Cleanroom design and construction can be confusing. How do you decide if you need a hardwall or softwall cleanroom? Does your business need a modular solution?
In order to answer these questions, it’s important to think about your desired use of the room, your budget, and other key factors such as flexibility. This is especially important for facilities’ managers because these considerations can greatly influence both your end solution and your bottom line.
In this post, we’ll go over the three key differences between a hardwall and softwall cleanroom, and help you decide which solution is best for your business. We’ll also provide examples of work we’ve done in the past to provide you with inspiration for your upcoming project.
Why should you care about finding the right solution for your business? All cleanrooms are the same, right?
This couldn’t be further from the truth. In today’s competitive landscape, making sure your company is in compliance with industry regulatory standards is of the utmost importance. Also, maintaining excellent quality control saves your business time and money. With an estimated 20% of sales being the average cost of poor quality for a company, finding the right solution could be huge for your organization’s financial outlook.
Without further ado, here’s the three biggest differences between hardwall and softwall cleanrooms.
1. Ease of Construction
Ease of construction is one of the most important factors when manufacturing a cleanroom. Your operation can’t slow down just because you’re building a cleanroom. Lost time is lost money.
When comparing the two, softwall cleanrooms are typically easier and quicker to get up and running. Due to a softwall cleanroom only having a once-through air design, no mechanical equipment is needed. Also, after the structure for hanging the softwall curtains is in place, the rest of the installation moves very quickly. This means that our team of cleanroom installers can build a functional softwall cleanroom in a short amount of time.
Just because it’s easier to construct doesn’t mean it’s the right solution for you. After deciding internally what project timeline you have, it’s also important to consider the next two factors.
2. Future Flexibility
Flexibility and adaptability are the backbone of every business. If you’re not able to adapt, you won’t stay in business long. This is especially important with cleanrooms as regulations, customers’ specifications, and products and processes seem to be constantly changing.
However, what most facilities’ managers don’t take into consideration is future flexibility. When designing a cleanroom, it’s extremely important to think about what your business will need in the next five to ten years, not just right now.
When you decide to build a hardwall cleanroom, you’re giving yourself options. Hardwall cleanrooms can be built as a once-through design, and upgraded to create a recirculating system at a later date.
This recirculation offers the ability to control temperature and/or humidity within the cleanroom. You’re also able to add gowning rooms, material transfer rooms, or any type of buffer space between your clean process and the “dirty” outside space, further expanding your cleanroom’s capabilities. This means that you’re prepared for possible future needs that you may have.
Softwall cleanrooms, when floor supported, are very mobile. Because of the ease of assembly, these units can be moved around within a facility fairly quickly (some are even installed with caster wheels for easy portability) offering an operator the ability to change locations or even utilize the softwall cleanroom for multiple processes.
When deciding on what type of cleanroom to construct, make sure you consider your organization’s long-term needs.
3. Overall Performance
Performance is arguably the most important factor when determining what type of cleanroom construction you need.. Why build a cleanroom if it doesn’t provide the control that you need?
When comparing performance of softwall and hardwall cleanrooms, there’s a few different things to consider:
- Budget for the Project
- Ease of Maintenance
- Quality of the Solution
Let’s take a detailed look at each of these factors.
Budget considerations play a big part in the quality of the cleanroom you can construct. There is a large spectrum of available cleanroom components, wall finish types, and monitoring options that vary greatly in cost for both hard wall and softwall solutions.
Your budget is important, but you want to make sure you fully understand the total cost of a cleanroom throughout its lifecycle. It may be helpful to compare it to the total cost savings you’ll receive as a result of a high level of quality control.
Ease of Maintenance
Hardwall cleanrooms are by far the easiest to maintain. I know that may sound backwards, but the rigid walls of a hardwall cleanroom make cleaning and upkeep much easier. A softwall cleanroom’s walls are made of curtains that are difficult to clean.
A cleanroom’s long-term overall performance is greatly influenced by the quality of care and maintenance it receives.
Quality of the Solution
Sadly, you can’t expect the same level of quality when comparing a cheaper solution to a more robust option. If you want a higher quality solution, you may have to balance your budget with the level of usability you desire.
If you need to control the temperature and humidity, you’ll need a hardwall cleanroom. Softwall cleanrooms are at the mercy of the environment they’re built in. Hardwall solutions also offer a maximum level of control that’s necessary for some applications.
The very nature of a cleanroom requires high-quality solutions. What quality solution is best will be determined by the driver for constructing the cleanroom. For example, one company may only need a softwall cleanroom due to only having the need to control particulate when performing their process whereas another company may need to control particulate, temperature, and relative humidity when performing their process.
There are a variety of cleanroom solutions for every need, especially with the rise of modular cleanroom systems.
In order to get the most out of your time, budget and eventual cleanroom, make sure to consider how easy your solution is to construct, future usability and the desired quality of your cleanroom.
By using this blog as a checklist for deciding the type of solution you need, you’ll be on your way to picking the right cleanroom for your project.
Need help building a cleanroom? Contact us.