Product manufacturing, research and development, and other applications in fields ranging from aerospace and semiconductors to pharmaceuticals require a sterile environment for safe operations. As such, cleanrooms are very important in these industries, helping maintain product integrity and limiting the presence of airborne contaminants.
Standard HVAC equipment is insufficient for managing cleanroom air conditions because it can’t reach the tight temperature and humidity requirements and doesn’t contain the HEPA filters needed to maintain such an environment. That’s why Air Innovations creates customizable environmental process control systems for critical cleanroom applications.
What Are Cleanrooms?
For industries in which even small particles can have a detrimental effect on products or operations, cleanrooms are an optimal solution. These highly regulated, contaminant-free spaces are designed and constructed to ensure safe product research, manufacturing, assembly, testing, and packaging. To be considered a cleanroom, a space needs to meet the minimum cleanroom classification standards set forth in FED Std 209E or ISO14644-1. Cleanrooms can be designed to meet various classes ranging from ISO 1, which provides the most sterile environment, to ISO 9, with less strict air quality and cleanliness requirements.
Each industry has its own specifications and regulatory requirements for cleanroom HVAC systems. At Air Innovations, we operate a dedicated HVAC division to create systems specifically for cleanrooms and related critical applications. We develop and manufacture both standardized and customizable solutions for complete integration into cleanroom modular environmental systems, giving you the size, functionality, and system features you need for your specific application. Also, our certified systems can be designed to comply with ANSI, CE, CSA, ETL, MIL-STD, SEMI, and UL performance and safety standards.
Our cleanroom HVAC systems can effectively accomplish the following:
Eliminate open drive or belt-driven parts that could otherwise produce particles and contaminate the air stream
Create smaller footprints to save valuable floor space
Manage cleanroom humidity and temperature with precision
Dehumidify your cleanroom
Use sealants that are non-out-gassing
Combat HEPA filter losses through high-static blower integration
Maintaining a Cleanroom Environment
To effectively maintain your cleanroom environment, there are certain steps you should follow:
Develop proper cleaning routines. Clean your HVAC system from top to bottom to decrease the likelihood of contamination. Depending on its ISO class, the appropriate cleaning frequency for your system might be daily, weekly, or monthly.
Schedule regular air system maintenance. Conducting an air sampling and checking temperature, humidity, and pressure readings regularly will help ensure proper system performance.
Use the right cleaning materials. Incorrect cleaning materials can introduce corrosion-causing contaminants. Instead, use non-ionic, non-foaming, neutral solvents and chemicals coupled with woven rags or wipes of polyester construction. Mopping systems equipped with dirty-water separation are also helpful.
Train your employees. Teach employees about the proper cleaning protocol, as well as the standard dress code of protective clothing to wear during cleaning.
Heat load (the total amount of heat exuded by employees and equipment)
Required temperature, humidity, and dew point specifications
Desired air pressure and air supply source
Partner With Air Innovations for Environmental Process Control Solutions in Cleanrooms
When a sterile environment is crucial, cleanrooms prevent contamination that would otherwise compromise the safety and effectiveness of sensitive products. Regulating your cleanroom’s temperature, humidity, pressurization, filtration, airflow and rate requires high-performance HVAC systems that meet your needs and regulatory requirements.
Deciding between a clean room vs. a controlled environment requires a thorough understanding of your application and facility requirements. Some operations even use both, reserving a cleanroom for certain quality controls and more sensitive tasks. Read on to learn what controlled and cleanroom environments are, and what types of applications each is best suited for.
What is a Controlled Environment?
Controlled environments are spaces that control several local factors by adjusting resource inputs and outputs. Generally, the functions regulated by a controlled environment include the following:
Light spectrum and intensity
Carbon dioxide and oxygen levels
Controlled environments don’t need to meet particle filtration thresholds like cleanrooms do. Instead, their certification requirements are based on factors such as temperature and humidity controls. These must be periodically measured and logged, so the environmental controls can be adjusted accordingly.
If your requirements primarily revolve around temperature and/or humidity control, without the need for strict cleanliness or filtration, a controlled environment will meet your needs.
Common Applications for Controlled Environments
Controlled environments are used in numerous industries:
For the latter, the most important controls include humidity, airflow, temperature, and lighting. Controlling humidity and air exchanges can dramatically reduce the transmission of pathogens.
What is a Cleanroom?
Cleanrooms are a specialized type of controlled environment. They require more stringent controls on temperature and pressure, and their local air supply must be kept separate from the outside environment. Cleanrooms filter contaminants at the microscopic level, maintaining air purity with a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filtration system.
Cleanrooms are required to meet ISO 14644-1 or FED Std 209E standards, which takes into account both the cleanliness and the number of air changes per hour. This is necessary to maintain precise filtration and particulate controls.
To certify that one of these classifications is being met, a room needs to be particle tested and have continual measurements of air pressure and filtration.
Some industries and applications will have additional cleanroom requirements, such as ASTM E2352 for Aerospace cleanrooms. Semiconductor companies require cleanrooms rated at Class 5 or lower, along with their own “SEMI” industry standards. Pharmaceutical and medical industries have other specific cleanroom standards.
Common Applications for Cleanrooms
What a cleanroom is used for depends on how sanitary a lab or other setting must be for a given application. Highly valuable equipment depends on accurate cleanroom controls, which are set by a classification system outlined in ISO-5/class 100 and ISO-6/class 1000.
There are also industry-specific cleanroom standards. The most common cleanroom types are as follows:
Semiconductor manufacturing cleanrooms
Pharmaceutical manufacturing cleanrooms
Research and development cleanrooms
Laser and optics cleanrooms
Cleanroom or Controlled Environment: Which Option is Right?
When deciding between a cleanroom and a controlled environment, the primary considerations are (A) the application and (B) the industry involved.
Generally, when a project requires environmental controls for stable temperatures and humidity, a controlled environment is what you need. If the application requires contaminant levels to be less than a specific threshold, a cleanroom is necessary.
This commonly applies to industries using highly sensitive electronics or purified chemical substances. The most common industries and applications for cleanrooms include the following:
Semiconductors & Microelectronics
Military & Aerospace
Hospital isolation rooms
Medical device manufacturing
For most other laboratory environments, controlled environments are usually acceptable. For instance, a process control laboratory working with chrome plating depends on stable environmental controls, but not at the level of a cleanroom.
Other applications for controlled environments include the following:
Agricultural research and food production
Facilities sometimes use both a controlled environment and cleanroom. For example, a laboratory might perform quality control testing in a certified ISO class 8 cleanroom but store the materials in a controlled environment if they don’t need to be kept at strict levels of cleanliness.
Contact Air Innovations for Cleanroom Environmental Control Solutions
Deciding between a controlled environment vs. a cleanroom is not difficult once you’ve clarified your application. For cleanrooms, several industries have specific cleanroom standards, in addition to fundamental national and international standards. Contact Air Innovations to learn more about cleanroom air purification. Our air filtration engineers have continually advanced cleanroom HVAC systems, including our customizable HEPAir and AdvancAir systems. The Air Innovation product line is built for a wide range of industrial, laboratory, and specialized uses, and our knowledgeable service technicians are standing by to assist you.
Maintaining sterile storage conditions is necessary to protect medical instruments, drugs, surgical implants, and other equipment from contaminants. ARON guidelines on sterilization are straightforward: temperatures should not exceed 72℉ (22℃) to 78℉ (26℃), relative humidity should not exceed 60%, and airflow should be positive pressure with at least four total air changes per hour.
Hospital administrators and other end users should understand how sterile storage solutions have been designed to protect sensitive and often valuable medical supplies. This knowledge will enable them to select the best solution and know how to operate and maintain it for optimal performance.
Sterile storage cabinet in a hospital
How Sterile Storage Cabinets Preserve Sterility
Air Innovations has engineered a small modular sterile storage cabinet that can be deployed to hospital rooms, surgical facilities, or other medical facilities. Since the cabinet is much smaller than traditional autoclaves, it can be used in various locations. These sterile storage cabinets utilize multiple levels of functionality to ensure the equipment and sterilized packages are protected.
The first protective function is that all air in the cabinet recirculates through a HEPA filter at more than 250 air changes per hour—six times more than in a standard operating room. Any airborne viables in the cabinet are captured in the 99.97% efficient HEPA filter every 15 seconds. As an additional level of safety, an optional UV-C lamp can be installed above the HEPA filter to neutralize viruses or bacteria that may live on the filter.
Under most conditions, the sterile storage cabinet meets ISO4 cleanliness conditions. After opening the cabinet door, returning to this ultra-clean state takes less than five minutes.
The sterile storage cabinet’s second protective function is how it humidifies the cabinet space. The cabinet’s recommended use includes demineralized water, which has been treated to remove mineral impurities. The humidifier pulls water from the onboard storage tank and boils it to generate steam which is then injected into the storage cabinet. If bacteria or viruses were present in the water tank, they would be unable to live inside a boiling humidifier and could not reach the cabinet’s sterilized contents. The sterile storage cabinet’s humidifier has been programmed to boil until all the water is gone and the humidifier is dry after each . This allows users to store sterile items at the correct humidity without the risk of contamination from the water source.
Lastly, the cabinet is positively pressurized to prevent particles from infiltrating the space when the door is not open.
Sterile Storage Cabinets vs Cleanrooms
Sterile storage cabinets offer several primary benefits over cleanrooms.
First, the modular design of the cabinets enables hospital staff to decentralize their sterile storage to be closer to points of use. Cabinets are also more affordable than cleanrooms, which means hospitals can utilize more than one at a time. If a cabinet malfunctions, only the product stored in it is at risk, whereas if a cleanroom goes down, all the product within that space may be lost or need to be sterilized again. A backup sterile storage cabinet can be deployed quickly and easily in the same area. Lastly, people carry the greatest risk in a sterile environment. Hospital staff frequently access cleanrooms, where cabinets inherently isolate sensitive medical devices and products away from people.
By storing valuable medical supplies in cabinets designed to meet rigorous air purification standards and use humidity and positive pressure to ensure sterility, hospital administrators and staff will have peace of mind to focus on what they have been trained to do: treat patients and save lives. Download the sterile storage cabinet datasheet to learn more.
Standard HVAC systems control humidity, temperature, and air pressure. They can also provide filtration and control the speed and direction of airflow into and out of a space. Cleanroom HVAC systems, however, have higher air exchange rates and are equipped with high-efficiency particulate (HEPA) filters to maintain a sterile environment. This allows them to meet stringent air filtration standards for industries like medical, pharmaceutical, and research & development laboratories. Selecting the right cleanroom HVAC system to meet your needs will depend on multiple factors that influence the size and design of your system.
What People Overlook When Looking for a Cleanroom HVAC Unit
There are several qualities buyers tend to overlook when selecting a cleanroom HVAC unit for their specific space and application. Typically, a buyer knows the size of the room and the cleanliness level they require, but this is only a fraction of the information manufacturers need to make or select your cleanroom’s HVAC unit. For example, you may know you need an HVAC cleanroom system for a 20’ x 20’ ISO Class 8 cleanroom, but you may not be aware of the room’s heat load or temperature range. It’s ideal to identify the following information before you proceed with the HVAC system design process.
Knowing the Total Heat Load in the Room
Understanding the total heat load of the room is crucial because it identifies the amount of heat that the cleanroom HVAC system will need to remove. Every device in that room that is drawing power must be considered as part of the total heat load. The HVAC unit you choose should be capable of removing that amount of heat via the air conditioner. To build a system of sufficient size to handle your heat load, determine the number of kilowatts each piece of equipment in your cleanroom produces. However, you should also include these factors in your calculations:
Square footage of your cleanroom
Number of people working in the space
Number of lights and their type (fluorescent or LED)
Number of windows in the room, as well as how much light they let in
Where’s Air Coming From – Inside vs. Outside Air
Understanding where your HVAC system draws its air from is critical for effective cleanroom cooling. Air can come from outside the facility or from an indoor location around the cleanroom. You need to determine the origin of the air to ensure it’s in an acceptable condition before the system pressurizes it. It’s also vital to know the air change rate and if your cleanroom system recirculates the air or is a single-pass system. The air change rate is how often external filtered air replaces the air currently in the cleanroom. A recirculating cleanroom system filters and recycles the air, while a single-pass system exhausts the air outside the cleanroom.
Existence of Exhaust in the Cleanroom
While important, many buyers never think about exhaust. All the air that the system exhausts from the room needs to be made up with what is essentially “more expensive” air. This is to say that, unlike recirculated air from within the cleanroom, incoming ambient air requires treating, consuming more energy and utilizing additional equipment to process. Recirculated air is stable as it’s already conditioned, with small amounts of heat and moisture added. Knowing the amount of air a cleanroom exhausts — as well as how much it leaks — is crucial to selecting the right-sized system to meet your temperature and humidity requirements.
What’s the Temperature, Relative Humidity, and Dew Point Range
Knowing your cleanroom’s ranges for temperature, relative humidity, and dew point throughout the year is essential when designing your HVAC system. Each value can change drastically throughout the different seasons. However, identifying your humidity at any given time, for example, is not enough. You must also know the temperature in the room at that particular humidity level, or vice versa. Pinpointing the maximum humidity at the highest temperature and the maximum humidity at the lowest temperature each season will help you to determine the appropriate type and size of HVAC system for your cleanroom.
Cleanroom HVAC Solutions From Air Innovations
When trying to identify the optimal cleanroom HVAC design for your operation, first gain a comprehensive understanding of your cleanroom’s conditions to select the right unit and size for your space. Air Innovations is an industry leader in designing, manufacturing, and testing custom environmental control systems when standard HVAC equipment won’t do the job. Since 1986, we’ve helped clients in diverse industries manage temperature, humidity, pressurization, and filtration in their process control systems.
Environmental control units (ECUs) regulate environmental conditions in closed spaces. In the biotechnology industry, ECUs are a vital component of cleanrooms to control and monitor environmental variables to ensure they meet the parameters specified for the cleanroom environment. Some of these parameters may include flow rate, pressure, humidity, contaminants, and temperature. We will explore the specific biotech applications where ECUs offer environmental monitoring and control and the selection of units you can choose from for these applications.
Typical ECU Use Cases
Biotech facilities take many forms, each with its own unique requirements for environmental control. Here’s an overview of biotech applications that depend on environmental control units to maintain temperature and humidity:
Pharmaceutical Manufacturing & Cleanrooms: Particulate control is a primary pharmaceutical production and processing consideration, given requirements for very low levels of contamination for pharmaceutical production processes. In addition to particulate control and monitoring, pharmaceutical manufacturing often requires strict temperature and humidity control. Preventing excess moisture and controlling temperature during all stages of pharmaceutical production ensure consistent chemical and physical reactions for milling, granulation, compounding, coating, drying, and other processes.
Laboratories: ECU units monitor and control environments in cleanroom, commercial, and industrial laboratories. Lab ECUs manage cleanroom pressurization to prevent microorganisms from entering or spreading outside a specific area. Common applications include process isolators, mini-environments, positive-pressure cleanroom labs for sterile pharmaceutical containment, and negative-pressure cleanroom labs that handle dangerous bacteria and viruses.
Fluid Bed Drying: Particles with sizes larger than 50 microns typically undergo fluidization and drying in fluid bed drying. The particles are subject to conditions that give them properties similar to a fluid and ECU units play a critical role in this process. ECUs provide air to fluid bed drying process tools and regulate humidity and dew point levels. Only under these finely controlled conditions can caplets, pills, and capsules be uniformly dried.
Tablet Coating: This is a process where tablets moving on a bed are coated in heated air to facilitate solvent evaporation. As the tablets move, they are coated using vertical air suspension or perpendicular coating pan methods. An ECU is vital to pharmaceutical temperature monitoring during the coating process. ECUs help pharmaceutical companies research and develop recipes for tablet production with the optimal, FDA-approved amount of coating. ECUs are responsible for regulating temperatures and humidities, which can be adjusted as needed until the ideal result is achieved.
ECUs for the BioTech Industry
The following ECUs are suitable for biotech and medical industry applications:
HEPAir® Cleanroom HVAC Units: HEPAir® systems provide stable control of temperature, humidity, pressure, and cleanliness for cleanroom applications. They can also work with standard fan filter units or be tailored with custom static pressure capabilities for panel or terminal HEPA filters. The HEPAir® system can control negative or positive pressure. Their modularity and easy relocation and installation make it ideal for soft-wall cleanrooms, process isolators, and other applications in the biotech industry.
ArrayAir – Environmental Control Units: A portable solution for environmental control that can maintain the proper cleanliness, temperature, and humidity levels for cleanroom environments measuring up to 30 cubic feet, such as laboratory gloveboxes.
IsolationAir® Contamination Control Systems: A solution that features onboard medical-grade HEPA filtration, air conditioning, UVC sterilization of the filter, and ductwork to convert a standard-sized patient care room into a positive or negative pressure environment for stable cleanliness, pressure, temperature, and HVAC humidity control. While its most common usage is to control infectious disease outbreaks, it can also extend surge capacity for institutions requiring more space for burn and trauma care. For the biotech industry, this system can be used in negative-pressure cleanroom bio-laboratories.
Sterile Storage – Temperature & Humidity Controlled Cabinets: Stored inventory, equipment, and sterilized tools require sterile storage conditions. Medical facilities depend on rigorous sterilization, cleaning, and storage procedures to maintain compliance with regulatory standards, including using sterile storage with temperature and humidity control.
AdvancAir® Custom Clean Room Air Conditioner: An advanced environmental control unit for cleanrooms offering increased capacity and performance in a compact design. AdvancAir® units are custom-built to your configurations and specifications. These ECUs can be used to control the environment of a room or be integrated with other equipment to control a process.
BioTech Environmental Control Units by Air Innovations
Environmental control units offer temperature and humidity control for various applications, including cleanrooms, industrial facilities, and commercial operations. The biotech industry depends on specifically designed ECUs to control and monitor contaminant levels in sensitive environments, as product integrity, strict sterilization, and hygiene are crucial to pharmaceutical processing, extending product shelf life, controlling R&D and sensitive experiments, and reducing the risk of infection in biomedical labs.
Air Innovations offers several cleanroom ECUs with humidity and temperature control and monitoring as well as HEPA, ULPA, or molecular filtration. We deliver custom solutions for various industries and strive to solve our clients’ problems with innovative solutions. Nearly a quarter of our team holds an engineering degree and undergoes cross-training to fully understand our product offerings, which allows us to deliver the best service to our customers. Our products are rigorously tested and validated to meet your needs and comply with industry standards like UL, CSA, and ANSI.
Contact us to speak with a member of our team about the ECU solution for your industry or application.
As a trusted provider of custom environmental control units, Air Innovations develops precise solutions for controlling dew point and humidity. While both of these factors relate to the amount of water in the air, they describe different weather-related phenomena and affect industrial processes in different ways. This article will discuss the differences between dew point vs relative humidity and why they’re important to various industries.
What is Dew Point?
Dew point is the temperature at which point the air is completely saturated with water vapor and can hold no more. Dew point will always be equal to or lower than the air temperature.
At the dew point, the water in the air condenses into dew or frost. At certain pressures, the water vapor in the air reaches an equilibrium with liquid water and condenses at the same pace that liquid water evaporates.
What is Relative Humidity?
Relative humidity (RH) is a measurement of the amount of water vapor in the air, expressed as a percentage. So, a relative humidity of 100% means that the air is fully saturated and cannot hold any more water vapor. Relative humidity is proportional to temperature, and changes as temperatures and pressure increase or decrease. This means that systems with stable temperatures and pressure will have stable relative humidity.
Dew Point vs Relative Humidity
As the dew point rises, more moisture is present in the air. Relative humidity, on the other hand, is the ratio between the current amount of water vapor in the air and the maximum amount that’s possible at that temperature. Both of these factors are important to take into account when identifying the optimal moisture content of a room.
In commercial and industrial environments, dew point and relative humidity control systems deliver several crucial benefits:
Prevents condensation on cold surfaces, as well as the mold, corrosion, and deterioration that happens as a result of these conditions
Prevents static electricity, wood shrinkage, and paint cracking that occur when relative humidity is too low
Keeps relative humidity in the optimal range of 25-60% RH
Dew Point and Relative Humidity Control in Critical Industries
Regulating the relative humidity and dew point is essential for many industries. At Air Innovations, we design and build precise dew point and humidity control systems for industries that include semiconductors, military, pharmaceutical, and more. We are constantly innovating to create improved solutions tailored to specific industrial environments.
Examples of our technology at work:
Aerospace OEMs: The aerospace industry manufactures delicate technological systems that must be properly maintained with industrial cooling systems and humidification controls. These systems must adhere to narrow temperature, humidity, and dew point requirements to prevent damage or corrosion to sensitive electronics.
Semiconductor manufacturers: Humidity and climate control systems in this type of manufacturing facility must achieve critical tolerances for temperature and humidity, in both dry or trace moisture facilities and near-saturation environments. It is particularly essential that systems using outside air provide limited humidity fluctuation rates.
Pharmaceutical packaging plants: These environments require systems that balance high evaporative loads and heat successfully. A humidity control system in this type of facility must consistently maintain high health and safety standards.
You can learn more about our industry-specific dew point and relative humidity control systems on our industry page.
Custom Environmental Control Units from Air Innovations
Dew point and relative humidity are critical factors to control for nearly any industry. Achieving and maintaining optimal amounts of water vapor in the air protects sensitive components from damage.
At Air Innovations, we develop environmental control units that accommodate your exact needs. Our team will work with you collaboratively to design a system that meets your cost, size, and efficiency requirements while adhering to all industry regulations. To learn more, contact our team today.
It is incumbent on hospitals and other medical facilities to maintain sterility wherever needed to keep patients and staff safe. This goes for operating and exam rooms. Healthcare institutions must also safely store surgical scrubs, head covers, sterile surgical implants, equipment, and medication. The goal is to protect these items from contaminants like dust, viruses, and bacteria so they don’t harm patients or cause equipment failures.
Experts, like the Centers for Disease Control, share protocols for cleaning, packaging, and transporting medical implements, equipment, and inventory.
When it comes to sterile storage, precision temperature, humidity, and airflow are vital to protect patients from infections and bacteria. Climate control also prevents decay and increases the shelf life of stored goods. The Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) offers comprehensive best practices for sterilization.
According to ARON guidelines on sterilization:
Temperatures should not exceed 72℉ (22℃) to 78℉ (26℃) in rooms or cabinets storing sterilized items.
Relative humidity should not exceed 60%.
Airflow should be positive pressure with at least four total air changes per hour.
Sterile medical supplies should not be stored under sinks where they might be exposed to water. According to the CDC, sterile items should be kept 8 -10 inches from the floor, at least 5 inches from a ceiling, 18 inches from a sprinkler head, and 2 inches from an outside wall to permit adequate air circulation. AORN recommends sterile items be stored in closed cabinets or covered carts to reduce the risk of contaminating items.
Benefits of Sterile Storage Cabinets
Covered carts may be sufficient in some applications, but they are not designed to regulate temperature or humidity. If medical supplies are exposed to high temperatures, certain materials degrade, and seals can break. Moisture compromises fibrous materials and creates a breeding ground for microorganisms, which is especially problematic when items are stored on covered carts for long periods or accessed irregularly. Facilities can protect against these risks through ventilated storage cabinets with climate control functionality.
Medication, point of care, and other types of covered carts can also not regulate pressure or filter out potentially life-threatening bacteria or infections.
A Portable Solution
Air Innovations designed a sterile storage cabinet with temperature and humidity control, positive pressure, HEPA filtration, and ventilation precise enough to meet rigorous industry standards. The cabinets have integrated cooling, steam humidification, and HEPA filtration to maintain a pristine environment. Bottom casters and a 120V hospital-grade, ten-foot-long plug-in cord make the cabinets portable.
The SSC4500 sterile storage cabinets are used in hospitals and private practice offices. They are also helpful when upgrading medical facilities with reliable climate control storage or wherever access to sterilized personal protective equipment is needed. Facilities and hospitals can experience the benefits of a cleanroom without the resources that go into retrofitting an existing space.
Adhere to Strict Protocols
Regardless of where equipment and supplies are stored, it is essential to develop strict policies to ensure that medical supplies are preserved until they are needed. The CDC also advises medical personnel to inspect wrapped sterilized instruments before they are used in case they have been compromised.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Custom ECU/HVAC installation options include the following:
Installations can also be designed for unique sizes or configurations and for mobile units.
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, mil–spec, 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:
Library & Museum Archive Storage
Mining & Drilling
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.
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.
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 change over time
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.
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.