Earlier this year my colleague David Sear reported on a new 75m² clean room commissioned at Metso in Norway. The purpose of this room was for the assembly of valves destined for challenging applications such as oxygen service. Clean rooms are also used for valves in other applications such as ozone, chlorine, hydrogen peroxide and isocyanate. Absolute requirement are that valves are leak free, and secondly that they do not contain materials that might cause the media to ignite.
Upon returning to the office David remarked, with a little disappointment, how entry to the clean room was restricted to authorised personnel only. Now our editors love taking factory tours and getting their hands dirty with grease, but this certainly wasn’t going to happen here!
However restricting entry to authorised personnel should not be surprising, especially when we consider that some clean rooms (for example an ISO 1 cleanroom - the most stringent) have a controlled level of contamination that allow no particles over 0.3 ìm and just 12 particles per cubic meter smaller than that. To give some perspective, the ambient air outside usually contains 35,000,000 particles per cubic meter in the size range 0.5 ìm and larger in diameter. No wonder poor David wasn’t allowed inside. I started to wonder who invented the cleanroom - was he or she a very tidy person? Apparently not, the cleanroom was invented in 1962 by a Mr. Willis Whitfield. His wife remarked in a NY Times article in 2012 that he “tended not to put his shoes away” although “he never tired of getting out a flashlight and shining it sideways across his coffee table to illuminate the prevalence of tiny dust particles that most people never notice”.
I think a cleanroom is quite an impressive investment by manufacturers given the relatively small market for oxygen service. It’s a real commitment to quality and safety. Which was why I was interested to read this week that Watson Valve and DeZurick had recently reported either upgrading or building cleanrooms since our January article. Visitors might be pleased to note that DeZurik will be able to cater for visits: “DeZURIK invites customers who have special cleaning requirements to visit the Sartell Clean Room for review and approval of the procedures, cleaning and testing used on your valve order”.
Has your company considered commissioning a cleanroom? What are the considerations?
I would be interested to hear your thoughts.
PS are you an iPhone user? Apparently your phone would have been assembled in a Chinese clean room, but only a little larger than 75m²– these are around a million square feet!
Photo courtesy: BioClean Cleanroom