While some businesses or research facilities have a constant need for a cleanroom, there are others that only require one once in a while – or perhaps they sometimes need to set one up in the field. It was with such scenarios in mind that the CAPE portable cleanroom was created.
Developed by Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation, CAPE features a tubular CFRP (carbon fiber-reinforced polymer) frame that can be set up by hand using aluminum connectors. A "tent" consisting of a fabric roof, walls and floor is then hung within that frame – a 3 x 3 x 4-meter model (9.8 x 9.8 x 13.1 ft), can reportedly be set up in half an hour.
Once CAPE's fabric door flap is sealed, and an included custom ventilation/filtration system is hooked up and activated, the environment inside the tent is said to meet ISO class 1 air-cleanliness standards. This means that within each cubic meter of air, there are no more than 10 particles that are over 0.1 micrometers in size.
The fabric can be washed and sterilized between uses, plus it doesn't off-gas any chemical emissions. Additionally, although it won't let airborne particles pass through, it is air-permeable and electrostatically conductive, promoting even air flow between the tent's interior and its surroundings. That said, by raising or lowering the air pressure within the tent, it's possible to either keep the air inside from permeating out, or to keep outside air from flowing in.
CAPE is being made in a variety of sizes, ranging from a reach-in 30 x 30-cm model (11.8 x 11.8 inches) up to a biggie measuring 11 x 12 x 7 meters (36 x 39.4 x 23 ft). The system packs down into an aluminum case for storage and transport.
According to Fraunhofer, possible fields in which the product could be utilized include chip manufacturing, medical technology, the food industry, satellite assembly, and the automotive industry. It could even conceivably be used as a mobile operating room, set up at disaster sites.
The technology will be on display next month, at the Hannover Messe trade show.
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