Cleanrooms are designed for a myriad of purposes, but many cleanrooms are used for research and product development.
This means that people use a lot of paper in the cleanroom.
But traditional paper is made up of millions of tiny fibers just waiting to contaminate products in your cleanroom, which is the exact opposite of what we want. So how do we avoid paper creating extra particles in a cleanroom?
We use cleanroom paper.
How Is Cleanroom Paper Different Than Regular Paper?
Regular paper is made through mashing fibrous plants into a pulp, spreading the pulp out over a mesh, and letting it dry. Essentially, this means that paper is made up entirely of fibers. If you rip paper, you can see the edge of the fibers - and that’s just what you can see. We know that particles are often undetectable to the human eye - including paper particles.
In a case study we ran comparing a number of paper products against each other, we found that that standard paper produced twice as many particles 0.3 nm or larger when compared to cleanroom paper, specifically PolyTherm.
Cleanroom paper is produced in a cleanroom, so it remains sterile through production and packaging. It’s also produced in a way that keeps fibers encapsulated and seals the edges, so fewer frayed particles can find their way into your cleanroom.
So what types of paper and related tools can you use in the cleanroom?
1. Cleanroom Notebooks
What would detailed notes be without a notebook to keep them in? Cleanroom notebooks should be manufactured and packaged in a cleanroom - and they should be lint free. When looking for a cleanroom notebook, make sure it’s noted that it is lint free.
These notebooks are made of cleanroom paper and should come with a metal spiral holding them together and a plastic cover. The cover should be non-porous and easily sanitized, just like every other tool in a cleanroom.
While they are bound with a metal wire typically, we still do not recommend ripping pieces of paper out of the notebook. Any time you shear paper, you will find that it produces particles. Even cleanroom paper is fibrous and can produce particles when sheared or ripped. The difference is that the edge of cleanroom paper is sealed so it does not release particles when it is handled, but ripping the paper can release particles.
2. Cleanroom Sticky Notes
We call them sticky notes, but really they are self-adhesive pads. Of course, if you imagine pulling a normal sticky note off its pad in a cleanroom, you can mentally envision all the particles flying off the pad. Plus, every time you stick a sticky note to something, it leaves behind adhesive - which is basically just a bunch of little particles waiting to be spread around the cleanroom. That’s a great example of spreading particles without even trying.
But you can’t beat the ease of using these sticky notes to label things and take notes. So how do we make them safe for a cleanroom?
The paper used for cleanroom sticky notes is cleanroom paper - made with sealed edges to avoid contamination through shedding fibers. Cleanroom sticky notes aso use a proprietary temporary adhesive strip that allows you to use them without the fear of the adhesive sticking around.
3. Cleanroom Ball Point Pens
What would cleanroom paper be good for you if you could not write on it? In a cleanroom, it is critical that you avoid graphite. Not only do pencils produce particles that can get on gloves and gowns to be spread around the cleanroom, they also use graphite - which can be flammable. Depending on the nature of your cleanroom, this could be a huge safety hazard.
So instead of pencils, it’s highly recommended you use ball point pens in your cleanroom, using a cleanroom-safe poly-barrel.
Cleanroom pens - like cleanroom paper - are manufactured and packaged in a cleanroom. Their barrel should be made from a non-shedding barrel and they should use low-sodium ink.
The low-sodium ink prevents smearing because, yes, even ink smears can produce particles.
If cleanroom ball point pens aren’t your cup of tea, you can also use certain types of Sharpie pens. We recommend using the fine point, as it quickly dries and can write on a number of surfaces.
4. Cleanroom Clipboards
Another essential paper-related product is a cleanroom-safe clipboard. These handy tools allow you to take critical notes on the move. So what makes a clipboard safe for a cleanroom?
Often, something you can look for is what it’s made out of. Typically, cleanroom clipboards are made of polypropylene. This is a plastic that is non-porous and easily cleaned and sanitized.
You can also find binders, tab dividers, and sheet protectors made out of this material that are safe to be used in the cleanroom.
How Do You Keep Your Cleanroom Clean?
Try as we might, those pesky particles get into your cleanroom one way or another. While the goal is to mitigate the number and size of particles in the cleanroom, it’s still important to know when your cleanroom becomes contaminated and monitor the number and size of particles.
You can do this through a top-of-the-line particle counter, designed for maximum efficiency, powerful integrations, and detailed samplings. For most cleanrooms, we recommend the Apex Z, as it has the longest battery life and shortest recharge time on the market. It’s ergonomically friendly and SOP driven, so you can integrate it into your cleanroom without a hassle for your systems or staff.
But if a handheld particle counter isn’t right for your system, we can help you find the right solution for your cleanroom that will take the burden off your plate and minimize yield loss. Let us help you find the right solution for your cleanroom.