The high cost of low-end swabs
Buying swabs in bulk at the lowest price may seem like a cost-effective choice, but those little penny-per-use disposable devices can track contamination into a cleanroom, cloud test results, and cause ESD events if they aren’t chosen with care.
By Sarah Fister Gale
Every year, cleanroom operators invest millions of dollars outfitting their facilities with the latest equipment, technology, monitoring devices, and air handling systems. These big picture items get intense scrutiny in the planning phase of new and upgraded facilities because they cost a fortune and are at the core of maintaining a clean and smooth-running manufacturing environment that will achieve optimal yields.
But, as so many cleanroom operators have learned over the years, cleanliness is in the details. A $4 million lithography tool can be taken down by a seemingly inconsequential material, such as a ten cent swab that sheds fibers as it cleans surfaces in the cleanroom. The wrong swab can also contain microscopic contaminants that cloud environmental test results, leave adhesive residues on equipment surfaces when the swab head reacts with harsh chemicals, create electrostatic discharge (ESD), or leave behind materials that can raise alarms in operations that require strict levels of particulate control.
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