Clean room packaging: The importance of avoiding contamination to ensure product success.

In today’s highly competitive manufacturing environment, there’s a ‘speed-to-market’ urgency that drives companies to output products faster, cheaper, and still maintain the highest level of quality. The inertia behind this rush is caused by a wide range of factors. It could be due to trying to keep pace with increased consumer buying demands or attempting to not get left behind as competitors make product advancements. Whilst there is some competition to get things produced quickly, manufacturing plants must also ensure that their working conditions are safe to prevent any injuries or accidents. To do this, a lot of manufacturing plants have installed an indoor safety gate to each unsecured opening, like stairs or platforms. This prevents falls and other injuries, ensuring that workers are able to get their jobs done easily.

Within the medical device category, combining speed to market and part quality is a constant challenge that has its rewards and risks. A 2016 article in Medical Technology Design points out that this thriving industry “exceeds $200 billion yearly and nearly 20% of all adults have received an implant of one type or another.”

While that’s good news, the bad news is, according to a recent McKinsey Report, “Non-routine quality events (such as recalls, warning letters, and lawsuits due to flawed parts) cost the medical device industry on average $2.5-$5 billion per year. Costs of a single non-routine quality event, like a major recall, have been as high as $600 million in medical device companies. In the past 10 years, there was an average of one major defective part quality event per year that resulted in a 13% stock price drop across the industry.”

So, while manufacturers released the medical devices to market in a timely manner to meet demand, it’s safe to ascertain that essential steps to ensure to prevent failure were rushed, not thorough enough, or simply not in place.

Electronic devices and the woes of particle contamination.

Similar to the medical device industry, companies manufacturing electronics, such as mobile devices, feel market pressure to constantly release new and innovative products. That’s probably why it feels like every other week there’s a new cell phone being introduced featuring a thinner profile, a camera with higher image quality, or even one that’s powered by the sun (this is actually an advancement introduced by a company out of India).

In the rush to meet ever-increasing consumer demands, the electronics industry becomes susceptible to failure. While the causes are many (such as inadequate test development) many defects are often due to contamination from unwanted particles present within the device. This could be true in the case of manufacturing laboratory equipment such as lyophilizers and others, too. These devices might have a lot of intricate parts that need to be perfectly in place to prevent malfunction, as they are used in sensitive environments like research laboratories, and even the slightest mistake could lead to significant losses. So, ensuring that such equipment is manufactured in sterile environments, or what are called ‘cleanrooms’, becomes very important for companies to ensure that no contamination occurs.

Contamination, as it applies to electronic devices, is defined by as, “Unwanted matter [such as] particles that may originate from the materials of construction or created during fabrication.” continues by surmising that particles created during manufacturing can lead to hardware failures on a mobile phone and can be “centers of chemical contamination, leading to corrosion or loss of insulation due to ionic contamination and electromigration.” The key point here to remember is that ‘particles created during fabrication’ cause ALL these problematic issues. Manufacturing and machining centers tend to make use of the latest and most sophisticated solutions to help them produce their products without a hiccup and in the most efficient manner possible. Check out an example of one such solution being introduced to the industry around the world here –

Electronic device failure due to particle contamination – that was a direct result of manufacturing – and the resulting recall nightmares are nothing new for companies. Case-in-point is in 2006 when Apple laptop batteries were catching fire because of what the New York Times describes as, “Contamination by metal particles inside the lithium-ion battery cells. The microscopic particles were able to bridge a porous separator between the positively and negatively charged zones of the cell and cause a short.” It not only resulted in phones imploding into flames but a massive recall of 700,000 battery packs at an estimated cost of $258 million.

Clean room packaging: keeping unwanted particles, and failures, out of products.

J.D. Powers consumer research showed that the most critical determinant of consumer satisfaction with microelectronics is one thing: product reliability. Product reliability is exactly what Laser Light Technologies delivers. As a proven anti-static micro-manufacturer of components with critical features less than 2 microns, our success and our clients’ success hinges on delivering a product free of particle contamination.

Our focus on delivering particle-free anti-static components is evident in our on-site, cleanroom technology comprised of a 1,100 square foot, ISO certified Class 5 facility (Fed Std. 209E, Class 100 equivalent). We also maintain compliance with FDA standards by utilizing Class 100 or better laminar flow benches and ionized airflow-assisted packaging.

It’s not uncommon for people to ask the basic question of, “What is a cleanroom?” In the case of Laser light, our clean room is a contained space designed to reduce particulate contamination and control other environmental parameters such as temperature, humidity, and pressure. A key component is the High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters that push air down and trap micron-sized particles (and larger) that have the potential to damage a part or cause part failure when in use.

Laser Light also has best practices in place for personnel to maintain a clean manufacturing environment, including extensive training in contamination control. These skilled professionals enter and exit the cleanroom – which should be obtained via a cleanroom rental if one is not readily available to you – through air showers and/or gowning rooms, and they must wear special clothing designed to trap contaminants that are naturally generated by skin and the body.

Because Laser Light manufactures highly complex and sensitive parts used in everything from electronics to medical devices implanted into the human body, we maintain the highest standards to maintain cleanliness. The positive outcomes include micromachined parts free of contamination and function as designed in real-world environments.