time, having personal climate control systems is the best way to optimize the workspace and ensure employee satisfaction.

Lowers Costs and Enhances Energy Efficiency

Any agency, business, or institution cares about energy usage and costs. Installing climate control systems in individual spaces can be more efficient and cost-effective than controlling the climate in the entire room or building, particularly when occupancy is lower. In addition, controlling temperature at the individual desk can allow the dispatch center to raise the room temperature in warm months or lower it in cooler months, while still offering end users comfort. These efficiencies help conserve energy and reduce operating expenses.

Boosts Productivity

Ensuring employees are comfortable is a proven way to optimize productivity in a workplace. Reducing distractions and discomfort enables workers to focus on their tasks, which improves output. In addition to an ergonomic chair and desk, an individual climate control system allows dispatchers to customize their environment to their preferences so they can perform their high-stress jobs without additional discomfort.

Reduces the Spread of Airborne Diseases

Central HVAC systems are one of the reasons for the spread of airborne diseases in the workplace. Considering current global health issues, how workplaces limit the spread of airborne diseases is a key concern. Installing climate systems with filtration onboard in individual workspaces can be an effective solution.

 


Upgrade Your Dispatch Center’s Desks with MyZone® Systems

Optimizing comfort and productivity does not end with upgrading your dispatch center with ergonomic chairs and desks. The MyZone® desk console management system can help you achieve ultimate comfort in your dispatch workstations. This innovative personal comfort system is designed to boost comfort and productivity, and the device conveniently integrates lift functions, lighting, environmental control, and HEPA filtration within a single unit. It also has a non-fixed controller, so you can place it anywhere on the desk without hassle.

MyZone Unit

Below are the features and benefits of the MyZone® system:

  • Integrated heating and cooling
  • Sit/stand desk leg lifts
  • Task light dimmer
  • Convenient touch screen controls
  • Excellent power efficiency (automated motion sensors help switch off the system after 10 minutes of inactivity)
  • Adjustable louvers to direct air toward the worker
  • Programmable for up to 15 different users
  • Adjustable white noise generator, clock, and calendar
  • HEPA filtration option

 

Contact Air Innovations Today for More Information

Ergonomic furniture and the proper placement of items are great ways to improve personal comfort and productivity in dispatch stations. Individual climate control systems take these workplaces a step further by allowing the dispatch center to conserve energy while creating safe and comfortable workspaces. MyZone® units are an important add-on to consider for dispatch centers because they provide ultimate flexibility, control, user safety, and comfort to boost productivity to the highest level.

The MyZone® system is a product of Air Innovations, which specializes in developing innovative and custom climate control systems. Contact Air Innovations today for more information or to request a free quote.

Air Innovations Custom-Engineered Environmental Control Systems

Produced by: GlobalSpec

The precise control of air temperature, humidity, particulate levels, pressure and flow rate is critical for the manufacturing and operation of many applications in the semiconductor, aerospace, defense, biomedical and pharmaceutical industries. These are enabled by environmental control systems, which come in various forms and sizes, ranging from relatively small rack-mounted electronic modules to relatively large clean rooms. Because every situation is different, there are very few “plug and play” systems and solutions available on the market that will ideally suit the specific needs of the various applications. This is especially true for first-of-its-kind systems that are being developed to address new or evolving capabilities and technologies. As a result, many of these environmental control systems must be custom engineered. This article reviews some of the challenges of the custom-engineering process, and how Air Innovations can assist customers in developing and optimizing environmental control systems and solutions for their specific applications.

 

Environmental control system components

Environmental control systems enable the real-time monitoring and control of several environmental variables, such as the level of airborne contaminants, air temperature, humidity, pressure or flow rate. This is usually accomplished with several different components:

 

Particulate control

Airborne particulates, such as dust, pollen and mold can contaminate the manufacturing process for electronics and pharmaceuticals, or they may disrupt the operation of sensitive electro-optical components. Air cleanliness levels are tested, monitored and controlled according to ISO 14644 standards. High efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, which are a type of pleated passive mechanical air filter, remove at least 99.97% of airborne particles with a minimum size of 0.3 microns or greater for the lowest grade HEPA. ULPA (Ultra-Low Particulate Air) remove at least 99.9997% at 0.12 micron or greater. The level of particulate contamination must be measured periodically so the filters can be replaced as needed. Lastly, the amount of clean air that is circulated throughout the enclosure — and how it is distributed — are critical functions of the cleanliness achieved and is a primary focus during the design phase.

 

Temperature and humidity control

Thermal gradients and moisture in the air may disrupt the operation of sensitive electro-optical components, or result in contamination, such as moisture condensation, water absorption or microbial growth. The control of temperature and humidity typically go together, as the air temperature determines the percent (%RH) of moisture in the air at a given atmospheric pressure. Temperature and humidity control systems require the use of components that are found in standard refrigeration systems, although augmented with highly accurate sensors and control systems, capable of controlling the temperature and humidity within fine limits.

 

Air pressure and flow control

Environmental control systems clean the air and provide temperature and humidity control by passing or changing the air within the controlled environment several times per hour. It is usually desirable to have a positive (higher) air pressure inside a clean environment so as not to suck in potential contaminants or otherwise un-conditioned air from the external environment through air leaks or open doors. However, in some cases, it may be desirable to create negative or neutral pressure. Air handling units are usually equipped with high capacity fans that can create the desired pressure profile and provide clean, filtered and conditioned outside “make up” air. Air turbulence may also contribute to unwanted thermal gradients or particulate contamination, so many of these air handling units must also be capable of producing laminar air flow within the controlled environment.

 

Microbial control

Airborne bacteria and molds may contaminate sensitive medical or pharmaceutical manufacturing environments, causing a hazard to consumers. Some environmental control systems that require the flow of sterilized or disinfected air may incorporate ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI), which is effective in killing or inactivating microorganisms.

An effective environmental control system, regardless of whether it is developed on a relatively small or large scale, must be capable of balancing the control of particulates, temperature, humidity, air pressure and flow rate. A non-optimum system may introduce particulates or contamination into the clean environment, cause wide temperature or humidity swings, create excessive air turbulence or promote the growth of microorganisms. The environmental control system designer must select and implement an optimum set of components to achieve the desired results.

 

Considerations in environmental control system design process

This section lists a variety of current and future considerations and provides a general “how to” for specifying the design of an environmental control system. While not all of these items may be relevant to the reader’s specific application, they are provided in order to illustrate the potential complexities that may be encountered in the design and development process.

 

Size and shape of control volume

Does the environmental control system need to be implemented on a certain component, on an entire machine, a manufacturing line or an entire room? Allowance must also be given to the size and placement of the environmental control system components, including fans, filters, heat exchangers, sensors and enclosures.

 

Equipment and personnel

What are the characteristics of the equipment or personnel operating within the control volume? These may include the following:

  • What is the amount of power consumed or generated by internal equipment? (Watts)
  • Are there fluids or chemical reactions that generate water or chemical vapors?
  • Do moving mechanical assemblies or equipment (such as motors, bearings or slides) create airborne particles?
  • Are personnel or equipment from the outside introduced into the control volume?
  • Does the internal equipment require open doors during operation?

 

Internal environment

What is the desired environment within the control volume? This may include the following:

  • Atmosphere — Air, nitrogen, inert gas or combustible
  • Particulate class (count per unit volume) and size (microns)
  • Target temperature (degrees), temperature range (± degrees) and control accuracy (degree change per minute)
  • Target humidity (% RH), humidity range (± % RH) and control accuracy (% RH change per minute)
  • Air flow rate (volume per minute) and air pressure (wg)

 

External environment

What are the environment extremes in which the controlled volume will operate? These may include the following:

  • Presence of excessive dust, dirt, humidity or precipitation
  • Ambient temperature range (degrees)
  • Ambient humidity range (% RH)
  • Operation in direct sunlight (solar heating), corrosive or volatile environments.

 

Special considerations

These may include the following:

  • Explosion-proof components or enclosures
  • Ruggedization for operation in high shock or vibration environments
  • Microbial control
  • Required use of qualified components (e.g., ETL, UL, CSA, CE, CCC, SEMI, MIL-STD)
  • Fail-safe/redundancy
  • Size and shape limitations

These and other requirements are used by the environmental control system designer to develop a system design and conduct trade-off studies. These studies then determine the required air flow rate (cubic feet per minute), the sizing and placement of system components (e.g., fans, heat exchangers, ducts and filters), enclosure and insulation requirements, the placement of sensors, and air flow characteristics (e.g., volume flow rate, laminar versus turbulent flow, once-through versus recirculating air). Prototypes of the environmental control system are then fabricated and tested to verify that it meets or exceeds these requirements.

 

Example applications

Air Innovations has worked with many customers in several different industries to overcome unique challenges and develop customized environmental control systems that are optimized to address their requirements. Examples include the following:

 

Example 1

A military vehicle application utilized decades-old environmental control technology that fit into a limited space and required upgrading. Air Innovations retrofitted the existing vehicles with upgraded environmental control systems that enabled them to operate in rugged environments over a wider temperature range while allowing the application to fit within its limited space.

 

KBR air innovations unit

Environmental control unit for military vehicles.

 

Example 2

A pharmaceutical application required tight temperature and humidity control during the mixing of potentially explosive chemicals and powders. Air Innovations developed an environmental control system using once-through air that was intrinsically safe for explosive environments.

 

Explosion-proof air conditioner

An explosion-proof air conditioner for use in ATEX or Class I locations.

 

Example 3

An oil and gas company required equipment to operate over a very wide temperature range (-40° F to 130° F) while maintaining uninterrupted integration with their communications systems. Air Innovations developed an environmental control system that enabled the equipment to continuously operate within a harsh salt and dust environment with high reliability over the required temperature range.

 

Example 4

Air Innovations designed, developed and produced an environmental control system for the world’s largest observation wheel, which required a complex-shaped environmental control unit. This system was designed with high reliability, quick serviceability and system redundancy to address potentially life-threatening conditions in the event of power outages or system failure.

Other examples and case studies can be found on the Air Innovations Case Study website.

 

Environmental control amusement park ride

A uniquely shaped environmental control unit for use in an amusement park ride.

 

Air Innovations overview

Air Innovations was founded in 1986 in Syracuse, New York, and is a world leader in designing and building environmental process control systems. Their primary business involves the development of customized packaged systems and solutions for temperature, humidity, filtration, pressurization and with direct-expansion, chilled-water or thermoelectric capabilities. Our experience covers aerospace, military, pharmaceuticals, photonics, biotech, healthcare, oil and gas, observation wheels, a wide variety of cleanrooms, semiconductor, wine cellars, agriculture, research, life sciences, floral, homeland security, precious goods storage (artwork, fur, instruments) and dentistry. Over 20% of the staff have engineering degrees, and the company maintains a research and development department dedicated to continuous growth and improvement in the creation, testing and validation of their custom-engineered solutions. Air Innovations’ numerous products currently span a variety of industries in over 55 countries. More information about the company and products can be found on the Air Innovations website.

USP 797 Environmental Monitoring 101 | HVAC Requirements

USP 797 is a standard for sterility that pharmaceutical compounding and preparation facilities must demonstrate. USP 797 is set by the United States Pharmacopeia and National Formulary (USP-NF) and ensures patient safety by protecting pharmaceuticals from contamination during preparation. Following USP 797 reduces infection, contamination, and improper dosage to maintain superior quality products in facilities such as pharmacies, operating rooms, chemotherapy units, hospital pharmacies, and nuclear pharmacies.

 

Meeting USP 797 Environmental Quality & Control Requirements

Meeting USP 797 standards is critical to the safety of pharmacy environments, as it ensures clean and sterile conditions for compounding and preparing pharmaceutical products. Sterile compounding pharmacy environments and other cleanrooms can demonstrate compliance by following USP 797 standards for monitoring and controlling airborne particles. It is necessary to follow USP 797 to comply with FDA and local regulations, protect against liability, and remain competitive.

USP 797 provides guidelines for the following:

  • ACPH. Hazardous drug (HD) storage rooms require at least 12 air changes per hour (ACPH) for refrigerated, sterile, and nonsterile storage. Buffer rooms and anterooms with access to HDs require 30 ACPH, and anterooms without HD access require 20 ACPH. Buffer rooms with a redundant HEPA filtration system require 12 ACPH.
  • Temperature. Cleanroom temperatures are dependent on the comfort of personnel. It can change relative to the necessary gowning or personal protective equipment (PPE). Sweat and shivering result in more particulate shedding by personnel, so temperatures must not be too low or too high. Uncomfortable temperatures can also encourage staff to shed gowning to cool down or wear unauthorized clothing for warmth.
  • Humidity. Clean rooms must maintain an adequate humidity level to prevent personnel from sweating due to high humidity and static buildup in low humidity. Low humidity can also cause residual adhesives from labels to stick to surfaces like gloves. According to USP 797, relative humidity (RH) must be below 60% at all times.
  • Pressure. Non-HD compounding pharmacies must maintain positive air pressure to keep airborne particulates, contaminants, and dirt from entering through doors, crevices, and ceiling tiles from outside the cleanroom. HD compounding pharmacies require a negative pressure buffer and positive pressure anteroom to prevent contamination and control HD particles.
  • Air quality. Maintaining quality standards requires monitoring of airborne particles. Viable particles require monitoring every week, and non-viable particles require monitoring every six months.

 

Why Your Central HVAC System Won’t Help You Meet USP 797

Sterile compounding pharmacies within confined spaces often become a hotspot when using a standard building air conditioner that cannot keep up with the humidity. Relying on a standard HVAC system can often times result in a space above USP 797 humidity requirements. Maintaining USP 797 compliance requires an HVAC system designed for pharmaceutical applications. Air Innovations offers HVAC solutions to maintain USP 797 compliance.

 


Air Innovations HVAC Solutions

The HEPAir® Cleanroom HVAC Unit by Air Innovations is the ideal solution to maintaining USP 797 humidity, temperature, pressure, and air quality standards for sterile compounding pharmacies. The HEPAir unit operates independently of the building HVAC system, only serving isolation areas such as cleanrooms, pharmacies, and laboratories. Facilities can also implement several HEPAir units to provide additional air quality and climate control where necessary.

Hepair® cleanroom hvac

 

Contact Us for Environmental Control Solutions for Your Compounding Facility

Maintaining USP 797 requirements in your sterile compounding pharmacy space is crucial in delivering a safe product. Rely on Air Innovations’ HEPAir Cleanroom HVAC Unit to ensure USP 797 compliance. As a leader in designing and manufacturing environmental control solutions, we have the necessary knowledge and experience to deliver quality systems to help you abide by critical industry standards. For more information about our HEPAir Cleanroom HVAC Unit or other environmental control solutions, contact us today.

 

Personal Climate Control for Your Work Desk | Heating & Cooling

Office work desks

Indoor climate control is a wonder of modern engineering, but it can be extremely expensive and wasteful. Nearly 13% of the United State’s energy consumption comes from heating and cooling buildings. Instead of controlling the climate of entire buildings, a better solution may be to control the climate of individual spaces in buildings. Installing a personal climate control system at individual office desks puts each worker in control of their environment while helping businesses save energy and money on utility bills. 

Personalized climate control systems in office buildings reduce the amount of heated or cooled air that needs to be supplied throughout the building because only certain areas need cooling at any given time. Cooling vents automatically switch off when a worker leaves their desk, eliminating unnecessary energy consumption. Studies show that providing temperature controls for individual desks can help cut down energy costs by half.

 

Benefits of Personal Climate Control Systems

Implementing personal climate control systems into workspaces provides a range of benefits to the company and to its employees. Some of the benefits include the following:

Enhanced Energy Efficiency and Reduced Costs 

Energy consumption and its costs are a matter of concern for businesses. Personal ventilation systems can help cut costs by enhancing energy efficiency. 

Improves Workforce Productivity 

The comfort of workers is one of the major factors that improve productivity. People who work for long hours need solutions that enhance comfort. A personal climate control system allows personnel to customize their environment to their comfort level, thereby improving productivity. 

Limits Air Borne Diseases Transmission

One of the major causes of the spread of airborne diseases is central HVAC systems. HVAC systems circulate the air throughout the premises, carrying with germs and bacteria with it which results in the spread of various airborne diseases. It has become critically important to limit this spread within facilities given today’s global health situation, and a personal climate control system can be an effective solution. 

Workspace Optimization 

Nearly 60% of complaints regarding office environment are related to temperature. In any office space, there are diverse people of different sizes and gender with varying climate preferences. There is no perfect temperature to fit the needs of all of them. Providing workers with personal climate control makes it possible to optimize the workspace environment according to individual needs. 

 


MyZone® System – Key Features and Benefits

Logo and Unit MyZone

MyZone® System is an innovative personal climate control solution that caters to the personal comfort of individual workers. This revolutionary personal climate control device is attached to the surfaces in personal workspaces, integrating lighting control, environmental control, and lift functions within a single unit. It comes with a non-fixed controller, which means you can position it anywhere on your desk without a problem. The MyZone system has a variety of features and benefits:

  • Non-fixed user controller for user convenience
  • Highly energy-efficient design
  • Automatic integrated motion sensor for additional power savings. Following 10 minutes of inactivity, the system shuts off automatically.
  • Variable options for cooling and heating
  • Adjustable louvers allow you to direct air towards yourself
  • Programmable for up to 15 users
  • Integrated sit/stand desk leg lift control
  • Adjustable generator for white noise
  • Adjustable calendar and clock
  • Task light dimmer
  • Option of HEPA Filtration

MyZone Infographic HEPA filter

 

Effectiveness of HEPA Office vs Desk Filtration 

Along with climate control, MyZone® personal climate control system with optional HEPA filtration can also improve the air quality and provide better protection against airborne infectious diseases. This device can reduce particulate matter up to 94% in five minutes, directing quality air to the users.


Contact Our Experts for Custom Environmental Control Systems 

MyZone® personal climate control systems provide a more comfortable, energy-efficient, and safe environment for employees. It offers unmatched flexibility, versatility, control, comfort, and user safety to maximize productivity and optimize the workplace environment.  

Air Innovations specializes in designing and manufacturing remote and self-controlled packaged cooling systems. Our innovative designs provide precise temperature, filtration, and humidity control

Contact us today to request a free quote for your custom personal climate control system!

Desk Console management Infographic View Infographic Here

How To Keep Elders Healthy Under Family Care Or Aging In Place

Deciding how and where to best care for senior citizens as they get older can be an emotionally fraught experience. There are also several practical considerations that go into the decision to ensure their needs are met. Whether families decide to move their elderly parents in with them or to keep seniors in their own homes, a top priority is facilitating both a safe and healthy environment.

Elderly at Home

The National Institute on Aging advises people aging in place to install grab bars, ramps, and non-slip adhesives in their homes. Access to nutritious meals and following strict medication regimens are also advised. Experts recommend regular handwashing to prevent infections, and the CDC strongly urges senior citizens to get vaccinated against both COVID-19 and influenza.

But there is even more that can be done to ensure high-quality air and infection control in a private residential setting. Here is what you need to know:

What Residential HVAC Systems Were Designed To Do

Residential HVAC systems are designed to ventilate and filter air to maintain adequate air quality and control temperature. Ventilation and filtration remove odors and trap dust, smoke, and pollen. However, residential HVAC systems are not designed to capture toxic microorganisms.

HEPA Filters

HEPA filters capture pathogens which include bacteria, viruses, and even mold spores. Unlike hospital-grade HVAC systems, most residential units do not generate powerful enough airflow to overcome resistance caused by HEPA filters. Therefore, adding one to a home HVAC system is not a viable means of containing contaminants.

One way to reap the benefits of HEPA filtration in homes is through air purifiers equipped with HEPA filters. Since they reduce the number of particles that carry viruses by approximately 95%, they are considered medical grade.

Humidity Control Matters, Too

According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health relative humidity (RH) levels between 40-60% are optimal in homes for two reasons. First, mucous membranes are most resistant to infection around moderate humidity levels. Second, viruses living in aerosol particles survive for less time at 50% RH than in drier or very humid conditions.

Humidity control is not standard in residential HVAC systems, but it can be added retroactively. However, humidity control functionality that is incorporated into furnaces or central air conditioning only works when the system is running. Similarly, controlling humidity levels is not available through forced-water heating that uses boilers. If moisture control is not available through a household HVAC system, a stand-alone humidifier that monitors room levels will get the job done.

Volatile Organic Compounds

Exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can have short- and long-term adverse health implications. VOCs are gases emitted from various household products including new carpets, aerosol sprays, paint, PVC plastics, and air fresheners. VOCs originate indoors, and exposure to moderate levels of VOCs over time or high levels of VOCs in a short period of time can cause minor eye, nose, and throat irritation. Over time, higher concentrations of VOCs can cause liver, kidney, and central nervous system damage.

Air Purifiers Have Their Limits

According to Consumer Reports, air purifiers can remove contaminants only when they are floating in the air. Mites, mold, pollen, and VOCs are too heavy for most air purifiers. Units with HEPA filtration can capture aerosol droplets on which the coronavirus travels, but not all purifiers draw in enough air to actually reduce the volume of particles.

The Bottom Line

Avoiding harmful contaminants and facilitating quality indoor air is achievable, even in a private setting. Fortunately, a highly effective solution can be as simple and unobtrusive as a window AC unit.

Air Innovations brought over 25 years of experience designing and manufacturing customized solutions for temperature, humidity, and filtration control to its HEPAiRx® window-mount ventilating air purifier. The HEPAiRx system is a plug-and-play air filtration device comparable in size to a standard AC unit. The system quickly and thoroughly purifies a room of airborne particles and contaminants because each unit features medical-grade HEPA filtration and ventilation to exhaust air for a standard-sized room every 30 minutes.

The HEPAiRx unit brings in a high enough quantity of fresh air to naturally dilute VOCs without requiring a window to be open. It also uses upstream UV-C to kill viruses trapped on the intake side of the HEPA filter to give seniors an extra buffer against life-threatening elements. Lastly, the system has onboard heating, cooling, and humidity control features to keep residents comfortable.

The HEPAiRx system is currently the only solution on the market that can do the following:

  • Brings dedicated fresh air into a room to naturally dilute potentially harmful aerosol particles, VOCs, and gases.
  • Uses optional upstream UV-C to kill viruses trapped on the intake side of the HEPA filter – the only effective way to kill viruses on the HEPA filter.
  • Integrates the HVAC to isolate the space from the existing systems. HVAC ductwork is a source of cross-contamination between spaces. The HEPAiRx system seals off the current system to separate it from adjacent rooms creating an actual isolation space.

Air Innovations’ HEPAirX system empowers adult children to take a proactive approach to keep beloved older family members safe and healthy. Or, the unit enables senior citizens to take charge of their own contamination control.

Elevating The Standards Of Elder Care In Residential Facilities

The global pandemic exposed a need to elevate the standard of care for the elderly. In particular, senior citizens living and spending time in group settings such as nursing homes, residential care facilities, and senior centers were at exceptionally high risk for contracting and dying of COVID-19.

As of April 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy reported that residents in long-term care facilities accounted for only 3% of the total 21 million confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S., yet made up one-third of the 350,000 deaths. Nursing home residents are particularly susceptible to COVID, and other infections, due to their naturally lowered immune functions and being prone to pre-existing conditions. Additionally, nursing homes lack the systems engineered to control the spread of potentially life-threatening contagious diseases, like COVID.

Various tactics are needed to prevent the spread of infections where older adults live and congregate. Fortunately, armed with some vital information, facilities can take steps to protect their communities better.

Group at Nursing Home

The Role of Ventilation And Filtration

Similar to other contagious pathogens, it became evident that COVID spreads primarily indoors. Beyond physical distancing and masking, the best way to reduce the spread is by implementing air ventilation and filtration systems.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), “The weight of evidence indicates ventilation plays a key role in infectious disease transmission, (…) showing low ventilation associated with transmission of measles, tuberculosis, rhinovirus, influenza, and SARS-CoV-1.”

 

Elevate Ventilation Standards

Yet, JAMA also reports that most indoor spaces (except for hospitals) ventilate and filter air at minimum levels.

The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) sets ventilation standards for most indoor spaces. However, these standards are intended to remove odors and ensure an adequate level of air quality. They don’t support an infection control strategy.

 

Better Filtration Plays A Key Role

MERV FILTERS

Air filters and purifiers have several efficiency standards, including clean air delivery rate (CADR) and minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV). Established by ASHRAE, the MERV rating measures the quality of air filters used in central ventilation systems. For reference, MERV-8 is a typical low-grade filter that captures only 15% of small particles. MERV-13 filters are able to capture nearly 70% of small air particles and are an integral part of a larger infection control program. Standards for nursing home resident rooms require only MERV-7 filters.

HEPA FILTERS

HEPA filters are used in any application that requires contamination control. Air purifiers equipped with HEPA filters can capture even smaller microns than MERV filters. Since they reduce the number of particles that carry viruses by approximately 95%, they are considered medical grade.

Upgrading filters to capture a higher percentage of particles of all sizes is a reasonably simple way to protect the elderly living in long-term care facilities.

 

Incorporate Fresh Air

Researchers have found that fresh air delivered through AC or ventilation systems plays an important role in diluting the volume of viral aerosol particles in a room. Monitoring carbon dioxide (CO₂) levels is a simple way to ensure enough fresh air is in a room, as high CO₂ levels indicate that there is a lot of exhaled air in the room. A sick person has a greater chance of distributing viral particles to a healthy person.

 

Relative Humidity Matters, Too

In addition to regular ventilation and air filtration, the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health recommends maintaining relative humidity (RH) levels between 40-60% for two reasons. First, mucous membranes are most resistant to infection in moderate humidity levels. Second, aerosol particles potentially containing contagious diseases can live for less time at 50% RH than in drier or very humid conditions.

Facilities and residences for older people can monitor humidity and utilize humidifiers as needed at a low cost.

 

The Bottom Line

A multi-pronged approach is the best way to protect older citizens from low-quality air and infectious diseases. Fortunately, a highly effective solution can be as simple and unobtrusive as a window AC unit.

Air Innovations brought over 25 years of experience designing and manufacturing customized solutions for temperature, humidity, and filtration control to its HEPAiRx® ventilating and filtrating system. HEPAiRx systems are air filtration devices that are comparable in size to a standard AC unit. They combine multiple strategies for maintaining optimal health in a variety of applications. HEPAiRx units quickly and thoroughly purify a room of airborne particles and contaminants. Each plug-and-play unit features a MERV-17 medical-grade HEPA filter and ventilation to exhaust air for a standard-sized room every 30 minutes.

HEPAiRx systems are an ideal solution for use in nursing homes. Since each unit is entirely self-contained and compact, facilities don’t have to overhaul their existing HVAC systems. HEPAirX units empower facility administrators to take a proactive approach to keep our beloved older family members and staff safe and healthy.

The HEPAiRx system is currently the only solution on the market that can do the following:

  • Bring dedicated fresh air into a room to naturally dilute potentially harmful aerosol particles, VOCs, and gases.
  • Create either a negative or positive pressure environment.
  • Use optional upstream UV-C to kill viruses trapped on the intake side of the HEPA filter – the only effective way to kill viruses on the HEPA filter.
  • Integrate the HVAC to isolate the space from the existing systems. HVAC ductwork is a source of cross-contamination between operatories. When using the HEPAiRx system, you can seal off the existing system to separate it from adjacent rooms, creating an actual isolation space.

Portable IsolationAir Contamination Control Units Bring Flexibility to Hospitals

COVID-19 has put healthcare facilities under extraordinary pressure to accomplish more with less. Nurses and doctors had to care for waves of sick patients with limited resources. Medical personnel simply didn’t have the equipment or facilities needed to keep up with patient demand, and they struggled to contain the virus with makeshift solutions.

The most obvious way to protect patients and staff from those infected with COVID-19, or any other infectious disease, is to isolate them. Proper isolation rooms have dedicated HVAC and HEPA filtration capabilities. These rooms are constructed according to stringent guidelines from the CDC and other professional associations. Isolation rooms don’t share air or controls with the rest of the medical facility to prevent the risk of cross-contamination. However, at the height of the pandemic, even the most advanced, well-funded institutions could not isolate their contagious patients.

Protecting Patients and Staff

Negative Pressure

The most common type of isolation room utilizes negative pressure. These spaces have lower pressure inside the room than in the surrounding environment. As a result, contaminants can’t sneak out of the room and spread to the rest of the hospital. A negative pressure environment is maintained by using a dedicated HVAC system that continuously pumps clean air into the room near the floor and filters and sucks it back out through a grill near the ceiling. Other patients and medical staff are protected from the sick person.

Positive Pressure

Positive pressure rooms maintain higher pressure inside a space than the surrounding environment. These rooms are connected to a hospital HVAC system, which pumps clean, filtered air into the room. When the door to the space is opened, the high pressure forces out clean air and prevents any contaminants from entering the area. Positive pressure rooms are valuable for compromised patients—burn victims, surgery patients, birthing women, and injured emergency room patients—highly susceptible to infection or pathogens.

Financial Solvency

Perhaps now more than ever, building isolation spaces dedicated to protecting and treating vulnerable patients is a prohibitively expensive option for most hospitals.

Between forced facilities shutdowns and increased costs surrounding COVID-19 preparedness, U.S. hospitals lost an estimated $323 billion in 2020. Moreover, hospitals and health systems are projected to lose between $53 to $122 billion more in 2021. Beyond shrinking budgets, administrators can be slow to adopt change due to protracted stakeholder approval processes. The path of least resistance is often to maintain the status quo.

Versatility for Enhanced Level of Patient Care

IsolationAir® Portable Contamination Control System

Air Innovations strives to truly understand the challenges our customers and potential clients grapple with beyond controlling temperature and humidity. Adopting a holistic approach enables us to engineer lasting solutions that are adaptable to meet their evolving needs.

We designed the IsolationAir® system so that hospitals and medical facilities could continue delivering high-quality care to their most vulnerable patients without taking on a renovation project. Our systems convert standard-sized patient rooms into positive or negative pressure spaces depending on demand. Since the unit is portable, it limits the need for stakeholder approval often required for renovation projects. IsolationAir contamination control units are considered devices and not intrinsic parts of a hospital.

HEPA Filtration & UV Light

The portable unit includes medical-grade HEPA filtration to remove potentially harmful particles from a negative pressure space or into a positive pressure patient room. The unit also has UV-C light to sterilize contaminants that stick to the back of the unit and can be ingested by sick patients.

Designed for Patient Comfort

IsolationAir systems have onboard heating and cooling to keep patients comfortable when they are cut off from the hospital HVAC system. The AC functionality also serves to dehumidify exam and patient rooms.

Installation Options

Each unit comes equipped with flexible ductwork, and there are two ways to implement them.

To boost readiness to respond to increased patient volumes, hospitals can pre-facilitate inpatient or exam rooms by having a universal grill adapter connected to the return grill in the ceiling. At that time, maintenance staff can check for other air exhausts or leaks in the room and seal them up. When it becomes necessary to expand surge capacity for any reason, hospital staff can rapidly deploy an IsolationAir unit by simply plugging the unit into an emergency outlet and connecting the flexible ductwork to the available adapter.

Alternatively, medical facilities can simply wheel an IsolationAir unit into a particular exam or treatment room and install a return grill adapter to which the flexible ductwork on the unit will connect. Maintenance teams can seal up visible air leaks around windows and doors. Once on-site, the process takes less than an hour and doesn’t require specialty HVAC professionals. Installing a return grill adapter as needed before connecting the unit’s ductwork is a viable option when hospitals can foresee a rise in patient demand, as we did with COVID-19.

When Flexibility Matters Most

Anytime a room is used to “open up” patients, they are immediately susceptible to potentially life-threatening pathogens. Dedicated surgical theaters are typically designed as positive pressure rooms. However, there have been instances where hospitals have opted to permanently convert surgical spaces from positive rooms to negative rooms, a transition that requires planning and time.

Trauma patients and burn victims have the best chance of survival when treated in positive pressure rooms. Issues arise when a crisis happens, and hospitals don’t have enough positive pressure rooms to treat victims. The flexibility to transform an unpressurized room into a positive pressure space quickly enables a medical establishment to treat and save more patients.

Surprisingly enough, most labor and delivery floors and emergency units don’t have contamination control even though these patients are vulnerable to infections. Often, it is impossible to anticipate whether rooms should be positive or negative pressured spaces. Hospitals, extended care facilities, and emergency preparedness centers need the flexibility to determine—sometimes on the fly—whether patients need positive or negative pressure to save their lives or to prevent catastrophe.

The Final Verdict

Despite the enormous challenges and constraints facing hospitals today, administrators have solutions available to help them respond with agility to varying patient needs. We are proud our IsolationAir system can help medical professionals do their jobs easier and enable them to save more lives. When it comes to creating spaces to care for our most vulnerable patients, versatility is the name of the game.

For Reference:

IsolationAir® Systems meet the following industry guidelines:

  • 12 air changes per hour via HEPA filters
  • Each IsolationAir unit conditions rooms up to 375 sq ft with an 8’ ceiling
  • A pressure differential of 0.01” minimum between a room and adjoining spaces
    (May require additional seals around doors or other significant leak points in large rooms with poorly sealed doors).
  • Continuous operation when plugged into an emergency generator outlet
  • Provides stable temperature control for patient comfort
  • Originally designed to meet the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ critical benchmarks:
    • Critical Benchmark #2-2: Surge Capacity: Isolation Capacity
    • Critical Benchmark #2-9: Surge Capacity: Trauma and Burn Care
    • Cross-cutting Critical Benchmark #6: Preparedness for Pandemic Influenza

For additional information, see these websites:

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Guidelines for infectious disease control in health care facilities
  2. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) – Guidelines for design and construction of hospitals, including heating and cooling control to 75°F.
  3. American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) – Chapter 7 in Applications Handbook regarding health care facilities.