Fire Safety Design in Semiconductor Manufacturing Cleanrooms

Paolo Bigatti

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11 Dec 2023

As the demand for semiconductor manufacturing skyrockets, so does the need for cutting-edge, code-compliant fire safety measures that set new benchmarks for innovation and reliability. This is especially true for the cleanroom environments in semiconductor fabrication areas. Due to the use of combustible materials and flammable chemicals, as well as the presence of high voltage electrical power, any kind of fire in a cleanroom can quickly become catastrophic.

Challenges to Integrating Fire Protection

One of the pivotal challenges in semiconductor facility construction is the intricate process of tool hook-up in the cleanroom. The connections between manufacturing tools and facility infrastructure require meticulous adherence to standards, particularly those outlined in SEMI S2, Environmental, Health & Safety Guideline for Semiconductor Manufacturing Equipment, which governs hook-up operations. While the risks associated with process equipment are evaluated in accordance with SEMI S2, obtaining and maintaining the Highly Protected Risk (HPR) qualifications of the cleanroom areas and manufacturing facility adds an extra layer of complexity to these operations.

The cleanroom environments within semiconductor facilities demand exceptionally high levels of precision and cleanliness, making the integration of traditional fire safety measures complex. As a result, standard fire detection systems may not be suitable for the early detection of certain types of fires or chemical reactions specific to semiconductor production.

The unique chemical processes and materials involved in semiconductor manufacturing also introduce additional complexities. Some of the semiconductor processing involves materials that cannot be protected by water-based suppression systems. Because of this, experts with relevant experience in fire suppression agents and systems for hazardous areas that store and process water-reactive materials should be employed to develop a fire safety strategy.

Designing for Safety in Semiconductor Facilities

In semiconductor facilities, fire engineers are often responsible for designing and implementing fire alarm, fire protection, smoke evacuation, fire compartmentation and interlocking systems. At the heart of this solution lies the groundbreaking Design for Safety (DFS) approach, a paradigm shift aimed at achieving a zero-accident rate in personal safety. Key components of DFS include:

  • Evaluate Loss History. Learning from the past is crucial. This approach involves a thorough evaluation of both local and international loss histories, providing a foundation for understanding potential risks.
  • Facility Drawing and Documentation Review. A meticulous examination of facility drawings and documentation ensures that every aspect aligns with the highest safety standards, leaving no room for oversight.
  • International Fabrication Facility Comparison. Drawing inspiration from global best practices involves comparing designs with international fabrication facilities, incorporating the latest advancements in safety protocols.
  • Semi-Quantitative Risk Matrix. Utilizing a semi-quantitative risk matrix identifies and ranks potential risks, allowing for efficient resource allocation and prioritization of safety enhancements.
  • New Innovation and Smart Technologies. Embracing innovation at the core of DFS involves integrating cutting-edge technologies to enhance safety measures, ensuring designs are not just compliant but forward-thinking.
  • Site Visits. Thorough site visits by a multi-disciplinary engineering team ensure that theoretical designs seamlessly translate into practical safety implementations. Benefits to the client include safety as a cornerstone.

Go Beyond Compliance with Your Fire Safety Strategy

Jensen Hughes’ commitment to DFS doesn't just stop at compliance. Our fire engineering consultants draw on their expertise and experience with fire safety systems, suppression agents and hazardous materials storage to design cost-effective, performance-based protection systems that not only meet code requirements but also uphold the highest standards of life safety. Our team routinely handles challenging designs encompassing life safety, mission continuity, property protection, heritage preservation and environmental protection. Find out more about our team here.

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About the author

Paolo Bigatti
Paolo is a Senior Fire Consultant with 12 years of experience. Paolo is specialized in fire protection systems design, review and specification.