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Unique Specifications of a Cleanroom Gearbox

When is a gearbox suitable for a cleanroom environment?
The Dutch and Belgian high-tech companies produce or develop – especially for the semiconductor, medical and optical industries – in cleanroom environments. Whether it concerns robotic arms, specialized production machines or, on the contrary, products that contain a gearbox, it must also meet the cleanroom requirements. What is important and which gearboxes from Apex Dynamics are suitable for use in a cleanroom?

It seems a very specific question, but there are many Dutch and Belgian high-tech companies that work in cleanroom conditions. We regularly receive the question: “Which gearboxes can I apply or use in my cleanroom?” Apex Dynamics is (of course) able to supply a suitable gearbox, you are used to that. But what typifies such a gearbox?

To do this, we first look at the circumstances or requirements of a cleanroom.

Cleanroom circumstances

A cleanroom is a very pure working environment that is designed to limit or exclude contamination of the product process or of the research that takes place in that environment. Everything, down to the smallest particle, that enters a cleanroom is examined.

Employees therefore enter a clean room through an air lock (where sometimes an air shower is also present). They also wear clothing such as special hats or a hood, overalls with over-shoes and usually mouth masks and gloves. Depending on the cleanroom class, this clothing is changed every time or daily. Everything to limit contamination by hair, skin-flakes or other fibers and dust particles. Even then they still walk on an adhesive mat or through a special air shower to enter.

The same control is exercised over everything that enters the cleanroom. That may seem excessive, but the air in an ISO 5 cleanroom may contain 10.000 times fewer particles larger than 0.5 µm of normal air. That is from 35 million particles per cubic meter to around 3.500, what a difference! In such a situation, every particle is too much and people want to be sure that the gearbox does not add any particles to it.

Cleanroom gearbox

Before a gearbox can be used in a cleanroom, it must meet special requirements that guarantee that no particles or vapours are released. A regular gearbox cannot guarantee that, but with certain adjustments almost all gearboxes from Apex Dynamics can be made suitable. Some examples:

  • Special lubrication
    • A lubricant that does not “evaporate”. This lubricant is more expensive than a bottle of the very best Whiskey
  • Stainless steel housing and output shaft
    • A standard with many Apex Dynamics series, the housing and output shaft should preferably be stainless steel.
  • Electrolytically treated aluminum
  • Seals
    • Special seals, for example from Viton (Fluoropolymer) or HNBR. (Hydrogenated Nitrile Butadiene Rubber)
  • Glue connection
    • A special adhesive is used for glued connections (for example, thread locking).

Specifications Cleanroom of a Gearbox

At Apex Dynamics there is no question of a so-called “derating”, important specifications such as outgoing torques, speeds, backlash, etc. remain the same. Certain parameters, such as stick-slip and no-load torque, do change.

The base-line is that Apex Dynamics can deliver completely suitable cleanroom gearboxes. We are happy to inform you about the possibilities in combination with the specific requirements or class of your cleanroom environment.

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