Cleanrooms are environments that control the level of pollutants such as particles, dust, airborne organisms, or vaporized particles. Products that are sensitive to particles or need to have low levels of contaminants are manufactured in cleanroom facilities. Cleanliness classes based on a scale of 1-100,000 are used to measure the level of controlled contamination allowed per cubic foot in a cleanroom environment. Aerospace, biotech, medical device, pharmaceuticals, and military are examples of some industries that operate with cleanroom environments for their productions.
Manufacturers in the pharmaceutical and food industry have being using cleanroom robots such as the ABB IRB 120 for years to help eliminate the risk of pollutants contaminating their operations. Even the technology industry is starting to incorporate cleanroom robotics as electronics continue to advance and devices become smaller than before. Smaller electronics mean smaller parts are needed to build them. These parts can be too delicate for manual labor and can become compromised if dust or any other particles reach them.
You may be wondering can robots really be clean? The answer is yes, they can. In fact, cleanroom robots undergo a stringent certification process. The process involves counting the number of particles generated by the robot when in motion with particle counters that are calibrated by the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology). Cleanroom robots have stainless steel hardware that is sealed with covers to prevent any particles from escaping the robot. They also consist of non-gassing lubricants to prevent any vapor pollutants from entering the facility. Some cleanroom robots have a vacuum built into the robot arm to catch any internally generated particles such as dust from seeping onto cleanroom products.
Once a robot becomes cleanroom certified it is carefully wrapped in a several layers of protective covering to prevent any cross contamination during the shipping process to a laboratory or other facility. When the robot arrives to the cleanroom it is unpackaged and wiped down with special cloths to remove any foreign particles. It is then connected to the plant vacuum and left in isolation for several hours to remove any additional particles before beginning work. Cleanroom facilities use HEPA filters to recirculate the air and remove any internally produced organisms that could degrade operations. The use of these filters along with positioning the robots below the parts being manufactured ensure that if any particles do develop, they will not fall onto them.
Cleanroom robots can range from the six-axis FANUC LR Mate 200id/7LC to the SCARA Epson Ls6-602C to the Delta FANUC M-2ia. These robots help manufacturers to be confident in their operations by eliminating the risk of contaminants that can be generated by people, processes, facilities, or other equipment. Many products produced in cleanrooms involve intricate work which would be time consuming for a worker to complete. Cleanroom robots are designed to handle intricate jobs with care and increase productivity by turning out consistent results without errors in a shorter period of time than manual labor. Cleanroom robots lower production costs because they eliminate the risk of pollutants compromising products which would halt production, waste materials, and increase manufacturer expenses.
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