A Quick Look at How Air Casters Excel in Cleanrooms
Cleanrooms present unique challenges for moving heavy equipment.
To start, all the normal issues associated with material handling apply: how do you move very heavy and often delicate equipment in a cost-effective manner with the least amount of disruption to normal operations?
But then, operators in these facilities also have to figure out how to ensure their material handling solution:
- Doesn’t contaminate their meticulously pristine environment,
- Doesn’t damage equipment or the facility, and
- Can navigate very tight spaces, since cleanrooms are often short on space.
Air casters are the answer. Not only do air casters meet the minimum requirements for use in a cleanroom environment, they also truly shine in all their advantages over alternative material handling systems.
What air casters can do:
1: They allow heavy loads to be moved without extra equipment.
If a cleanroom facility needs to move a machine weighing 10 tons, they’re not going to be driving a forklift into it. They’ve got to find a way to move equipment without a big, complicated, and dirty material handling system. Air casters provide a way to move something extremely heavy using human power.
2: They enable an incomparable degree of maneuverability.
Because cleanrooms are often space constrained, anything being moved must be able to maneuver through narrow hallways, around tight corners, and through low-profile loading doors. Air casters fit within the footprint of the machine being moved, can rotate omnidirectionally in place, and only lift the load a couple of inches off the floor. No material handling system beats the sheer flexibility and maneuverability of air casters.
3: They protect the surface of the floor.
First, air casters generate low local contact pressure, so they won’t damage the coating on a raised floor tile, for example, like a wheel or a roller would. Second, because air casters spread the weight so evenly over such a large area, it enables panels that can only support so much weight to be able to bear the load without overloading.
4: They protect the machines themselves.
Machines that operate in cleanroom environments tend to be delicate, sensitive not only to particles and/or organic compounds but to vibration as well. Solutions like wheels will transmit vibration and shock loads to the machine as it moves over gaps, steps, or uneven flooring. The inflated air caster bags, by contrast, effectively act like a big air spring that can isolate the load from vibration and shock loads.
5: They keep the facility clean.
Air casters produce no exhaust, fumes, or particulates; they run solely on compressed air. They’re easy to keep clean. For facilities with the most exacting cleanroom specifications, they can be custom manufactured to eliminate any paint or other surface treatments and can be sanitized and shipped bagged so they can be used immediately.
Where air casters shine:
It’s also worth noting that these advantages apply in all different cleanroom applications. After all, not all cleanrooms are the same, and different situations have different concerns. Even though different cleanroom environments differ from each other (biotech, aerospace, semiconductor), air casters meet the needs of each.
Aerospace applications tend to be very sensitive to organic compounds. For example, if there are solvents or other chemicals in the air that deposit themselves on the lens of an imaging satellite, that will hamper the performance of the imaging system. This type of application needs a material handling system that (1) produces no VOCs or exhaust and (2) can accommodate frequent moves.
Facilities that manufacture semiconductors are less concerned about organic compounds than they are about physical particulates that could get into and contaminate the integrated circuits, silicon wafers, and processors they produce. Further, semiconductor manufacturing equipment can be particularly cumbersome to move and may require assembly within the cleanroom, so being able to precisely position machines (since air casters can move omnidirectionally and rotate in place) eases not only moving the equipment but getting them set up.
Less concerned about particles per se (as long as those particles are inert), biotech applications are very concerned about ensuring nothing affects the pharmaceuticals being produced or otherwise poses a safety hazard to the user. As with aerospace, it’s critical that air casters emit no gases and shed no particulates. Further, biotech equipment can be extremely delicate, and by floating, air casters offer an automatic shock suspension system that can protect sensitive machinery.
In short, no matter the cleanroom setup, application, or scenario, air casters can make moving heavy equipment within these environments simple, easy, and clean.
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