Advances in sterilization technology and knowledge over the last ten years have been huge, and customers are now demanding more functions and features on their autoclaves to ensure that their loads are sterilized quickly and effectively.
The range of autoclaves, options and accessories has never been greater, which means that pitfalls can exist when choosing the right autoclave for your application. On one hand, over-specifying the autoclave wastes money, whilst on the other, under-specifying can leave you with an autoclave which does not fulfil its operational requirements. Careful consideration to the many features available on today’s autoclaves will ensure that you get the right product for the right job and below we attempt to unravel just some of the issues you may need to consider.
So, how is steam generated in an autoclave?
This is an area which can cause some confusion. There are three main methods of generating steam. The first method is by using heating elements inside the chamber. Water is poured into a reservoir to the correct level and away you go. This is the lowest cost option both in terms of capital outlay and installation costs. However there are potential drawbacks. For example, loads will always be wet at the end of the cycle, and breakages/spillages need to be cleared away as soon as possible, which can be messy and time-consuming, (leaving the spillage can lead to that familiar smell we all know and love!!!). This can be improved by fitting auto-drain and auto-fill options. An alternative method is to fit a separate steam generator, which on most lab autoclaves is fitted underneath the chamber, within the frame. This is a more expensive option but has the advantage of giving an unencumbered and cleaner work space and dryer loads at the end of the cycle. It can also speed up the cycle times considerably.
If you have your own direct steam supply then you have the best of both worlds. The capital and running costs will be lower and the cycles times will be shorter.