Clean in the room
Dust, microbes and microparticles are about as welcome in cleanrooms as a spot on your forehead just before a first date. Materials for these rooms, therefore, need to meet the highest standards of cleanliness. This also applies to technical textiles, as the Cleanzone cleanroom trade fair demonstrated in Frankfurt am Main in October.
Microelectronics, aviation and space travel, the pharmaceutical and food industry, and hospitals – the cleanrooms in these areas are almost completely free of airborne particles, dust and microbes. This is important because even particles a micromillimetre in size can cause a small apocalypse in heart operations or semiconductor manufacturing. Clothing for the cleanroom must be able to keep out the smallest of particles – in both directions. “The barrier function must also work on the inside, because human bodies emit up to several million particles a minute”, says Annett Seidel, Manager at the Plauener Seidenweberei silk manufacturing company.
The company, who make bed linen, pyjamas and other home textiles accessories out of silk, have also been manufacturing polyester fabric for cleanroom clothing for more than ten years. The range now accounts for about 13 per cent of their total turnover – around 2.2 million euros. The Plauen fabric is processed further, mainly to make reusable garments including, for example, covers for hospital lead aprons, full-body overalls for laboratories, and hoods for microprocessor manufacturing. This is no simple undertaking, even for experienced textiles manufacturers, because the demands on cleanroom fabric are wide-ranging. “It needs to be robust, tear-resistant, and decontaminable, and it must demonstrate good thermostatic performance as well – and all this, of course, without compromising wearing comfort”, is how Seidel summarises the product’s required specifications.
In the meantime, narrow-fabrics manufacturers, Amohr Technische Textilien, who were also present at Cleanzone, want to bring increased numbers of elastic tapes into cleanrooms. “We used the trade fair to put out feelers in the direction of the cleanroom industry”, says Amohr’s CEO Christoph Mohr. The electrically conductive tapes made by this internationally active company, who manufacture isolation tapes for wind turbine generators, among other things, are expected in future to be able to sensorily detect moisture, pressure and strain in cleanrooms. “We believe that the possibilities for textile tapes in this sector are as yet largely unknown”, says Mohr with conviction.
As the international trade fair for cleanroom technology, Cleanzone sees itself as the innovation forum for the sector. This year, the event recorded a 16 per cent increase in visitor numbers, with around 1,200 participants from 40 countries.