Origin of cleanroom technology
A clean area is a “specified area in which the concentration of airborne particles is regulated and classified, and which has been designed and is being operated appropriately for regulating the introduction, formation and deposition of particles in the area.” (ISO 1464 41-1)
This area can be of different sizes. You do not always have to set up a complete cleanroom to protect the product from harmful particles.
Cleanroom technology thus includes all technical and operational measures avoiding the potential risk of contamination for products.
The measures to be taken depend to a large extent on the process and the respective requirement. Frequently used solutions in cleanroom technology are minienvironments, cabin solutions, conventional cleanrooms, etc., which are selected and implemented depending on the required purity class and process specifics.
The term cleanroom technology is often considered too narrowly due to the “room” fragment. For cleanroom technology covers a far wider range than just the cleanroom itself. This is why the term “contamination control” is basically more accurate.
The product to be protected is always in the centre of cleanroom technology. Together with the process consideration and the requirements, the best possible cleanliness solution can be found and implemented.
The route to modern cleanroom technology
The requirements placed on products and processes in cleanroom technology are continuously changing. Technological progress leads to innovations in ever shorter intervals which makes individual cleanroom solutions necessary. Today, more and more companies and sectors benefit from production under cleanroom conditions. It is important that the technical solutions in cleanroom technology are always adapted to new processes.
The exact origin is controversial in the professional world. Cleanroom experts agree that cleanroom technology became really relevant at the beginning of the 1960s. However, the new technology was initially considered as a niche product. In the course of the increasing efforts in the aerospace industry, in which cleanroom technology accounts for a significant share, the first standardization, the United States Federal Standard 209 (FS 209), was created in 1963. It did not take long until other sectors such as the semiconductor industry discovered the benefits of production under cleanroom conditions. Research institutions and companies from around the globe now relied on cleanroom technology. Therefore, a global standard needed to be found urgently.
In May 1999, the Institute of Environmental Sciences and Technology (IEST) presented the internationally recognized standard ISO 14644, which, on 29 November 2001, replaced US Fed. St. 209 withdrawn on that day. In addition to requirements on the cleanroom, it also contains standard values for air purity quality and qualification. Through the continuous optimization of the ISO 14644 standard, today, even conclusions on planning, control and operation of a cleanroom can be drawn from it.
Cleanroom technology was also gaining more importance in Germany. The engineers of the VDI (Verein Deutscher Ingenieure, Association of German Engineers) dealt more frequently with the issue of cleanroom technology and developed their own national standard – i.e., VDI 2083.