Technical cleanliness

Cleanroom manufacturing

Complex systems must meet special cleanliness standards in order to function smoothly and permanently. © gorodenkoff, GettyImages

At a time when increasingly complex technical devices are being brought onto the market, precision and quality are of great importance. This means that technical cleanliness is becoming increasingly relevant in modern industry. Technical cleanliness is important to guarantee performance, reliability and safety of products and to meet increasing demands and regulatory standards become. From the automotive industry to aerospace and the electrical industry, the requirements for flawless technical cleanliness are essential for the smooth functioning of highly complex systems and ensuring a flawless product lifespan. Below we introduce the concept of technical cleanliness and its meaning, describe the methods for achieving technical cleanliness and take a look at the challenges that come with the demands on it.

Not absolute, but technically pure

Sometimes dirty instruments can make amazing discoveries and advance humanity. Like the dirty Petri dish in Alexander Fleming's laboratory in 1928, through which the bacteriologist became aware of the germicidal effect of a mold and discovered penicillin. However, such groundbreaking results due to impurities are more the exception than the rule. Technical cleanliness (TecSa) is required for numerous modern products and production processes in the technical industry in order to meet complex requirements.

There is no such thing as absolute cleanliness. A component is therefore considered technically clean if the degree of contamination is sufficiently low. The aim is to ensure that materials and components are free of contaminants, particles, residues or other foreign bodies that could impair their functionality. In industries such as automotive, aerospace, electronics and medical technology, technical cleanliness is crucial to ensure product performance, reliability and longevity. In order to achieve technical cleanliness, thorough checks for dust, oil, chemicals or other contaminants must take place during the manufacturing process, assembly or packaging. Compliance with specific standards, guidelines and purity requirements is often required to ensure technical cleanliness and ensure that complex products meet specified requirements.

Technical cleanliness can be defined by the amount of residual contamination on the surface. In order to determine the state of cleanliness, the number, size and composition of particles on components, products and systems are determined. The limit values ​​for contamination of components can be set differently depending on the requirements. Companies specializing in technical cleanliness can take over controlling and facilitate compliance with certain standards and values.

Rules and guidelines

In order to be able to better define, maintain and test technical cleanliness, regulations and guidelines have recently been created for various areas of the technical industry

The TecSa industrial association was founded at the beginning of the 2000s. One developed the extensive VDA volume 19 regulations'Testing technical cleanliness - particle contamination of functionally relevant automobile parts'. The set of rules provides information about specific procedures for the extraction of contaminants on the surface of components, presents analytical procedures for measuring cleanliness and provides instructions for documenting the test results. In 2010, the VDA 19.2 guideline was also published. This is intended to help plan and improve processes in such a way that contamination does not even arise in the production chain. There is also the international standard ISO 16232. This is completely compatible with the German standard VDA 19. The 'Guideline for Technical Cleanliness in Electrical Engineering' was published by the Association of the Electrical and Digital Industry. Sheet 21 on cleanroom technology in the VDI 2083 manual sets standards in the medical industry.

Benefits of technical cleanliness

The more complex and sensitive a component or system is, the more important technical cleanliness is. In general, technical cleanliness is particularly relevant in various industries due to the following points:

  • Product performance and product reliability

    The performance of products or components can be negatively affected by contamination. The more complex the component, product or system, the more easily even the smallest contamination can make a difference in performance. In the electrical industry, even small dust particles on circuit boards can cause malfunctions.

  • No transfer of damage to other components

    Contamination is often not a problem for a component itself. However, they can cause damage elsewhere in a complex system. This can be the case if contamination on components gets into fluid circuits.

  • Product lifespan

    The level of cleanliness can determine the lifespan of a component, system or product. Contamination leads to faster wear and shortens the service life.

  • Security

    Technical cleanliness prevents malfunctions and therefore ensures greater safety when handling components, technical systems and products. Contamination can result in health risks, especially in the field of medical technology.

  • Ensuring quality standards

    If the guidelines for technical cleanliness are adhered to, corresponding quality standards and norms can be applied. Tests of certain guidelines ensure that cleanliness meets certain requirements and are a quality feature for users and consumers.

Industry sectors

In some industries, technical cleanliness is particularly important. In the semiconductor and electrical industries, even tiny particles or contaminants on chips or circuit boards can impair the functionality of electronic components. Malfunctions or failures can result. Technical cleanliness is also very important in the automotive industry. The performance and safety of vehicles depend not least on the cleanliness and quality of the components. Modern, fuel-efficient engines, for example, react much more quickly to contamination than older models. It is therefore not surprising that the TecSa industrial association was created under the umbrella of the Association of the Automotive Industry and that the industry sets strict standards and controls for the technical cleanliness of parts and components.

In medical technology, technical cleanliness is essential to avoid health risks and ensure the effectiveness of medical devices and implants. The relevance of technical cleanliness in aerospace technology is also easy to understand. Appropriate standards are crucial here, as contamination or particles in sensitive aircraft systems can lead to serious malfunctions.

Cleaning procedures

But how do you achieve technical cleanliness? There are different options and procedures for achieving technical cleanliness, which can be used depending on the exact type and nature of the components, products and systems in question. Technical cleanliness is often achieved through a combination of different approaches and a holistic approach is necessary to ensure that residual contamination is reduced to a minimum. When parts are delivered, care can be taken to ensure that no contamination is introduced by suppliers guaranteeing technical cleanliness or components being cleaned before further processing. A controlled environment, such as that found in clean rooms, can form a further basis for technical cleanliness. Various cleaning technologies such as washing or vacuuming as well as regular maintenance of machines and systems are also used. Quality controls and monitoring through tests, inspections and analyzes of components and materials during the manufacturing process also play a key role.

Cost factor as a challenge

A challenge when it comes to technical cleanliness is not just the strict guidelines. Cleaning and keeping components, products and systems clean is also a cost factor that should not be underestimated. As part of their cleaning management, companies also have to consider the extent to which this makes economic sense. The purity class should be important as an essential product property for function and subsequent processes and the cleaning process should be optimized in such a way that the price-performance ratio is right.


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