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Editorials

Cleanroom Robot Primer

Stäubli Robotics

Some sterile or delicate products cannot be subject to any contamination and can not be manufactured in a traditional working area. The environment must be clean in terms of particles and microorganisms. The production has to be done in a Cleanroom environment which is a closed area where are controlled, according to the requirements, the number and size of particles and undesirables molecules in the air and the temperature, humidity, pressure, supply of filtered air. They are different levels of air cleanness according to manufacturing areas. These areas with air quality control (which do not go over a certain contamination level) are called 'contamination controlled area'.

In this environment, traditional robots, generating a high number of particles, are not authorized. Therefore, special robots have been designed to meet the requirements of this environment. Robots have to meet the criteria of Cleanroom specifications that come within the scope of two main standards: the American Federal Standard 209 E and the Japanese JIS B9920. These specify methods that must be used for measuring the number and size of particles in a Cleanroom in activity or not together with the size of these particules. Regarding the robots themselves, they must have characteristics such as specific painting (polyurethane), protection against oxidizing of non-painted parts, tight joints and caps, nickel-plate wrist, and controlled particle emission.

Each manufacturing operation requires an adequate air cleanness level in order to reduce risks of particulaire and microbial contamination of the handled products. The use of robots in this environment offers advantages in terms of:

  • throughput
  • quality (more flexibility, less rejects, ...)
  • limitation of contamination risks due to the decrease of human operations in the working area
  • working conditions due to the decrease in time spent by operators in the Cleanroom, hostile environment for human beings.

The main industries requiring Cleanroom robot are in the electronics and semiconductors industry, products such as wafers, wafer cassettes, disk drives, flat panel displays, cellular phones and high tech components particularly fragile and complex and requiring specific treatments. Robots allowing precision, dexterity, speed and cleanness are a must for these products.

Although the Electronics and Semiconductors are the main industries utilizing Cleanroom robots, other fields use such robots:

  • chemicals: product handling, control, loading/unloading 
  • medical and pharmaceutical industries: packaging, handling, Implant grinding, loading/unloading, laboratory sample handling, assist during surgical operations.
  • food industry: finishing, control, handling, loading/unloading
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