Selecting the Right Pass-Thru Airlock to Reduce Contamination & Increase Efficiency

Modular cleanrooms protect manufacturing operations from the constant threat of air particulate contamination. Pass-thru cabinets (also called pass-thru airlocks) are a component of a cleanroom system and play an important role in reducing contamination.

Clean manufacturing environments that are free of dust and bacteria are requirements not only in the production of medical devices and pharmaceuticals but are also an increasingly common requirement of the modern manufacturing industry. Common applications, include:

  • Computers
  • Consumer Electronics
  • Food Processing
  • Vehicles
  • Air & Spacecraft
  • Biotechnology & Nanotechnology Processes

The Role of a Pass-Thru

To prevent contamination of a cleanroom, people and materials must pass through a vestibule that connects the controlled environment of the cleanroom to less-controlled “dirty air” or surrounding space. Pass-thrus prevent cleanroom air from leaking out and depressurizing the cleanroom. They also prevent dirty, untreated air from flowing into the cleanroom, which reduces cleanroom contamination and increases operating efficiency.

Pass-Thru Operational Qualities

Pass-thru doors are designed with interlocks, so that only one side door can be opened at a time, which prevents depressurization of the cleanroom. The transferring of the materials begins when an operator opens the pass-thru door on the “dirty air” side; the interlock mechanism then automatically or manually locks the cleanroom-side door shut.

The materials are then placed into the pass-thru on the “dirty air” side and the door is then closed and latched. The pass-thru’s sturdy, latching doors on both sides tightly compress against closed-cell or non-absorbent gaskets to prevent air loss from the cleanroom. Lastly, the interlocking mechanism releases, and an operator opens the cleanroom-side door and transfers materials into the cleanroom.

Pass-Thru Options

High quality pass-thrus are made of rugged, durable stainless steel so they withstand constant use and are easy to clean and maintain, especially in sterile environments. There are three levels of pass-thrus to incorporate your project needs, these include:

  • Stainless Steel - Pass-thrus with a smooth, stainless steel interior are easy to wipe down and are suited for most manufacturing and laboratory processes, including pharmacies and semiconductor manufacturing.
  • Full Welded Body - Cabinets with fully welded stainless steel interiors have smooth, formed radius corners to prevent particulate from collecting in corners and edges. Processes including aseptic manufacturing, compounding pharmacies, chemo drug pharmacies and manufacturing require sterile yet easy cleaning.
  • Bio-Design - Specialized bio-contaminant or “germ-free” processes such as terminal sterilization processing, nanotechnology and production facilities with strict isolation procedures require aseptic cleaning of cleanroom equipment surfaces. Bio-design pass-thrus feature the same solid, fully welded body but now with a coved radius, seamless interior and knife-edge hatch openings. This design is less likely to harbor particles and is easier to keep clean.
  • Additional Considerations - Other factors to consider in selecting a pass-thru include how the pass-thru will be mounted to the cleanroom. Also, consider how the pass-thru integrates with cleanroom operations and how it will be used by personnel. Some cleanrooms benefit from pass-thrus with their own HEPA air filters or external ventilation coupling to connect to the cleanroom air handling system.

Pass-Thrus for your Modular Cleanroom Needs

Pass-thrus are a critical component of cleanroom operations and are extremely important in maintaining the overall cleanroom environment. Pass-thrus also simplify materials transfer, efficiently reduce the amount of traffic, and preserve the air pressure and cleanliness of the cleanroom. In addition, durable double-wall, all stainless-steel construction improves the functionality, and appearance, of the cleanroom