What Makes an Industrial Robot Cleanroom?
Cleanroom environments are those that are controlled to filter out pollutants such as dust, aerosols, airborne organisms, and particles. They are necessary in some industries that manufacture products or goods that are sensitive to such pollutants or that require low levels of contaminants. There are various types of cleanroom environments which are classified by their level of controlled contamination that falls somewhere on a scale of 1-100,000. Cleanroom environments are often used in the electronic, food, pharmaceutical, medical, semiconductor, aerospace, and biotech industries. Meeting and keeping the stringent standards of cleanrooms can be difficult especially if humans are present in the environment. Recently those operating cleanroom environments have been turning to industrial robots in order to meet and maintain low levels of contaminants.
Characteristics of Cleanroom RobotsDue to the stringent cleanliness standards and low contamination levels of cleanroom environments, not just any industrial robot arm can be brought in. Top robotic manufacturers have designed several factory robots to meet the specific standards of cleanrooms. The FANUC LR Mate 200id/7LC is one of FANUC’s cleanroom robots. The special characteristics of the LR Mate 200id/7LC and other cleanroom robots include the following:
- • Certified - Before any robotic manipulator can be labeled as “cleanroom” or operate in such an environment, they must be certified as such. During the certification process the number of particles generated by the industrial robot arm when in motion are counted and classified on a scale of 1-100,000 as set fourth by the NIST ( National Institute of Standards and Technology). This classifies the articulated robot's level of controlled contamination and which type of cleanroom environment it can operate in.
- • Non-Gassing Lubricants - Industrial robot axes and bearings require grease and cleanroom robots are no different. However, the ABB IRB 120 and other cleanroom robots use a non-gassing lubricant that is different from standard robot grease. Cleanroom grease is free form lithium, aluminum, sodium, zinc, and other contaminants. Also less grease is used than with other robot manipulators to further prevent the likelihood of contamination.
- • Stainless Steel Hardware - Cleanroom industrial robotic arms are built with thin stainless steel hardware and bearings. Thinner bearings produce more predictable and reliable movements from the robot. Stainless steel is more sanitary and protects against electrostatic discharge which is important when dealing with electronic components.
- • Sealed Hardware - The hardware on cleanroom six axis robots is sealed. Sealing prevents dirt and other particles from getting into and building up on the manufacturing robot arm's hardware. This prevents the likelihood of handling robots shedding particles from their bearings into the cleanroom environment.
- • Protective Coatings - Cleanroom robots are also painted with a protective coating. This special coating ensures particles or contaminants cannot buildup on the robot or be emitted from it. These coatings are also chemical resistant. It also allows the assembly robot to be washed down and thoroughly cleaned when needed.
- • Internal Vacuum - Even though cleanroom robots are built with dust free parts, some particles can still be emitted by them. This is why cleanroom robots have an internal vacuum. This internal vacuum is usually integrated inside the robotic arm. The vacuum is applied to the internal robot cavities which prevents particles from being able to escape the robot when in motion.