Mobile Cleanrooms vs. Modular Cleanrooms

Reviewed by Davis Verheyen
  • July 1, 2021

Both manufacturers and researchers can find themselves in need of a temporary cleanroom for operations. The reasons can vary as much as the product or research involved, whether it’s to support a new clinical study, as an intermediate solution during planned cleanroom maintenance or as an interim stand-in while a new cleanroom is being constructed. The choices used to be limited to setting up a tent-like soft-sided cleanroom inside a building or erecting a temporary modular cleanroom structure for the duration.

While the soft-sided cleanrooms have their utility, their very nature limits their application on projects requiring the highest levels of cleanliness. And because a soft-sided cleanroom must occupy an existing space inside of a building it can displace or disrupt other operations in situations where space is at a premium. The hard-sided, modular cleanrooms resolved those issues but luckily, the recent development of trailer-mounted mobile cleanrooms provides a solution that meets or exceeds the capabilities of the modular cleanrooms, and with nearly none of the handicaps.

What is a Mobile Cleanroom?

At its most basic, a mobile cleanroom is a 53-foot tandem axle semi-trailer fitted with stainless steel surfaces throughout which can be rapidly configured to meet the client’s specific needs. Astro Pak’s fleet of mobile trailers can be certified up to ISO 4 (Class 10) levels of cleanliness, making them applicable to a broad range of industries. A single trailer provides approximately 300-square feet of self-contained work area and can be paired to create just under 600-square feet of cleanroom space.

Mobile vs Modular Cleanroom Comparison Chart

Flexibility is a Feature

Each mobile cleanroom features an anteroom with double-wide doors. This entryway is double the size of any modular option and allows for the easy installment of equipment such as fume hoods, biological safety cabinets and other similarly oversized fixtures. Beyond customer-installed equipment, the trailers can be configured for additional features, such as specific humidity levels, extra nitrogen or even additional antechambers.

In addition to the features of the trailer itself, the fact that the mobile cleanroom is a trailer offers advantages that a modular installation cannot match:

  • Ease of delivery – No specialty transportation equipment is required. A semi-tractor drops the trailer off.
  • Ease of placement – any place a semi-trailer can be parked becomes a cleanroom location.
  • Minimal infrastructure requirements – The trailers self-level and power requirements are much simpler.

This flexibility is not limited to one’s own facilities. One client was able to have a mobile cleanroom brought onto a campus to support a clinical trial with an unknown duration. They rented the cleanroom for a minimum expected period of use and chose to extend as needed. Two years later, they enjoy the freedom of knowing it can be gone next month should they desire. The flexible rental duration made the mobile cleanroom a better option than the other cleanrooms available on their campus.

Meeting Goals

While flexibility is consistently one of the most frequently cited factors in deciding to use a mobile cleanroom, it is far from being the only consideration. In fact, the rapid delivery time of weeks rather than months tops the list of reasons why clients made the choice. Astro Pak customers have also cited additional factors such the simplicity of the turn-key solution as well as the cost effectiveness of the mobile option as having influenced their decisions.

In other words, the trailer-based solution temporarily converts an existing, accessible open space into a ready-to-go cleanroom that is far less disruptive to other activities on-site. Moreover, it does so without the time, expense, and hassle of permitting paperwork needed to prepare a location for a modular cleanroom.

Cleanliness is Key

Surpassing those goals is one more overriding consideration. The whole point of a cleanroom is cleanliness. This is measured according to the quantity and size of particles per cubic meters of air within the room. Modular cleanrooms can typically achieve the most common ISO 7, equivalent to the old Federal Standard 209E Class 10,000. But mobile cleanrooms can go beyond this to regularly achieve ISO 4 (Fed Std 209E Class 10) standards. Additional industry-specific and regional standards still apply, but again, that compliance is made more accessible by the trailer’s large doors and flexible configuration options. Furthermore, the mobile cleanrooms have stainless steel surfaces throughout. This makes it easier and faster to clean because the interior surfaces are resistant to harsh cleaning protocols, such as those required for clinical trials and aseptic processes.

The Bottom Line

For most instances where a company requires the use of temporary cleanroom facilities, a trailer-mounted mobile cleanroom meets or exceeds the capabilities of other potential solutions. This applies to ease of deployment and removal as well as custom configuration for specific applications. Add in the overall cost effectiveness and the superior cleanliness making the decision between modular versus mobile cleanrooms is not that hard.