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Simulations in the cleanroom

Simulations of cleanroom processes facilitates production and planning of cleanroom buildings. In addition, they can be used in virtual reality trainings. Find out more here about simulations in the field of cleanrooms.

Experience-based training thanks to virtual reality

Sebastian Scheler is Managing Director of the Austrian company Innerspace. His firm specialises in providing virtual training for cleanrooms. At the Cleanzone Conference, he will be talking about ‘Training proper cleanroom behaviour: The opportunities and risks of virtual reality’. Here is a preview of his presentation.

Virtual reality training allows for experience-based learning for key moments in cleanrooms without ever having to experience these critical situations or enter a ‘real’ cleanroom.

Sebastian Scheler

Innerspace specialises in VR training. How do you conduct VR training, and in which fields do you offer this?
“Virtual reality training allows for experience-based learning for key moments in cleanrooms without ever having to experience these critical situations or enter a ‘real’ cleanroom. With our cleanroom behaviour training, we create virtual models of cleanrooms and training scenarios that allow trainees to learn correct behaviour in a risk-free virtual environment. Our efforts are aided by full-body tracking, which involves measuring every body movement and transferring it to the employee’s virtual avatar in real time. Thanks to feedback provided through the VR glasses, the trainee knows immediately if they have moved their arm too quickly, for example.

We work with the customer to define the key moments on which our training is based. These key moments are crucial, recurring situations in which every movement must be the right one – such as what to do when a vial is broken.”

Do you develop custom solutions to suit your clients’ specific requirements?
“Our standard software licence includes conducting virtual reality behaviour training in cleanrooms. Furthermore, we work with our partner Mediasquad to develop high-end 3D environments that enable us to offer the most realistic depictions possible of our clients’ own cleanrooms. We are a provider of training, so it goes without saying that combining psychology, technology and industry expertise is integral to what we do. We obtain our cleanroom expertise through our industry expert André Karrer and in-depth exchanges with our customers. The technical implementation is of decisive importance here: Our expertise in the field of software development allows us to successfully transfer concepts into our virtual reality training designs.”

What benefits does virtual training offer in comparison to conventional training?
“VR training makes it possible to simulate and train key moments in a cleanroom such that they feel realistic. Furthermore, VR training can be repeated on a regular basis. This is an area in which we utilise one of our key findings: Two weeks after undergoing training, many people remember only a fraction of what they had learned. Our VR training courses make it possible to increase long-term retention, and can be used as required – this means that at any time, anyone can train in the area that is currently most important to them. Training can take place at different places, as very little time is required for preparation, and there is no need to halt production. That saves money. Each training session is automatically and accurately documented – creating the perfect conditions for reporting to health authorities. VR training also serves to increase motivation. To achieve this, the training design must be tailored to the customer’s requirements.”

Virtual-Reality training in cleanrooms
Virtual-Reality training

Why did you decide to conduct VR training in cleanrooms? Are cleanroom production processes particularly suitable to virtual training?
“Cleanroom behaviour offers an excellent fit for virtual reality training. However, putting it into practice requires a great deal of specialist expertise, as well as close collaboration between the customer and us in our role as the training provider.”

Which cleanroom production processes still cannot be trained virtually?
“Before we develop a course of VR training, we conduct workshops at the customer in order to perform a systematic use case evaluation. This allows us to determine whether virtual reality is suitable as a training technology for providing instruction for specific tasks. Numerous decisive process steps pertaining to correct cleanroom behaviour have already been evaluated with positive results. There are a few others, such as the procedure for getting dressed, for which we believe that training in ‘real life’ is better than VR.

What you expect the future to hold?
“We strive to make optimum use of the technology for our training applications. Our goal is to improve the integration of technology, design, and customer requirements. The user should ‘forget’ that they are taking part in training – instead, they should feel like they are in a real cleanroom. To tell you the truth, as a psychologist this is a golden age for me, because it’s finally possible to provide experience-based learning using virtual reality that is psychologically sound.”

BIM: The formula for outstanding cleanroom planning using a virtual roundtable

Building Information Modelling (BIM) comprises a virtual roundtable for architects, engineers, laboratory planners and cleanroom specialists, airflow simulations, and much, much more. Superficially, these fields may appear to have very little in common, but that is not the case. Digital technology brings all of this together, and the VDI Association of German Engineers is already issuing new guidelines for its practical use.

Building Information Modeling (BIM)

It is not an uncommon experience: The architect utilises digital tools to design a building and prints out the CAD plan that will serve as the basis for the creation of an independent model by the structural engineer. The engineer responsible for building services engineering does the same, and this is followed by the addition of another expert specialising in cleanrooms. In other words, even in the planning phase, there are numerous points at which work may be duplicated unnecessarily, something that can lead to all manner of difficulties, such as a central ultrapure water supply line colliding with the extinguishing water line.

Digital technologies make it much easier to plan as a team

BIM (Building Information Modelling) is based on utilising a digital model so that everyone involved in the planning, construction and operation of a structure is able to work together. According to Frank Jansen, Technical Research Consultant for the VDI Society Civil Engineering and Building Services (VDI-GBG) in Düsseldorf: “This should result in a marked reduction in duplicate work and conflicts. Even so, the economic advantages do not appear for some time, at it is necessary in the beginning to invest more time in planning and communication amongst the various parties involved. It all pays off later, however, as implementation runs much more smoothly. Furthermore, financial savings will be generated in facility management throughout the service life of the facility, including through the ability to monitor and control performance data, as well as from the documentation of modifications and replacement of components. Most importantly, the quality of structures is improved.”

The progress being made in the field of digital technologies is spurring greater use of BIM in the planning process. It is true that representatives of the various fields involved have always been able to collaborate in the planning processes using pen and paper, yet in practice the ability to quickly get together around a virtual roundtable, in the cloud, for instance – even when everyone is physically far apart – has proven to be a big advantage. In addition to geometric data, BIM models also make it possible to address as many additional attributes as desired. These might include schedule proposals, cost specifications or even specific details (such as the configuration of an airlock system, performance data for ventilation systems in cleanrooms, materials utilised, even maintenance and hygiene plans).

All of these data are useful not only for the construction process, but also for any changes that might be made at a later date. Here, a good example is offered by the frequent repurposing that takes place in clinics and hospitals, including operating rooms, and the upgrades to cleanrooms that are necessitated by legal requirements, new VDI guidelines or increasingly demanding customers. In each of these cases, having a ‘digital twin’ of the structure in question that includes the specifications for the laboratory and cleanroom facilities is quite useful.

BIM Source: VDI
Source: VDI

A ventilation technology example from actual practice

The fact that BIM is an open standard represents a key advantage in practice, for when architects and ventilation technology specialists work with different programs, it is still necessary to make every piece of the puzzle fit together.

Benjamin Zielke, Research Consultant for the Hermann-Rietschel-Institut at the Technical University of Berlin, explains: “With the BIM system, I simply program an interface for this purpose. One of the aims of the overall process is to be able to run simulations at the push of a button whenever modifications or changes are necessary. It will then be possible to more efficiently plan many things that are currently based on long years of experience – and to do so with tremendous precision. The installation of excess ventilation system capacity, for example, something that results in unnecessary additional costs during both construction and operation, could be avoided right from the start.”

While BIM as an overall concept is still far from being a standard part of the cleanroom planning process, specific aspects of this concept are already in common use. One of these involves airflow simulations.

Heimo Müller, who works for Carinthian Tech Research in St. Magdalen, Austria, knows from his own experience: “Today this is primarily utilised when there are specific difficulties that need to be remedied. A good example of this is offered by the occurrence of contamination or excessive particle concentrations. Airflow simulations allow to us gain a better understanding of problems in flues, glove boxes and the cleanroom as a whole, so that we can find solutions more quickly. Even so, trying to replicate an entire cleanroom using physical models and numerical procedures would take a great deal of time, which is why we take a step-by-step approach to address the key issue, by simulating the actual situation, taking measurements and performing comparisons with the model, then simulating various geometries in order to find a solution to the problem. I could imagine designing an entire cleanroom on the basis of pure simulations, but I do not believe it would make a great deal of sense.

There's a lot happening in the field of Building Information Modelling

There is still a huge gap between current practice and the tremendous potential offered by BIM, but the VDI Association of German Engineers is already providing tools to close it. The VDI 3805 guideline series ‘Product Data Exchange in Building Services’ for this field has been in existence for decades, and it can justifiably be seen as a very early building block for the BIM concept.

There are currently eleven guideline projects related to BIM under way as part of the VDI 2552 series – these range from fundamentals, terminology and definitions to data management, data exchange and information requirements for the contracting party. Three to four new publications are planned for this year alone, and there is a continuous process of exchange with international standards committees.

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