RFID finding application in cleanroom environments


By Winn Hardin

Two recent announcements serve to illustrate the point that radio frequency identification (RFID) technology is beginning to prove a useful and valuable technology in cleanroom applications and sensor-embedded pharmaceutical manufacturing equipment.

One announcement by Billerica, MA-based Millipore Corporation describes that company’s plan to embed RFID tags in precision filters used to manufacture pharmaceuticals in controlled environments, while AdvantaPure (Southampton, PA) announces a new RFID patent on its “HoseTRACK” technology for monitoring tubing used in pharmaceutical cleanroom manufacturing.

“RFID’s strength is in what bar codes cannot do,” explains ABI Research’s (Oyster Bay, NY) research director, Michael Liard. “There’s no ability to attach sensors to bar codes for tracking environmental or performance changes. With RFID embedded sensors, you have the convenience of sending, receiving, and monitoring advanced features and functionality. If you look at the [return on investment] in RFID, it’s in high-value, high-risk items that help justify the additional cost.”

The RFID tags in Millipore’s filters store information about where the filter was manufactured, as well as providing real-time information about product performance, including what fluids are present during the manufacturing process. According to the company, this information will help customers to ensure regulatory compliance and make recording and conveying manufacturing data faster and more reliable.

Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology is making its way into clean processing equipment, such as Millipore’s Viresolve® filters (inset) and AdvantaPure’s HoseTRACK tubing monitoring system. Photos courtesy of Millipore Corporation and AdvantaPure.
Click here to enlarge image

Similarly, AdvantaPure’s HoseTRACK hose identification and life-cycle analysis system also takes advantage of integrated sensors that add cleaning logs and operational histories to the memory block in the RFID tag fixed to the outside of the medical tubing. The company also embeds sensors and tags into other bio/pharmaceutical process equipment, including mixing vessels, plastic pouches, and filters. When paired with an RFID reader, the system can help generate the data needed to meet FDA’s 21CFR Part 11 reporting requirements; the company says that the data tracking system reduces time spent gathering information for audits, and helps maintain clear and secure documentation compared to conventional log books.