Clean room injection molding

Clean room injection molding is a critical manufacturing process that ensures precision, quality, and cleanliness in the production of components for various industries. We will delve into the concept of clean room injection molding, highlight its benefits, and examine real-world case studies that demonstrate its effectiveness in achieving superior results. Discover how clean room injection molding has transformed manufacturing processes across different sectors.

Benefits of Clean Room Injection Molding

Clean room injection molding offers a range of advantages that contribute to enhanced precision and quality

Contamination Control: The controlled environment of a clean room minimizes the risk of contamination, ensuring the production of components that meet the highest cleanliness requirements. This is crucial in industries such as medical and healthcare, where sterility is essential.

Improved Quality Assurance: Clean room conditions significantly reduce the potential for defects caused by environmental contaminants. The controlled environment allows for consistent manufacturing processes, resulting in tighter tolerances, improved part-to-part consistency, and reduced rework or rejection rates.

Regulatory Compliance: Industries with stringent regulatory standards, such as medical, pharmaceutical, and aerospace, benefit from clean room injection molding. Compliance with regulations ensures that components meet the necessary certifications and approvals

ISO 14644-1 Standards

ISO stands for International Standard Organization which comprises various organizations from different countries. These countries work together to develop and publish standards that are internationally valid and thus, need to be adhered to across borders. 

Since 2001, the cleanroom classification of classes ISO 1 – ISO 9 of ISO 14644-1 has been in effect. ISO 14644-1 defines the degree of purity of the air by determining limit values. ISO classification is upon the basis of particle concentration per m³. The highest purity in ISO 14644-1 is in ISO class 1, whereas the lowest is classified as ISO class 9. ISO Class 9 is also categorized as Room air.  The table below depicts the ISO 14644-1 Cleanroom

Standard Classification
Class 7 Cleanroom: A Class 7 Cleanroom is a dedicated area for injection molding that is isolated from the rest of the manufacturing facility by solid walls. The air within the cleanroom undergoes continuous replacement, purification, and monitoring to meet the requirements outlined in the ISO 14644-1 standard. The allowable particulate concentrations per cubic meter of air in a Class 7 Cleanroom are as follows:
  • Particulates ≥ 0.5 micrometers: Up to 352,000 particles
  • Particulates ≥ 1 micrometer: Up to 83,200 particles
  • Particulates ≥ 5 micrometers: Up to 2,930 particles
  • Class 8 Cleanroom: A Class 8 Cleanroom has less stringent requirements compared to a Class 7 Cleanroom. In a Class 8 Cleanroom, the molding equipment on the manufacturing floor is enclosed with portable tenting. Similar to Class 7, positive air flow is maintained to meet the particulate concentration limits specified in the ISO 14644-1 standard. The allowable particulate concentrations per cubic meter of air in a Class 8 Cleanroom are as follows:
  • Particulates ≥ 0.5 micrometers: Up to 3,520,000 particles
  • Particulates ≥ 1 micrometer: Up to 832,000 particles
  • Particulates ≥ 5 micrometers: Up to 29,300 particles
  • Clean room Injection Molding Requirements:

    Several key differences exist between a typical plastic injection molding floor and a cleanroom environment:

    1. Positive Air Flow: Both Class 7 and Class 8 cleanrooms utilize positive air flow systems to ensure air purity and maintain strict control over particulate levels.
    2. Masking Requirements: In a Class 7 Cleanroom, engineers and operators are required to be fully covered, including wearing shoe covers, full-body gowns, and hair covers when entering the cleanroom. Masking requirements may be slightly less stringent in a Class 8 Cleanroom.
    3. Electric Machines: To minimize the generation of airborne particles, electric machines are preferred over hydraulic machines in cleanroom environments.
    4. Packaging Restrictions: Cleanrooms impose limitations on packaging materials that may introduce additional particulates. Certain types of corrugated materials, known for generating particles, are generally not allowed. Instead, coated cardboard or plastic packaging materials are commonly used in cleanrooms.

    By adhering to these requirements and maintaining a cleanroom environment, manufacturers can ensure the integrity and quality of plastic injection molding processes, particularly for applications that demand a high level of cleanliness and sterility.

    Cleanroom injection molding is particularly relevant in the manufacturing of medical devices, which are categorized based on the level of risk they pose to patients and users:

    Class I Devices: These devices have minimal contact with patients and a low impact on overall health. Examples include electric toothbrushes, tongue depressors, and bandages. Cleanroom injection molding may not be required for such devices due to their minimal risk level.

    Class II Devices: Class II devices present a higher risk as they come into sustained contact with patients. Examples include catheters, blood pressure cuffs, and syringes. Cleanroom injection molding in an ISO 8 environment is often suitable for these devices, ensuring sterility and regulatory compliance.

    Class III Devices: Class III devices, such as pacemakers and breast implants, carry the highest risk and complexity. These devices typically require the most stringent regulatory controls and are assembled and molded in cleanrooms, aiming to minimize contamination from airborne particles.

    Let’s explore a few real-world case studies that demonstrate the successful application of clean room injection molding:

    Case Study 1:  Medical Device Manufacturing: A medical device manufacturer required the production of intricate plastic components for a surgical instrument. Clean room injection molding was implemented to achieve the necessary level of sterility and precision. The controlled environment eliminated the risk of contamination, ensuring the production of sterile components with tight tolerances and excellent repeatability. This resulted in high-quality medical devices that met the stringent regulatory requirements and delivered exceptional performance.

    Case Study 2: Pharmaceutical Packaging: A pharmaceutical company needed sterile plastic containers for packaging sensitive medications. Clean room injection molding was employed to ensure the cleanliness and sterility of the containers. The controlled environment minimized the presence of contaminants, ensuring the integrity and safety of the pharmaceutical products. The precise molding process allowed for consistent dimensions and closure mechanisms, enhancing the overall functionality and usability of the packaging.

    Case Study 3: Biotechnology Research: A biotechnology company required microfluidic chips for laboratory research purposes. Clean room injection molding was utilized to produce the intricate channels and structures of the chips. The controlled environment prevented the introduction of contaminants, ensuring the reliability and accuracy of the research results. The precise molding process enabled the production of consistent and high-quality microfluidic chips, facilitating advanced experimentation and analysis.