Monday, January 29, 2018

A Few Things to Know About Steam Utilization Equipment in Laboratories

gas boilers in boiler room
Steam is a necessary utility for some types of laboratory
Steam, essentially boiled and vaporized water, is in broad use throughout industrial, commercial and residential settings. The use of steam as a heat transfer medium or motive force is as old as the industrial revolution, maybe older. Even with the maturity of its use, new and innovative ways are still being sought and developed to better produce and utilize steam in modern facilities.

One reason for the staying power of steam throughout modern history is its very effective performance as a heat transfer medium. A comparatively large amount of heat can be liberated by condensing one pound of steam vapor into liquid water. Steam is not flammable or toxic, and can be produced at a centralized location and distributed effectively to utilization points throughout a large facility using a piping system. If you live or work in a large building in a location that experiences cold winter temperatures, chances are good that it is heated using steam.

There are a number of common laboratory equipment items that utilize steam as a heat source. Often, the steam is provided from a central plant, and the equipment operator has little to do with steam production. In other cases, a small steam generator may be the dedicated steam source for the equipment. In this case, the operator should recognize that the steam generator is an equipment item that requires regular scheduled maintenance in order to keep producing steam at the rated capacity. Additionally, there are some safety concerns of which operators should be aware. All of these items will be clearly depicted in the owner's manual for the equipment. If no owner's manual can be located, contact the steam generator manufacturer and obtain a copy.

The lab equipment that utilizes steam will often be characterized by a large heat requirement in their operation. Common examples are sterilizers, washing equipment, water distillers, and some types of drying ovens. Small versions of these equipment items may be heated electrically, but larger versions will often employ steam because of its efficiency as a heat source.

Lab planning includes an assessment of the utilities required to properly operate equipment contemplated for each space. Specific connection points for washing, sterilizing, and other steam utilization equipment will identify connection sizes for steam, as well as minimum pressure requirement, maximum allowable connected pressure. An additional requirement for steam flow, expressed as mass per unit of time (lbs/hr in the US) is essential in making sure the steam source to the equipment provides adequate capacity.

Share your lab equipment requirements and plans with a lab equipment planning specialist. Leverage your own knowledge and experience with their expertise to develop an effective solution.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Keep Up To Date With Lab Equipment Service Requirements

laboratory equipment and glassware
Every laboratory will have its own unique set of
maintenance, service and calibration requirements.
Laboratory techniques and operations are based upon standards, requirements that certain conditions be maintained or achieved, in order to support the validity of the work done and assure measures of quality are attained. Everything utilized in a lab process can have an impact on the outcome, or output. It is important to properly maintain instruments and equipment, so that their operation remains within the required or expected range.

Labs commonly have an extensive array of equipment, some used regularly, some infrequently. Keeping up with the calibration, certification, service, cleaning, and maintenance of all that equipment requires diligence and commitment. Even though equipment may be operating, that is no assurance that the performance of the instrument or machine is at a level adequate for whatever task is to be done. Running or using your gear until it breaks down should not be part of your maintenance and service scheduling plan.

Some equipment, such as a cold room or labware washer, can be quite forgiving of your neglect. They will, though, stop working at some point unless given at least minimal attention. Other equipment items, a biological safety cabinet being an example, provide levels of operator safety. Their service schedule requirements are stringent.

In every case, neglecting the recommended or required scheduled service is akin to gambling. The potential for equipment breakdown or improper operation increases as the level or care and maintenance falls below the minimum requirement. The increased degree of risk may initially be very small, but can increase quickly with continued neglect.

Keeping everything up to date is a challenge. Your commitment can start with some simple organizational steps.

  • Systematically assemble the care and maintenance requirements for every item of equipment. Having all the information in a single place can be helpful.
  • Determine what service tasks are appropriate for the lab staff. Some maintenance items are simple and can be easily accomplished by the people working in the lab. 
  • What tasks require special tools or equipment not on hand? These operations will require outsourcing or acquisition of needed tools and training for inhouse technicians.
  • If outside resources are needed for tasks, assemble information on the vendors or sources of what is needed.
  • Develop a master schedule, using a tool that supports any required record keeping and other tasks associated with getting the service done on a continuing basis. This is a task ripe for automation, saving human resources for use in accomplishing the real mission of the lab.
It may be advantageous to outsource all, or at least a large amount, of the responsibility for service, calibration, and maintenance to a qualified vendor. This would reduce the work burden on the lab staff to that of supervision and coordination. Reducing the number of different vendors entering the lab space and the frequency of service visits could also be accomplished by consolidating the work under a single or small number of vendors.

Share your laboratory equipment challenges with experienced professionals, leveraging your own knowledge and experience with their expertise to develop an effective solution.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Ductless Fume Hoods Chemical Guide

ductless fume hood for laboratory use
Ductless fume hood for laboratory use
Image courtesy Esco
Ductless fume hoods for laboratory use employ filtration to capture chemical fumes and vapors, providing a safe and effective means of protecting lab techs from harmful exposure. The environmental and cost benefits of the systems are substantial when compared to exhaust type fume removal methods. Ductless fume hoods purify and recirculate air back into the lab space, negating the need to deliver large volumes of conditioned make-up air to the space.

 While a ductless fume hood will not be suitable for every chemical lab operation, the range of applications where a filtration and recirculation solution can provide a safe and effective alternative are extensive.

  • Common laboratory chemicals, especially organic.
  • Sulphur dioxide or hydrofluoric acid fumes. Organic and inorganic acid vapors and fumes.
  • Mercury vapor and compounds.
  • Sulphur compounds.
  • Halogen compounds like chlorine, fluorine, iodine, bromine, etc.
  • Formaldehyde.
  • Ammonia and amines.
Extensive data is available on the use of various chemical compounds with ductless fume hoods. Share your application challenge with a product specialist for the best recommendation.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Esco CO2 Incubator Common Features For Ease of Use

Esco manufactures several versions of CO2 incubators for laboratory use, each with a targeted range of specialized applications. The video provides an overview of the features common to all Esco CO2 incubators that contribute to their efficient use in a lab setting.

More information about applications and products is available from lab equipment specialists. Leverage your own knowledge and experience with their product knowledge and application expertise to make effective equipment selection decisions.