© Block

Glove box for maximum safety

Clin­ical purity: this is what the Czech group Block special­izes in. Its product port­folio includes isola­tors that help make cancer medica­tions and vaccines possible.

A clean room in a hospital some­where in the world. A mixture of concen­tra­tion and tension is in the air. The phar­ma­ceu­tical tech­nical assis­tant (PTA) slides her arms into the gloves of the isolator just like she always does. She is producing a cancer medica­tion specially tailored to a patient. Nothing can go wrong now, for the patient’s and her own sake: she works with highly toxic substances. The only thing protecting her is the isolator, which is also known as a glove box.

Jiří Hruboň, Product Manager at Block (Photo | Block)

The box, with its glass panel and gloved open­ings, forms a phys­ical barrier between the PTA and the substances, which are some­times carcino­genic. There­fore, it is impor­tant that she makes no fast move­ments that could tear a glove out of the holder and that the gloves are not damaged. But it does happen.

Block makes sure that the people working at isola­tors are protected anyway. The company with its head­quar­ters in Valašské Meziříčí, Czech Republic has been constructing and equip­ping clean rooms since it was founded in 1991. Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, biotech­nology, medi­cine, science and research, micro­elec­tronics, auto­mo­tive engi­neering and other indus­trial sectors require clin­i­cally clean envi­ron­ments.

In 90 percent of cases, over 500 employees work on tailor-made solu­tions for customers, but a year ago, Block decided to develop three stan­dard­ized isolator types. Jiří Hruboň, Product Manager at Block, describes the chal­lenges this presented, “We had to check the exact customer require­ments that a stan­dard product had to cover, and ensure that it did.”

Safety in the isolator

The most vital and obvious func­tion of an isolator is ensuring the absolute safety of people working on or around it. Yet, it is respon­sible for many other func­tions. For example, if it is not completely sealed, viruses that are being researched could escape and get out of the building. “When devel­oping our prod­ucts, we consider all kinds of acci­dents that could happen, including those that will prob­ably never occur,” says Hruboň. “That’s why we place an emphasis on top-quality compo­nents.”

When devel­oping our prod­ucts, we consider all kinds of acci­dents that could happen, including those that will prob­ably never occur.

Jiří Hruboň, Product Manager at Block

An essen­tial compo­nent of an isolator is the blower. It ensures that there is nega­tive pres­sure in the isolator. This provides assur­ance if barriers become perme­able, such as a defec­tive glove. Due to the lower air pres­sure in the isolator, if this happens, the air flows in from the clean room, stop­ping even the powderiest substances from escaping.

The blower makes the differ­ence

This work­place is a matter of life and death. There­fore, the isolator must be tight and quiet. (Photo | Block)

But the blower is under even more pres­sure to perform: Block equips its isola­tors with a double layer of high-effi­ciency partic­u­late air/arrestance (HEPA) filters, resulting in a very high-pres­sure loss of 350 pascals for each filter.

Even though the blower has to compen­sate for this, it is still not allowed to be noisy. “Users have to perform highly focused work at the isolator for eight hours. Any noise is distracting,” says Hruboň. How loud an isolator is depends on what the room is like. Block calcu­lated and spec­i­fied: the whole isolator may be no louder than 60 deci­bels, i.e. not much louder than a refrig­er­ator.

Clean room special­ists at Block used their expe­ri­ence to obtain a blower that meets all of the require­ments and achieves an air flow of 65 cubic meters per hour at five to six kilo­pas­cals: “We’ve been working with ebm-papst for more than ten years and the prod­ucts have proven them­selves completely,” says Hruboň, 32 years old.

The best blower for stan­dard isola­tors

His colleagues and ebm-papst sales engi­neer Martin Kaštánek’s team worked together to find the best solu­tion for the new stan­dard isola­tors. “We were under a lot of pres­sure, as there is a huge demand for medical prod­ucts, so we had to work quickly,” says Kaštánek.

But the 29-year-old is convinced of the result, “Our blowers even meet the require­ments when they are running at 50 percent of their output, making them partic­u­larly quiet. At full capacity, they have 70 kilo­pas­cals in them.”

The new Block product will soon be used in a clinic in the Czech Republic and protect the health of those producing life-saving medica­tions.

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