Opinion: Be aware of static in cleanrooms

Stewart Gordon-Smith of Meech International, comments on cleanroom-safe technology for packaging in medical and pharmaceutical processes

Stewart Gordon-Smith, Business Development Manager, Meech International

Products affected by contamination are required to be disposed of, creating wastage and potentially slowing down production times and efficiency.

Professionals in these sectors need to be aware of the causes of product contamination and how best to counter these issues using relevant and cleanroom-safe technology.

Although the food industry is focused on brand protection, the medical and pharmaceutical sectors are more concerned with contamination control from a sanitary point of view.

Sanitation of a product or its packaging can be compromised by the presence of static charges, which can attract fibres and small specks of dust to products that need to be kept sterile, such as catheters, stents, scalpels, syringes and hypodermic needles.

Accumulated static charges can cause problems for small medical components, as the amassed weight of the charge can actually be greater than that of the product itself, causing them to stick to the surface of the moulding components. If the moulding tool closes with the product still attached to the tool face, the product could be noticeably damaged and have to be discarded.

Problems can also arise during the packaging and storage phases. When a statically charged product is placed in a plastic bag following the moulding stage, there is a risk that the charge on the product will fail to neutralise for the length of time it is contained within the sealed plastic environment.

As a consequence, the charge will cause the packaging to attract contamination on its outside surface. Furthermore, once the plastic bag has been opened, an even higher degree of the contamination will be instantly drawn to the product.

What often gets overlooked is that the sterile blister packaging is every bit as important as the product inside, as even the most minimal source of contamination will result in the item being rejected.

In fact, the most frequent source of contamination within a cleanroom environment is actually the operative

Eyelashes, strands of hair and skin follicles are all capable of being attracted to the packaging surface by static charge, leading to product contamination and rejection.

Static charge generation has significant repercussions for both productivity and product quality, which is why it's worth considering a range of ionising solutions that are able to meet the ever-increasing demands of the businesses operating within the medical sector.

By employing pulsed DC static control equipment, a long-range ionising system removes and controls the static charges, while the product cools to meet ambient temperature.

To address the strict sanitation requirements of the medical and pharmaceutical industries, every possible step must be taken to eliminate potential sources of contamination.

Static elimination and control is a vital element of maintaining sterile conditions and it is important not to underestimate the savings it can deliver.

By employing the most advanced DC solutions, medical and pharmaceutical manufacturers can counter the issues static can create and ensure that production keeps flowing and wastage is kept to a minimum.