The idea of having a controlled clean environment where there is low risk of contaminating the product being made, came into wide use in the 1960’s with the manufacture of space and military precision components.
Cleanrooms have become massively important in the electronics sector and the need for higher spec cleanrooms has increased as the size of electronic microchips has decreased.
These new cleanrooms have much tighter controls on the size and quantity of allowed particles in the air.
In the medical sector, cleanroom technologies have long been used in surgical theatres and in hospital isolation wards to ensure the safety of the patient.
In the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and medical devices, it is normal practise for all operations to take place in the cleanroom.
Ireland and the UK play host to practically all the major pharmaceutical, medical device and biotechnology companies. These companies produce life enhancing products in cleanroom environments. Their production processes are operated by skilled personnel trained in minimising the risk of contamination through good manufacturing practises.
Ensuring safety of the product for the customer is also vital in the food sector.
More and more food processing companies are opting to use cleanrooms as a means of delivering high hygiene standards. Processing in cleanrooms can be used to extend the shelf life of the product without the need to add preservatives.
Dairy Products and juices that require protection from any environmental microorganisms are increasingly being processed and filled in high spec cleanrooms.
Breweries, meat processing, bakeries and the confectionary industry are increasingly looking to use cleanroom technologies to prevent external and cross contamination.
Cleanrooms for agricultural research are key in the production and development of seeds, pesticides, feeds and other products.
However, cleanrooms in agriculture are also now being looked at to grow plants in a pest and contamination free environment.
Temperature, humidity and light are controlled in the cleanroom without worry of external weather factors thus producing consistently high yielding crops.
This concept of “Vertical Farming” in cleanrooms is taking traction in urban environments and in parts of the world where access to fresh fruit and vegetable crops is difficult.
As pressure grows to produce pest free, chemical free, sustainable, fresh produce with low carbon foot print , perhaps the use of cleanrooms and the development of expertise in using cleanrooms to farm will become part of the solution.
In today’s world, we train people in our universities and colleges of further education to operate tightly controlled processes in cleanroom environments that ensure the safety of the products .
They are trained in cleanroom operations, quality and good manufacturing practice, packaging and labelling, process and science skills not to mention health and safety and continuous improvement.
The majority of these people take up positions in the Life Sciences sector working in pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device companies.
However, as the desire grows to produce food products in controlled and clean environments, the need to train and develop skilled cleanroom operatives will also grow rapidly.
Perhaps we will soon even see agricultural cleanroom operatives !