Biosafety Cabinets (BSC): Enhancing Efficiency and Adaptability

insights from industrySeth DePenningMarketing ManagerNuAire, Inc.

This interview with Seth De Penning provides valuable insights into the essential role of Biological Safety Cabinets (BSCs) in ensuring personnel safety and environmental protection. De Penning highlights NuAire's standout features, including configurability and extended HEPA filter lifespan.

Please could you outline what a Biological Safety Cabinet (BSC) is and how these devices are used?

A biological safety cabinet is a piece of equipment designed to contain hazardous airborne particles, ensuring the safety of personnel and their surroundings during various processes. These cabinets are essential in environments where a controlled space is needed, such as in microbiology laboratories and drug compounding pharmacies.

What characteristics of the Nuaire BSC make it a stand-out device on the market?

NuAire seeks to differentiate its biological safety cabinets by offering a configurable product with a competitive total cost of ownership. We achieve this by offering a portfolio of BSCs that give the customer a choice in control panels, work access opening heights, work zone configurations, base stand options, and much more. Regardless of the configuration selected, we minimize expensive HEPA filter changes by using a blower-motor and plenum combination that can overcome filter loading for a long time, resulting in an attractive long term cost of ownership.  

What are HEPA filters, and how do they impact the performance and design of BSCs in terms of cost, safety, and downtime?

HEPA filters are what clean the air that a biosafety cabinet exhausts, and, in the case of Class II BSCs, the air that flows down into the interior where the work is done. The frequency with which these filters are changed will impact the amount of time the BSC is out of use for service and the amount the lab must spend on maintenance.  

What is the conventional lifespan of BSCs, and what is the relationship between HEPA filter loading and the lifespan of the filters?

The NSF/ANSI 49 standard for biosafety cabinets estimates a 15 year BSC lifecycle. However, over that lifetime HEPA filters will have to be changed from time to time. Recall that biosafety cabinets use a motor to move air in various ways for specific purposes. In the case of a Class II BSC, this includes not only creating inflow at the front of the cabinet to keep particulate from flowing out towards the user and the surrounding room, but also pushing air through the supply HEPA filter into the work zone and pushing air past the exhaust HEPA filter so it exits the BSC.  Over time, the HEPA filters become more and more filled with particulate. This makes it harder for the motor to push the air through. Eventually, the HEPA filters become so saturated they must be replaced with clean ones that the motor can force enough air through. The need for filter changes will probably be determined by a certifier during cabinet certification or perhaps another service call.

What are the potential cost savings associated with a cabinet that effectively extends the life of HEPA filters?

A well engineered biosafety cabinet can make up for HEPA filter saturation by using a well designed plenum to evenly distribute the particulate and a motor with enough power that can be turned up over time to continue pushing air through the filters. This means a longer amount of time will pass between each filter change, reducing the frequency of this expensive maintenance process throughout the BSC’s lifetime.

What other factors besides HEPA filter loading compensation should be considered when purchasing a cabinet for specific applications?

Configurability. When investing in a biosafety cabinet you need to take the long view not just in terms of cost of ownership, as we’ve discussed, but also in terms of how suitable the cabinet is for your application. Good manufacturers offer a range of standard and custom options to build the cabinet around your process, so you don’t spend the next decade or more trying to force-fit your procedures into your cabinet.  

About Seth DePenning 

Seth De Penning is the Marketing Manager at NuAire,Inc., a leading manufacturer of biosafety cabinets, and has a decade of experience working in commercial roles in the biosafety cabinet industry.

He has spoken on the topic of biosafety cabinets to audiences in both Latin America and Asia and holds three professional certifications from the International Federation of Biosafety Associations (IFBA).

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