Case study: Solving a PCTFE supply chain issue for a cleanroom services firm

Published: 16-Oct-2023

A cleanroom services company was unable to source PCTFE, their preferred material, due to supply chain inefficiencies and was having a difficult time finding an adequate substitute, so fluoropolymer expert Savillex was brought in to help

Savillex, an expert in custom-engineered fluoropolymer products, has completed a project for a large cleanroom services company in the US.

The client is a large cleanroom services company located in the US. Specialising in cleanroom contamination monitoring, the client (and their technologies) serve several industries, including pharmaceuticals, life sciences, semiconductors, and more.

The challenge

Until recently, the client used PCTFE (polychlorotrifluoroethylene) as their preferred material for any particle counter components and fittings that came into regular contact with corrosive chemicals, like hydrofluoric and phosphoric acids. However, due to ongoing global supply chain disruptions, PCTFE became harder to acquire, and effectively quadrupled in price.

In an effort to keep costs manageable and ensure a more reliable material supply, the client looked to replace PCTFE with other polymers. Of course – not any polymer would meet their requirements. Their ideal material needed to be non-reactive, highly resistant to corrosion and non-leachable –which led their engineering team to select PFA and reach out to Savillex.

The solution

Many of the client’s components are produced at low volumes, so investing in and building PFA mold tools for under 100 pieces per year did not make sense. The idea, then, shifted to building a mould for “blanks” - or, basic cylinders made from PFA – that could be machined by the client themselves in-house.

Savillex’s engineering team set about building the blank mold, but encountered several challenges related to the unconventionally thick (1.5”) wall sections the client required. As hot polymer is injected into a mould and then cools (and shrinks), internal voids may appear and be exposed during the machining process.

The result

After thoroughly optimising and refining their process, the Savillex team was able to create a mould that reliably produced PFA blanks with no voids.

With the groundwork laid and initial engineering challenges solved, the next stage for the client is to have new PFA moulds of near-net component shapes created. The intent here is to further reduce the amount of machining that would be required, and then put any newly created PFA parts through an exhaustive set of qualification steps.

“It was an overall excellent experience working with the Savillex team – they carried much of the engineering burden for us. We appreciated the hard work they had done to understand our unique application and they delivered a solution that we feel highly confident about,” said a Senior Project Manager of Engineering at the large US cleanroom services company.

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