Modular vs. Fixed Cleanrooms: Cleanroom Design

Ensuring product quality and regulatory compliance in industries like pharmaceuticals, food and beverage, electronics, and aerospace hinges on controlling contamination. This is where cleanrooms come in. Cleanrooms provide meticulously controlled environments where dust, airborne microbes, aerosol particles, and chemical vapors are strictly minimized.

When designing a cleanroom system, two main approaches emerge: mobile, prefabricated, rapid (modular) and fixed cleanrooms. Each offers distinct advantages suited to specific applications. Determining the right cleanroom will depend on your business needs and any industry standards that need to be considered. The cleanroom installation budget and project timeline may also impact the cleanroom design and construction.


Cleanroom Systems

What is a Modular Cleanroom?

A modular cleanroom is a cleanroom made from prefabricated components. It creates a controlled environment suitable for automotive manufacturing, cannabis, healthcare and other industries that require sterile, dirt-free environments. Modular cleanrooms are freestanding and ideal for installation inside an existing space. Depending on your cleanroom requirements (e.g. air pressure inside the cleanroom), they can be designed with hardwalls or softwalls.

Modular cleanrooms are available in different classifications and ISO standards. These standards determine how clean the air within the cleanroom is. When considering the specifications for your cleanroom, you will need to consider what standard you require –  some cleanrooms will do more frequent air changes per hour so the air is ‘cleaner’.


What is a Fixed Cleanroom?

Fixed cleanrooms, also known as conventional or stick-built cleanrooms, are controlled environments that have a very low level of contamination by pollutants such as chemical vapors, dust or airborne microbes. They are constructed on-site using traditional building materials and become an integral part of a building. For compliance with industry regulations, it is important that the design takes into account that all surfaces in a cleanroom are smooth and impervious so as to keep the room clean.

Cleanroom Designs: Modular vs. Fixed Cleanrooms


Aspect Modular Cleanroom Systems Fixed Cleanroom Systems
Assembly Time Faster assembly due to prefabricated modules Longer construction time, built on-site
Scalability Easy scalable. Hard or soft walls can be added or removed. Limited scalability as it requires extensive construction
Relocation Portable and can be moved if needed A permanent structure, not designed for relocation
Adaptability Highly adaptable in size, layout and configuration Customisable to specific requirements
Cost-effectiveness Lower upfront costs. Allows for gradual investment Higher initial costs
Durability Good, but may require maintenance for long-term use Built with sturdy materials for long-term reliability
Performance Adequate for many uses. Rapid deployment Superior performance for ultra-clean environments
Structure Prefabricated, modular wall system Integrated into building infrastructure. Very stable.
Best for  Rapid deployment

Flexible or temporary needs

Stringent standards

Long-term operational needs

Advantages of Modular Cleanrooms

Modular cleanrooms, also known as mobile, prefabricated or rapid cleanrooms, prioritize flexibility and swift installation.

Here’s why they excel in rapid deployment:

  • Faster Assembly & Cleanroom Installation: modular cleanrooms can be installed quickly for companies working to a tight project timeline. Prefabricated modules significantly reduce construction time compared to traditional fixed cleanrooms built on-site. This minimizes downtime and expedites project completion.
  • Scalability: Modular cleanrooms are designed to be readily adapted to meet changing needs. Hardwall cleanroom wall panels can be added or removed to adjust the cleanroom size, eliminating the need for extensive construction during expansion or reduction.
  • Relocation: Some mobile, prefabricated softwall cleanrooms are designed for portability, allowing them to be moved to a different location if required. This is particularly valuable if a permanent cleanroom is not needed or for companies working in leased spaces.

Beyond rapid deployment, the benefits of modular cleanrooms include the following:

  • Adaptability: Modular design allows for adjustments in size, layout, and configuration to accommodate evolving cleanroom needs.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: Prefabricated modular construction often lowers upfront costs compared to fixed cleanrooms. Additionally, scalability allows businesses to invest in cleanroom space gradually as needed.

Advantages of Fixed Cleanrooms

Fixed cleanrooms cater to specific needs with their unique characteristics:

  • Customization: Fixed cleanrooms offer extensive customization options to precisely meet specific cleanroom standards and requirements. This makes them ideal for industries with stringent regulatory compliance needs.
  • Durability: Built with sturdy materials, fixed cleanrooms are known for their long-term reliability and durability. They are designed to withstand heavy usage and provide consistent performance over time.
  • Permanent Structure: Fixed cleanrooms integrate into the building infrastructure, providing stability and robustness in the long run, although limiting relocation flexibility.
  • Superior Performance: In some cases, fixed cleanrooms may offer superior cleanliness levels and environmental control performance compared to modular alternatives. This is especially true for specialized applications requiring ultra-clean conditions.

How can Dycem be used to improve cleanroom contamination control?

Regardless of whether you choose a mobile, prefabricated, rapid (modular), or fixed cleanroom, incorporating Dycem’s contamination control mats at the entrance is a strategic method to bolster your contamination control efforts to prevent dirt from entering the cleanroom.

Superior Dirt Control

Dycem’s unique tacky surface traps dirt and contaminants from shoes and wheels before entering the cleanroom, reducing airborne particles and promoting a clean environment.

Durable and Easy to Clean

Dycem mats are built to last, withstanding high traffic and regular cleaning without losing their effectiveness. They can be easily cleaned in line with your current SOPs, making them a low-maintenance solution.

Adaptable to Different Cleanroom Types

Dycem comes in various sizes and configurations, making it suitable for any cleanroom entrance, including hallways and prep areas (PAL/MAL rooms). Often, cleanrooms have adjacent gowning areas and locker rooms, which can also benefit from Dycem mats.

Choosing the Right Cleanroom Solution

The ideal cleanroom solution depends on various factors such as budget, project timeline, flexibility requirements, regulatory compliance, and long-term objectives.

Consider these scenarios:

  • Rapid Deployment: If speed and flexibility are important, a modular cleanroom installation might be the best choice, with Dycem mats placed at the entrance to maximize contamination control.
  • Stringent Standards: Industries with strict cleanliness standards and long-term operational needs may favor the customization and durability of fixed cleanrooms, while still benefiting from Dycem entrance mats to capture contaminants.
  • Cost Considerations: For businesses with limited budgets or those looking for scalable solutions, modular cleanrooms can be a cost-effective option, and Dycem mats offer a reliable and affordable way to enhance cleanroom hygiene.

Whether mobile/pre-fab/rapid or fixed, investing in a well-designed cleanroom is essential for
maintaining product quality, regulatory compliance, and customer satisfaction in industries reliant on cleanroom environments. In all cases, incorporating contamination control flooring solutions at the entrance plays an important role in creating and maintaining a controlled environment.

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