A cleanroom is a contained indoor environment in which the air supply/flow, materials (both those of which the room itself is constructed and those being used inside the room), personnel access, and other factors are closely monitored and controlled to limit the amount of airborne particles and pollutants in the room. The point of all this monitoring and control is, as the name “cleanroom” suggests, to keep whatever is being manufactured in the room clean and free of said particulates. As these rooms are generally used to manufacture delicate products and components for the semiconductor, pharmaceutical, medical, electronics, and other clean-critical industries, those particles, though microscopically small, are still enough to potentially damage or destroy the manufactured whatnot.
TL;DR: cleanrooms are important for a ton of industries, and many of the things we use every day—like the PCB (printed circuit board) inside your smartphone—are manufactured in cleanrooms. They’re pretty rad. They’re also very, very big business.
Mass Consumption of Consumables
Like any technology that proves itself useful enough to stick around for a while, cleanrooms themselves are becoming less and less expensive. They used to be a “specialized” thing, and only the most specialized manufacturers had them at their disposal. It was not uncommon for manufacturers without cleanrooms who needed to manufacture something in a cleanroom to either farm the manufacturing out to someone with cleanroom access or rent a cleanroom from someone. Both options came at great expense. Nowadays, though, building a cleanroom is cheaper and easier than ever. Some companies even make modular cleanrooms that can be set up and ready to roll in just a few days, and taken apart, relocated, and reassembled as necessary.
The real money in the cleanroom comes from consumables. Of course, because cleanrooms are so closely monitored, you can’t use just any gear when working inside of one. You need special non-rubber gloves made of nitrile or other specialty materials, not to mention coveralls, boot/shoe covers, hoods, masks—all kinds of schwa. Heck, you can’t even bring a regular spiral-bound notebook into a cleanroom, it’s gotta have special low-dust paper and such.
And, of course, all this specially-made gear is orders of magnitude more expensive that the everyday equivalent. Regular latex rubber gloves are, what, a thousand for eight bucks? A crate of nitrile cleanroom gloves can cost as much as a used car. (Not a real good one, but, still, it’s a car.)
That being the case, perhaps it’s not surprising that this relatively unknown market is going to grow into a behemoth within a decade. After all, it’s not like there’s going to be less call for cleanroom manufacturing—I know no one’s going to slow down with the manufacture of smartphones and the like. Instead, it’s more surprising that it’s going to take that long to crack a billion.