The principle of laminar flow has its origins in the 60s and has since become quite common for different types of laboratories. Perhaps the best type of equipment that incorporates laminar flow is the laminar flow workstation. Through the years, laminar flow workstations have been fitted with added features, depending on the industry or application it is being used for.
Types of laminar flow workstations
Laminar flow workstations are the required tool for environments which require sterility and cleanliness. For instance, laminar flow workstations are used heavily for working with particle-sensitive electronics. Depending on how it is being used, there are several variants that companies can invest in.
Horizontal laminar workstations: In this type of laminar workstation, the air is directly flown from above and is horizontally processed throughout the workstation. The material inside is protected thanks to the constant air supply.
Vertical laminar workstations: The working principle for this appliance is similar to the horizontal variant. The major difference is the direction of the airflow, which is vertical. The air then escapes through the holes in the bottom. This variant provides more protection to operators than horizontal laminar workstations.
Where are laminar flow workstations used?
Laminar flow workbenches are the perfect replacement for clean rooms requiring a lot of investment. On the other hand, workbenches are cost-effective, giving those companies who aren’t ready to build a clean room. They are used extensively in applications where clean air and sterility are required, such as the following.
Electronic parts testing and assembly: The nature of electronic parts is such that it is very susceptible to being soiled by contaminants. The contaminants can defect a miniature circuit. A relay can also be damaged simply by contact resistance created by dust on the surface coating of a wafer or chip. In other words, even a tiny bit of dust on a microchip can render it useless, costing manufacturers millions of dollars on a yearly basis. All of these problems can be solved by using a laminar flow workstation in the assembly and testing processes.
Medical and research: Medical and research laboratories require sterility on another level. A lot of effort is put into protecting samples and experiments from airborne contamination. Laminar flow workstations are used along with UV germicidal lamps which can prevent the contamination of experiments by bacteria. Fume hoods are also required if the lab processes produce fumes.
Other industries: Laminar flow workstations are used in a number of specialized applications across different industries. This includes projection lens assembly, stem cell therapy processes, tissue culture, data recovery, food processing, and pharmaceutical production.
Reasons for Manufacturers to Invest in Laminar Workstations
The benefits of laminar flow workstations are numerous, depending on the applications and functionality. However, some common uses of laminar flow workstations include the following.
Economical options: Compared to a cleanroom, laminar flow workstations are inexpensive, but still provide the same usefulness and functionality. The replacement of filters annually is the only thing that constitutes the maintenance cost. Assembling and transporting the appliance also involves minimum costs.
Safety functions: The flow of air can also pose some minor dangers. Since the workbench uses monitoring systems to check the saturation levels of gas and carbon. Many variants include alarms which can notify the worker of any danger level according to regulations.
Portable features: One of the biggest advantages of using laminar flow workstations is the portability it offers. Most workstations have fixtures such as power cords which can easily be stored and taken whenever required. These appliances can easily be transported from one place to another in the absence of the HVAC system of vents.
Environmentally friendly features: Laminar flow workstations have become eco-friendly with time. The workstations recycle air in the room, clearing the air of contaminants. No harmful air can escape to the outside of the laboratory. Any filters used can safely be disposed of in landfills without damaging the overall environment.
Cleaning Laminar Workstations
While cleaning laminar flow hoods sounds easy, there are plenty of factors to consider when it all boils down to the integrity of manufactured products. By using them, companies ensure the safety of consumers on the receiving end of those products. For those applications requiring sterility as their primary priority, laminar flow hoods have to be as sterile as possible. There is a methodical approach that users can use to eliminate the chances of microbial growth or any sort of contamination.
When it comes to cleaning a laminar flow hood, there are three levels of cleanliness – sanitizing, disinfecting and sterilization. Sanitization is a standard cleaning procedure which removes visible dirt and contaminants. Disinfecting can be used to eliminate fungi, viruses and bacteria. Finally, the sterilization process ensures that the appliance is free from microorganisms.
Steps to follow in cleaning a laminar flow workstation
The following steps can easily be used to clean a horizontal laminar flow hood.
- Users should first turn on the horizontal laminar flow hood to allow the air to blow for 30 minutes before doing anything.
- A cleaning agent should then be used on a cleanroom wipe. It should not drip and should be dry either.
- The ceiling hood should be cleaned first, back to front, while working one way up left to rig.
- A clean room vacuum should be used to clean the flow hood surface to gently blow the dirt away instead of rubbing it.
Once these steps have been completed, one can test to see if the appliance is clean by running a wipe along the surface. In most cases, a visible clean look is sufficient to continue using the hood. The entire process can be repeated as required between operations throughout the day.
Manufacturers who require a sterile and contaminant-free environment can invest in laminar flow workstations instead of clean rooms. These specialized industrial appliances provide workers with the environment they need to perform their tasks properly. To get the most out of these appliances, they should be acquired from certified and licensed manufacturers only.