More and more products are seeing the light of day in clean rooms. Controlled environmental conditions are playing a role for more and more industries. Classic cleanroom users such as microelectronics, pharmaceuticals or medical technology are driving requirements upwards with their own innovations. Industries that previously managed without cleanrooms are now becoming new cleanroom users with their own requirements and ideas. Cleanroom suppliers who want to take advantage of these opportunities must above all be innovative.
The digital transformation is unstoppable. Whether industry, service sector, entertainment or communication – everything is more and more networked. Data are displacing oil from its top position as the most important raw material in the world. For industry 4.0, data is a blessing and the basis for completely new, often autonomous production processes. Innovative technologies such as 3D printing, autonomous robots, augmented and virtual reality or the blockchain are increasingly determining our products, services and support. But what does it mean for the cleanroom industry when pharmaceuticals, med-tech, automotive or microelectronics shine with innovations?
The classic “We’ve always done it this way” mentality
Michael Müller, former managing director of the Swiss cleanroom service provider vali.sys, put it in a nutshell in an interview for one of our articles in last autumn’s Cleanroom Future Magazine:
“For me it is quite clear that the cleanroom industry should also slowly jump on these new technologies. It is always said that the cleanroom industry is something of a dinosaur among the industries. Although it is used for the production of high-tech, the cleanrooms themselves lag a little behind progress.”
There are several reasons for this. One certainly has to do with the current high demand for cleanrooms, the resulting full order books in the industry and the priorities that are emerging. Another, not to be neglected, lies deeply hidden in the essence of man: the fear of the future. Why should one change anything in my cleanroom offer, when it has proven itself for so long? We have to get this “we’ve always done this way mentality” out of our heads.
Exploiting the industry’s growth potential with innovations
Perhaps higher cleanliness requirements of classic cleanroom customers can still be achieved with proven concepts. But even in areas that have been using cleanrooms for decades, new players are appearing on the scene. In space travel, for example. And they often have a completely different view of the topic of clean rooms. Robert Böhme, founder and CEO of the Berlin-based space company PTScientists, talks about his experiences in an interview for the cover story of the current issue of our Cleanroom Future Magazine:
“In the NewSpace industry, the topic of cleanrooms is a very interesting one. Many NewSpace companies do without it completely, if it is not demanded by the client. If a grain of dust ruins your engine, then it was clearly badly designed. With optics, however, this is something different. Of course, it’s assembled in the clean room.”
Here flexible solutions are in demand. Innovations that fit the mentality of the “newcomers”, pick them up and satisfy their needs. Markus Thamm, Managing Director of the cleanroom agency mycleanroom.de, has recognized that the “cleanroom newcomers” have enormous potential for our industry. For the Cleanroom Future magazine he said:
“In the meantime, more and more industries are asking for clean rooms, clean rooms or controlled environments that nobody would have thought of before. This is precisely where the enormous growth potential for the cleanroom industry lies. And I think it’s extremely important to take all the new, innovative ideas with you.”
This could be the use of augmented reality for the education and training of cleanroom personnel. In other words, glasses that automatically display work processes or additional information in front of the user’s eyes at every step. This can be the blockchain. The type of transaction log that documents products from the clean room in a tamper-proof manner. This can be smart clothing. Clothes that monitor the vital functions of their wearers in the clean room and sound the alarm if the strain on the staff becomes too high.