Reducing autoclave investment costs

12th December 2017

Temperature calibration checks
Checking door seal

Research and laboratory autoclaves represent major expenditure, it is imperative therefore to keep ownership costs as low as possible. After that initial purchase further investment in a service contract may seem an unnecessary expense, however with proven extended life expectancy arising from regular servicing, inspection and validation checks, laboratory life continues without interruptions. And financially there is a much lower ownership cost, thus extending the payback on that original capital outlay over many more years.

Priorclave knows that there are several of its lab autoclaves still successfully operating after more than 23 years. The longevity of these machines is due to regular servicing by its service engineers.

Why service?
The intensity of saturated steam within a sealed, pressurised chamber creates the perfect ‘killing’ environment to eradicate contaminants. And it is this basic principle behind every lab autoclave and research-grade steriliser. To ensure that sterilisation takes place within the chamber it must contain dry saturated steam held at temperatures typically up to 138°C and at pressures of up to 2.4bar.

Improperly autoclaved materials result in contamination, lost time and wasted money and much worse in extreme circumstances.

On-site, it is the responsibility of the service engineer to ensure these processing parameters are achieved by carrying out a series of  tests.

To ensure an autoclave reaches its correct thermal setting, calibrated thermocouples are connected next to the temperature control probe and monitoring probes of the customer’s autoclave. These are coupled to traceably calibrated digital thermometers and recorded readings checked against those shown on the temperature controller and ancillary equipment (as shown in Fig. 1).

Competent autoclave service companies operate a UKAS calibration lab. Here, the temperature probes and test equipment carried by the engineers are regularly tested and verified for accuracy.

One of the more simple tasks is inspection of the chamber door seal both visually and by feel (shown in Fig.2). It enables the engineer to identify any damage that could ultimately lead to escape of steam, potentially dangerous for staff as well as preventing satisfactory completion of the sterilisation process.

A thorough service check should cover all aspects of the autoclave’s mechanical and electrical systems in accordance with a pre-defined maintenance checklist. Priorclave’s service list details up to 72 specific points to be checked.

Whether part of a planned maintenance programme, routine service or an emergency call-out, any irregularities identified by the engineer require adjustment to ensure that a fully operational condition is maintained.
Most leading autoclave manufacturers offer first class warranties that can be extended with provision of a Preventative Maintenance Plan. These are designed to keep autoclaves in safe, efficient working order and to reduce the possibility of costly downtime. These plans tend to run on an annual basis and generally incorporate a number of scheduled service visits by a fully trained service engineer working from a well-equipped vehicle. The engineer will carry out a thorough service covering all aspects of the autoclave in accordance with a checklist, making adjustments where necessary.







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