Autoclave sterilization is extremely important in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. Autoclaves are used for the treatment of products and equipment primarily for sterilization at elevated temperatures and pressures.
Autoclave sterilization is the process of sterilization using pressurized heated steam. The combination of heat, steam and pressure eliminates bacteria and other organism and waste particles that may be present on surfaces.
Autoclaves are used both on a small personal scale and at an industrial level. Steam sterilization is one of the most efficient methods to clean and sterilize equipment both in manufacturing and pharmaceuticals. In this article, we are going to look at some of the key characteristics of Autoclaves.
Autoclaves in Industry
Pharmaceutical manufacturers rely on high volume output. For manufacturing operations to be successful it is important to scale and automate processes including sterilization of products and equipment. Industrial-scale autoclaves allow for the rapid sterilization of testing and production items. Equally important are the product handling trays or baskets used to move the products into and out of industrial scale autoclaves.
Through the advancement in software, machinery, and robotics have led to an increase in automation within the manufacturing sector and especially so within the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. The increased automation leads to a reduction in manpower dealing directly with the product, reduces contamination, increases production throughput, improves consistency and leads to a reduction shutdowns and/or product recalls.
Autoclaves are used both within the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry both on an individual and industrial scale. It all depends on the need for cleanliness and safety regarding the products being handled and produced. You will find autoclaves in lab testing facilities, pharmaceutical manufacturing areas and within dental and other medical facilities.
Autoclaves allow for the safe sterilization of materials and equipment used such as pharmaceutical trays, forceps, and other medical equipment. On an industrial scale, they may be used to treat testing trays, storage units and other material and goods. This is because autoclaves kill germs and bacteria at a high temperature ensuring a safe working and production environment.
Components of Autoclave Sterilization
Three core components ensure successful autoclave sterilization. These are time, temperature, and steam quality. These three factors ensure surfaces and all items placed within an autoclave are cleaned and sterilized to the highest quality.
- Time: This depends on the items and fluid and debris that must be removed. It is essential to time the placement of items. Long exposure to steam can damage certain materials. It is important to have strong durable items placed within the autoclave, Stainless steel pharmaceutical trays are ideal. Whereas plastics and other material may be damaged.
- Temperature: High temperatures are required to successfully clean products. High temperatures will kill and remove any germs or bacteria that may be present on items. It is important to heed all safety advice when working with autoclaves, but especially industrial-sized units that require high temperatures and power. More on this below.
- Steam quality: The quality and pressure of steam are important. The steam produced must enter the system at a sufficiently high volume to push and blow debris off items. For example, a dentist Autoclave system will have high pressure to kill and clean bacteria present on dental equipment.
Recommended Autoclave temperature
For safe and successful steam sterilization temperatures used are typically 121°C (250°F) and 132°C (270°F) (ref. https://www.cdc.gov/infectioncontrol/guidelines/disinfection/sterilization/steam.html). Almost all microorganisms will be sterilized at this time if temperature and time recommendations are followed.
Any equipment used in the environment needs to be robust at least to these temperatures.
Autoclaves can vary in size depending on the requirements of the user. Within the healthcare industry autoclaves can be quite small and fit into a dentist or GP office and be used to sterilize personal medical equipment. Within the pharmaceutical and manufacturing industry autoclaves can be quite large depending on the facilities and the usage of the autoclaves. Autoclaves can be designed and built to a client’s particular requirements.
Within the pharmaceutical industry, autoclaves can be designed to hold upwards of 20 trays. This allows for rapid sterilization and an increase in both testing and production.
Well designed and installed autoclaves help reduce costs through automation. Automation also leads to a safer working environment and a reduction in labour costs.
NGS Medical and Pharmaceutical Equipment
NGS is a leader in designing and installing automation production facilities for a diverse range of industries worldwide, including medical, pharmaceutical, ICT, manufacturing etc. The systems provided by NGS include clean rooms, conveyor belt systems, pick and place robotics, bespoke workstations and a range of other equipment designed to improve process efficiency.
The healthcare, pharmaceutical and biotech industries are key industries that NGS supplies to. One area of particular importance is the manufacture of product handling trays (e.g. reusable pharmaceutical trays), dipping baskets and other equipment used in the fabrication process for medical tablets, capsules or vials, IV solution bags.
These trays and baskets are often designed to work with existing production equipment like autoclaves and pick-and place robotics for the automation of processes.