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How to Select The Best Cleanroom Particle Counter

October 28, 2022
tabletop cleanroom particle counter, LCD screen
Figure 1. Climet 150T 1.0 CFM tabletop cleanroom particle counter

Whether you have a modular cleanroom, stick-built cleanroom or softwall cleanroom, you may be considering purchasing a cleanroom particle counter to allow you to measure your cleanroom class. There are many choices – handheld particle counters, tabletop particle counters and remote real-time particle counter systems. This piece of cleanroom equipment can have a price tag running from $1k to $100k depending upon your industry, cleanroom classification and size of the cleanroom.

Why do I need a particle counter? Most cleanrooms require 3rd party certification at least once per year and use their own cleanroom for monthly or weekly checks.

How do cleanroom particle counters work? A typical cleanroom air particle counters pass a fixed amount of air thru a laser chamber which counts the number and size of particles in the sample. The larger the sample size, the more accurate the measurement. Cleanroom particle counters typically count particles in 5 size ranges that determine the cleanroom classification.

US FED STD 209E cleanroom classifications
Table 1. US FED STD 209E cleanroom classifications
US FED STD 209E cleanroom classifications
Table 2. ISO cleanroom classifications

Get the correct particle counter for your cleanroom classification:  For ISO7 cleanrooms and ISO8 cleanrooms, 0.1 cfm particle counters are adequate. For ISO5 cleanrooms and ISO6 cleanrooms, 1.0 cfm particle counters are required to get quality measurements. The larger the air sample, the more accurate the cleanroom particle measurement.

There are 3 types of cleanroom particle counters

handheld cleanroom particle counter, Blue
Figure 2. Handheld TSI cleanroom particle counter

Handheld Cleanroom Particle Counters

Handheld cleanroom particle counters cost $1k-$3k and are good for qualitative tests such as locating major particle sources. However, they can give inconsistent results due to difficulty in holding the tester motionless for 1 minute at the same height for every test. They should not be used for cleanroom certification.

Tabletop Cleanroom Particle Counters

Tabletop cleanroom particle counters can cost $6k-$11k and are the most common choice for modular cleanroom users. They are commonly placed on carts and moved at a fixed height to the test points around the cleanroom to get consistent results. See figure 1.

Fixed Particle Counting Systems

Fixed particle counting systems can cost $20k-$100k depending on the size of the cleanroom and utilize pumps and piping to bring samples from separate locations of the cleanroom to the particle counter. These systems are growing more common in pharmaceutical cleanrooms.

Popular USA cleanroom particle counter models include Climet, Hach, and Metone.

If you buy a particle counter for your cleanroom:

  • It should be calibrated annually with NIST traceable cleanroom standards
  • Operators should be trained in correct cleanroom test procedures to gather good test data.
The author Anthony Chien has worked at American Cleanroom Systems for the past 10 years. He has more than 40 years of cleanroom experience. Anthony has a BS and MS in Electrical Engineering specializing in semiconductor manufacturing from the University of Illinois. American Cleanroom Systems is a design-build modular cleanroom manufacturer based in Rancho Santa Margarita CA. ACS is an expert in ISO-5 thru ISO-8 (class 100 to class 100k) modular cleanrooms for pharmaceutical cleanrooms, medical device cleanrooms, and industrial cleanrooms.
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