Another serious concern about the use of bulky traditional insulation is the possibility of serious worker injuries
due to contact with superheated or frigid lines. Ginchereau
explains that the greater the congestion of plumbing due to
the use of insulation, the greater the potential for injury.
A new breed of insulation
One of the newer materials that provides a new option in
cleanroom insulation is a PVDF-based, high-purity foam.
This specialty plastic material is a closed-cell foam that in
a thickness of only one-quarter inch offers chemical and
heat resistance as well as other properties that are equivalent to eight times of what conventional foam provides for
cleanroom applications. In other words, one-quarter inch of
PVDF-based insulation is equivalent to two inches of open-celled insulation.
In recent years UFP Technologies, Georgetown, Mass., a
producer of foam, plastic, and composite products, incorporated the new PVDF technology into an advanced tube and
pipe insulation system specifically developed for process lines
and equipment in cleanroom environments.
“When you consider that instead of six-inch-plus insula-
tion on dozens of reactor lines, you are adding only one half
inch in diameter to a one-inch or two-inch pipe, you can
save a lot of real estate,” Ginchereau explains. “In the overall,
the insulation is taking up only about one-tenth the space of
This savings of space translates to many benefits, includ-
ing reduced cleanroom size requirements. When you con-
sider the space requirements of cleanrooms housing multiple
reactors connected to thousands of feet of pipeline with “fat”
insulation, the amount of space is dramatically reduced with
the use of a “slimmer” product.
Also, with thinner pipe insulation, more space is available
for technicians to access reactors and plumbing, resulting
in improved worker productivity as well as less exposure to
contact with super-heated or super-cooled lines.
This PVDF-based product offers several other features
that render important benefits to operators of manufacturing cleanrooms. The system includes custom-molded coverings for fittings, and an overlapping, self-adhering tape that
provides a superior seal. This reduces the possibility of condensate, which can saturate ordinary foam insulation, creating leaks and enabling biological contamination.
Unlike traditional open-cell insulation, this technology
does not shed when cut. This means fewer impurity problems while cleanrooms are live, and no need for protective
bags and hoods or downtime during installation.
The PVDF-based product doesn’t burn or smoke, which is
very important to pharmaceutical cleanrooms where millions
of dollars’ worth of drugs could become tainted and lost if
exposed to smoke; and it is compliant with Factory Mutual
Approvals 4910 standard for cleanroom materials. It has also
successfully completed FM’s 4924 Pipe Chase Flammability
Test and is rated for use by the semiconductor industry.
Ed Sullivan is a technical writer based in Hermosa Beach,
UFP Technologies Inc. is located at 172 East Main St.,
Georgetown, Mass. 01833; 877-881-4811; t-tubes@ufpt.