Top cleanroom projects of 2022

By Sophie Bullimore | Published: 10-May-2023

2022 saw some really inventive projects and solutions to problems. Taking a look back at some of the biggest and most innovative builds from cleanroom providers shows the standards for 2022 and there are definitely some standouts

What makes a cleanroom build interesting can vary, as almost all cleanroom builds are unique in their own way. Whether the interesting factor is the creative use of space, clever problem solving, novel application, or simply the size and scope, there is so much to learn from these projects.

Space limitations

One of the biggest limiting factors for many cleanrooms is the facility footprint. Primarily the issue with this is fitting all the necessary production equipment in the space. There were many projects in 2022 that showed ways to deal with this hurdle.

A really innovative way to increase a facility’s floor space if there is ceiling height available is by adding a mezzanine. Marthon Cleanroom Solutions displayed this in a build they did for FMI Mechatronics early in 2022. The Netherlands-based mechanical components manufacturer had an assembly hall, in which Marthon was able to install a 300 sqm ISO Class 7 cleanroom.

A really innovative way to increase a facility’s floor space if there is ceiling height available is by adding a mezzanine

Another common situation is the one encountered by pharmaceutical manufacturer Recipharm around the same time of year. The company required more equipment to be added to its cleanroom, but there were no plans to increase the footprint. In this circumstance, BES was chosen for the $5.4m refurbishment, using 3D modelling to IES software to plan a new layout for the ventilation system. As the engineering firm built the facility back in 2014, its familiarity with its operations was key to its success.

Space issues can even extend beyond the cleanroom itself, into the technical areas. For North Macedonia-based pharmaceutical firm Bionika, this was the company’s issue. Serbia-based Termovent was then brought in to help fit all that was needed into the limited space in the technical floor and the suspended ceiling. 3D models were created of the duct and pipe distribution in order to resolve this issue, allowing the project to be completed in just six months.

It was an honour

Some projects are fascinating just by their size and scope. Talking about size, a look back at 2022 would not be complete without discussing the $2.6bn (yes billion) project started by API (active pharmaceutical ingredient) manufacturer Novo Nordisk. Enlisting NNE at the very start of the year, the project encompasses the build of three new manufacturing facilities as well as expansion of one existing facility at the production site in Kalundborg. NNE has delivered the conceptual and basic design for the expansion of the Kalundborg site and will continue to act as Novo Nordisk's engineering partner for the coming phases.

Top cleanroom projects of 2022

Cleanroom engineering firms are always looking to show that they can build cleanrooms for new and evolving technologies. For obvious, pandemic-related reasons, mRNA production projects are top of this list. In this vein, Exyte was chosen to build an mRNA competence centre at the Halle Biotech site of Wacker Chemie. Containing 1,600 sqm of cleanroom and four production lines, Exyte has agreed to a 24-month timeline for the build starting in July 2022. So keep your eye out for updates on the progress of this prestigious project.

The chip shortage has been a big component of business trends over the last few years. So every project is given very high value. $68m value more specifically. This is how much Yaxiang’s winning bid was in order to attain a project from a leading Chinese semiconductor firm. 

Put your heads together

Every cleanroom project is unique in its own way, requiring custom solutions to custom problems. 2022 held some really fascinating workarounds and resolutions.

In the middle of the year, Howorth Air Technology reached out to MIDDAS for help on a cleanroom project it was working on. Howorth required a freestanding cleanroom for their client (MSD), for sampling pharmaceutical compounds within proprietary isolators and sampling booths. The Heist facility could not have services supported from the building, so the MIDDAS freestanding structure was ideal for this application. 

Collaboration is such an interesting way to solve a problem, and is why industry reputation is so key.

Another problem that many companies are trying to navigate is energy consumption. There were a fair few projects this year that attempted to improve this as much as possible. C2C worked on an electric vehicle battery project in the latter half of 2022 that used recirculation as a major way to do this. The DER-IC ISO Class 8 cleanroom managed recirculation through integrated air return panels, providing energy efficiency and cost savings without compromising on floor space. LED panel lighting further controls energy expenditure in the facility. Another electronics provider, Neways, chose to look at the source of energy instead, only using green electricity for its 1,000 sqm cleanroom facility in the Netherlands.
Healthcare is another place that is looking to improve its cleanrooms. Technickon worked on a hugely problematic site for the NHS. 

A compelling example of an uncommon cleanroom was when Shell enlisted Interflow to build a metal-free cleanroom

Originally, the UK’s national health service used a specialist design and build cleanroom contractor for a new build. However, the next 12 months were spent battling issues. Humidity levels during the summer exceeded 90% RH and all critical AHUs kept shutting down randomly on occasion taking 30 minutes to recover each time. With the original company refusing assistance and remedies, Technickon was brought on board to locate the issue. Finding problems within the day and demonstrating them to the original contractor in order to force their hand to help.

Some healthcare providers are looking at appropriately-placed cleanrooms AS the solution to the problem. Belgian’s Sint-Trudo Hospital employed ABN Cleanroom Technology to build a new pharmacy cleanroom to service the chemotherapy needs of the hospital. Complex schedules for chemotherapy and radiotherapy mean someone who receives chemotherapy must have a blood test at the last minute, in order to be able to do the preparation à la carte and tailored to the patient. Having this cleanroom so close means adjustments can be made in the moment to guarantee the best outcome of the treatment.

Breaking the mould

Some uncommon cleanrooms require some creative thinking to build. 

A compelling example of this was when Shell enlisted Interflow to build a metal-free cleanroom. The Energy Transition Campus Amsterdam (ETCA) is one of Shell's three largest research centres worldwide and required a very special cleanroom. Using walls built from HPL and entire air treatment systems made of plastic, the project was eventually completed despite COVID-19 setbacks and research has now begun!

But it is not just the application that can make a cleanroom build unusual. It can also be the setting. Areas of the world susceptible to earthquakes and hurricanes need to be specifically designed for these. A wafer fab facility built by cleanroom engineer AM Technical Solutions’ had to stand this test. Being built to withstand a category 5 hurricane, employees were pleased to find that the facility was intact after Hurricanes Ian and Nicole pummelled the area.

The show must go on

Cleanrooms often host essential works, and though upgrades, extensions, and refurbishments may be necessary, many manufacturers can’t have production grind to a halt. Therefore, a deciding factor on who wins a project is often seen to be those who have the best plan to keep production up and running while the work takes place.

The ESA (European Space Agency) required this exact solution for an expansion to the largest satellite testing establishment in Europe. While building the 350 sqm cleanroom, contractors Heijmans had to ensure the least vibrational impacts due to the extremely sensitive nature of the components in production. Hammering in the piles was rejected immediately, and instead ‘cast in place’ piles were used, involving drilling deep holes, then lowering a steel reinforcement and filling them with concrete. This method generates much less noise and vibration, reducing negative effects.

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Blood plasma production is required to keep some humans alive, so there was no way Octapharma could shut down operations entirely to expand its plasma fractionation production facilities. ZETA Group were the firm to take on this project, and used scheduling to limit impacts on existing operations. Strict shutdown windows were taken advantage of to the maximum. 

Modular is the future

The number of modular projects in 2022 was too great to list, as one of the most popular cleanroom solutions. However, a few standouts were: NGS winning a 3,000 sqm self-contained ISO Class 7 medical device facility build in Hungary; Terra Universal providing an 8,000 soft ISO Class 8 cleanrooms for satellite manufacture; A four-week quick turnaround project for solid-state sodium battery manufacturer LiNa provided by DawsonGroup; and a modular partitioning system install at Cambridge University’s prestigious Ray Dolby Centre by Norwood Group.

As a whole

As a whole, the cleanroom sector has seen a surge in projects across most industries its serves. It will be intriguing to see the conclusion of some of these projects in 2023, and also some exciting new ones!

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