Key Features of Industrial Clean Room Computers for Manufacturing
Industry professionals go above and beyond with contamination control in clean room environments. These measures include selecting rugged clean room computers that can withstand the hardship of harsh environments and daily maintenance activities, such as washdowns and sanitization with high pressure jets, boiling water, harsh industry grade cleaners, and disinfectants. This article defines a few points of failure commonly found for standard panel computing being used in clean room environments. Recommendations are also made for specialist clean room computers which can operate in different classes of clean room environments set by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
A clean room environment is where airborne contaminants such as dust, microbes, solvents, and other particulate matter are highly controlled by specialized ventilation systems using either High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) or Ultra-Low Particulate Air (ULPA) filters. Therefore, both the number of particles and size of these particles in the air are kept below specific thresholds, dependent on the classification of clean room. Industrial applications requiring ruggedized computing for installation in clean rooms to eradicate even microscopic contaminants which can affect processes adversely include:
- Food Processing
- Beverage and Bottling Automation
- Pharmaceutical Production
- Electronic Component Manufacturing
- Biotechnology & Life Sciences
- Aerospace & Automotive Engineering
Key Features of Our Clean Room PCs & Displays Which Help Prevent Contamination
Fanless Design to Avoid Circling Contaminants
The requirement for a unidirectional flow of air in a clean room means that there cannot be any fans, which includes onboard computers. Our range of fanless clean room PCs avoid any contaminates such as electrical dust, airborne microbes, chemical vapours, and aerosol particles from being circulated around the room. Utilising either a heat spreader or heatsink, the clean room PC allows the system to operate completely fanless and removes the need for any ventilation.
Despite fanless operation, Clean Room Computers can also be manufactured to withstand both hot and cold environments with extended temperature operation, typically -20 to 60C.
Carry a Waterproof Rating for Washdown Applications
IP65, IP66 and the robust IP69K ingress protection ratings are typically carried by our available Washdown Computers for clean room environments. Having a dustproof and waterproof housing is critical to remove any points of failure and protect the panel computer from any splashing, wipe downs, and/or washdowns for easy cleaning.
Whilst both IP65 and IP66 ingress protection ratings offer enough protection from water jets spraying from any direction, IP69K is the required standard to protect from high pressure and high temperature wash down applications. Not maintaining this high degree of protection in wash downs can often cause openings in the system’s chassis and therefore ingress, which can prove fatal for electronic instrumentation.
Rust-Proof & Anti-Corrosion Stainless Steel Chassis
In manufacturing industries such as food and beverage or some pharmaceutical production environments, a clean room computer must be able to withstand daily wash-downs. In order to sanitize the systems and maintain a clean room environment, all equipment must be sanitized with high-pressure and high-temperature water jets. Leaving water to stand on common metals can cause corrosion or rust development which gets worse in time.
To avoid any build-up of rust or corrosion which could develop as possible contamination Stainless Steel Computers or Stainless Steel Monitors are commonly used in these environments and are made with grade SUS304 stainless steel, or a higher grade SUS316L stainless steel. These higher 316-Grade Stainless Steel Panel PCs provide rust-proof and anti-corrosion properties even in the presence of salt water or saline environments.
Our Stainless Steel IP69K HMIs are perfect for facilities that need to maintain their utmost cleanliness and require upholding high standards of hygiene and germ-resistance.
Antimicrobial Design and Protected from Harsh Industrial Cleaners
Whether the Clean Room HMI is made with antimicrobial plastic or stainless steel, the system should also be designed for wipe down applications with industry-grade cleaners and disinfectants to maintain the hygienic environment. Each Clean Room Panel PC should be sealed to protect itself from not just dust and water but both alkaline and acid cleaning solutions.
To avoid contaminants and bacteria from being built up and contained in the environment, the Clean Room HMI should be designed with a true flat front bezel to minimize any crevices or hinges, this helps guarantee maximum cleanliness with simple wipe downs or wash downs from the user. Adopting hygienic bolts and blue silicone rubber O-rings help prevent the accumulation of bacteria whilst keeping internal system components free from water and dust ingress.
Flexible Mounting for Clean Room Enclosures and Carts
Carrying an industry standard VESA mount pattern the Clean Room Panel Computers should be easily mountable alongside machinery, onboard clean room carts, or on a wall. With an optional panel-mount design the Clean Room HMIs can also be panel mounted inside clean room enclosures whilst maintaining a contaminant free dust and waterproof bezel. Other versatile mounting options for our Stainless Steel PCs include installation on floor stands, swing arms or yoke mounting.
Slimmed down and ultra-thin chassis frames are becoming an industry standard not only for modern aesthetics in mechanical design but in aid of reducing system weight and making installation in manufacturing environments easier.
Flexible Touch Operation Whilst Wearing Clean Room Garments
The clothing that personnel wear when operating in a clean room environment is also highly regulated, garments including gloves can cause issues when operating HMIs if the correct technology isn’t chosen. Clean Room Computers are available with either a protective glass display or built-in touch controller with an anti-scratch surface for tough protection. Touch-friendly gloves should be worn if wanting to operate the Clean Room HMI with PCAP touch integrated. Typically, this means gloves made from latex, vinyl and nitrite, polyethylene etc is OK providing the glove is no thicker than 6mm. Alternate glove operation would require a Resistive Touch Clean Room All-In-One PC. Integrating a touchscreen eliminates the need for an external keyboard or mouse, this is beneficial for clean room applications because it reduces the amount of required space for data entry and can massively reduce the time to clean down the workstation.
Visibility can also be improved with industrial high-bright displays, auto-dimming functionality, optical bonding and anti-reflective coatings.
Expandable Industrial I/O via Rugged M12 Connectors and Wireless Connectivity
Clean Room Computer I/O includes industry standards such as LAN, Isolated Serial, CAN and USB which are integrated for connecting peripherals such as barcode scanners, utilizing waterproof M12 locking connectors for a true rugged and industrial design. Not only are these connectors preventing from contaminants getting inside but also offer a snag free solution to cables becoming disconnected. Reserved I/O ports can be integrated with more of these types of connectors or PoE connectivity for both system power and data transmission which allows for a simplified installation where obtaining power was traditionally difficult, ideal for flexible remote-control management. IP65 speakers can also be integrated to the panel computers.
Wireless Clean Room Computers are also available. These systems can adopt the likes of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or Cellular connectivity via waterproof antenna covers designed to be easily wiped down. Adopting the latest standards in connectivity such as Wi-Fi 6 and 5G cellular offers better transmission speeds and reduced latency, in keeping with the demands of Industry 4.0 and Smart Manufacturing applications. RFID read-write modules can also be installed with an IP66 design for monitoring and reporting key data in critical production stages.