Selecting the right actuator for use in any manufacturing operation involves a host of application-specific variables, including required stroke length, load capacity, acceleration, maximum speed, and positioning repeatability. Add a cleanroom specification to the list and the list of available options becomes smaller.
Components and systems designed for cleanroom environments must be constructed from materials that give off very few particles during use. Look for stainless steel and low outgassing materials whenever possible, as well as those that are low abrasion and resistant to corrosion.
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Consider the sealing system as well. Is the actuator securely sealed so that particles generated inside the unit during carriage motion will not enter the cleanroom? Lubricants and greases should be specifically formulated for use in cleanroom and vacuum environments. They should not emit vapors that could contaminate the workspace or finished products, such as catheters and syringes destined for medical use.
Actuators designed for cleanroom environments are typically connected to vacuum systems in order to remove any particles generated during motion. Look for units with easy-to-use connection ports. Some actuators offer specialized quick-connect ports for simple hookup to vacuum tubing, while other units offer only a threaded hole requiring additional hardware to connect the vacuum system.
Ball screw actuators are typically not sealed as tightly as beltdriven units, causing particulates to be thrown off into the cleanroom environment. In contrast, self-contained belt-driven actuators generate very few particles. The few particles generated inside a beltdriven unit are easily vacuumed away using an energy-conscious amount of vacuum suction. Pneumatic cylinder-driven actuators are another option, but this design requires positive pressure to drive the units, potentially emitting more particulate into the cleanroom.
For applications requiring longer strokes, higher speeds, and fewer particles, a belt-driven actuator is more suitable than other designs.
This cleanroom tip was written by Bob Ward of Rollon Corp., based in Hackettstown, N.J. www.rollon.com
This cleanroom tip appeared in the March 2015 issue of Controlled Environments.