In looking to increase their manufacturing capability offering with cleanroom production, Tex Plastics’ Technical & Quality Director, Andy Clarke and Manufacturing Director Dave Kearney, found both with Lancaster-based cleanroom solutions provider, Connect 2 Cleanrooms. Tex Plastics’ mission to develop higher performing, lower cost solutions for its clients, is now complemented with a class 7/8 clean room system that includes automated clean-air HEPA-lite canopies, controllable by a touch screen interface.
The tooling challenge
When considering injection moulding processes, the tool face of the machine is often the most exposed area of the production line and this is the area which often requires the supply of controlled air. A simple way to achieve this is to enclose the full machine in a cleanroom. However this brings inevitable challenges of managing tool changes.
Encloses the machine, mould and crane creates a large environment, in floor space and height. This approach leads to a vast amount of air being unnecessarily processed, negatively impacting on attempts to reduce carbon emissions.
This approach also increases the risk of contamination and safety issues as the overhead crane inevitably retains particles and cleaning it is a cumbersome and difficult task – not to mention the hopper creating a mass of contamination within the cleanroom.
A more cost effective and energy efficient option is to create a modular cleanroom on castors, that can be wheeled away to provide aerial crane access. Whilst this low-cost solution is a practical solution for many, Tex Plastics considers this solution to create unacceptable downtime as machinery requires an extensive full clean down following exposure to the external manufacturing environment. This increases the risk of contamination and reducing the ability to offer a timely response to customer schedule changes.
The tooling solution: HEPA-lite automated canopies
To solve these issues, Connect 2 Cleanrooms has now developed within its HEPA-lite range, an automated canopy system within its cleanrooms. Through an intuitive user-friendly touch screen interface, Tex Plastics is able to remotely activate actuators that slide sealed HEPA-lite canopies back to allow overhead crane access to tooling.
This customer driven requirement ensures that clean air is supplied at the critical point of production and reduces contamination by significantly limiting the areas of machinery that are exposed to the external environment during tooling changes. This limits downtime for cleaning, reduces risk of contamination and increases productivity.
The canopy is a bespoke unit, containing a MAC10XL HEPA filter and is fully sealed to facilitate the re-circulation of the cleanroom’s air conditioning. Connect 2 Cleanrooms is also able to build in ULPA filtration form those users looking for higher cleanroom classifications. An LED warning beacon above the control panel visually indicates when the canopy is open, reminding operators to close the canopy, prior to new batch production. This cleanroom solution, features LED strip lighting around the underside of the canopy for extra lux levels, illuminating the tool face for operators.
The touch screen interface also acts as a control system, allowing full control of HEPA filtration and lighting levels, as well as monitoring pressure levels and alerting staff if the cleanroom is operating out of specification. All of the pressure data is logged, exportable and auditable, to demonstrate performance and continued compliance of the production processes.
Effective cleanroom design
There are 4 zones inside Tex Plastics’ cleanroom separated by partitions; two for Arburg injection moulding machines, a packing area and a goods transfer area. If one machine needs decommissioning or servicing, this can safely be done without affecting any of the other processes.
The modular design means that additional space can be added to accommodate more machinery or create a larger packing area.
Tex Plastics supplied 3D models of their machines allowing Connect 2 Cleanrooms to maximise on floor space when designing its cleanroom and ensure a seamless installation programme with minimal disruption to Tex Plastic’s production.
The cleanroom is now fully operational, complimenting an already comprehensive “concept to completion” project solution for all conventional, white room and cleanroom thermoplastic requirements.