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Bench-Top Centrifuges--Basic Tools for the Small Lab

No matter how elementary or advanced, every clinical laboratory possesses one essential devicea centrifuge. It may be a bench-top or floor model, refrigerated or non-cooled, but this apparatus, because of its unique ability to fractionate liquid specimens by creating spin-induced high g-forces, has long been a standard tool for both diagnosis and research applications. For all this utility, these machines are true workhorses, usually providing trouble-free service for many thousands of cycles over many years of steady use.

For those considering a replacement or initial purchase, however, here is a brief overview of several of the most popular bench-top models suitable for the small laboratory. All are manufactured by medical device firms with longstanding reputations for quality and reliability.

At the entry point of its centrifuge line, the Drucker Company, Philipsburg, Penn., produces the Model 614B as its most affordable basic centrifuge. The device is designed for the small lab or doctors office and, the company says, is the quietest small lab centrifuge on the market today. The 45-degree angle rotor will hold six test tubes of up to 15ml (up to 17mm x 125mm). The unit has a lid safety switch and is UL/CSA compliant. It includes a 30-minute timer, a double encased, brushless motor and a clear lid with a safety switch.

Thermo Electron Corporation, Milford, Mass., characterizes its Medilite microcentrifuge as the ideal choice for routine, low-volume centrifugation of blood and urine. Each Medilite comes complete with a 45-degree angle rotor and a full set of standard shields.

The device is designed with an integral 30-minute timer and accepts a variety of tube sizes up to 15 mL. This centrifuge also features a maintenance-free brushless motor and incorporates a power interrupt design for user safety. Optional aero-shields are available for aerosol containment

BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company), Franklin Lakes, N.J., m anufactures the ADAMS Compact II Centrifuge, designed especially for the small laboratory. The angle rotor on this device accommodates 2 ml -15 ml tubes and operates at a fixed speed of approximately 3,200 RPM (1315 RCF).

This unit has an attached, durable cover with safety interlock switch and seals that minimize aerosol emissions. Its 30-minute timer includes a hold position for continuous operation. The brushless motor and housing design minimize container temperature increases during operation, helping to protect specimen analytes

The 13-pound device rests on three rubber suction feet for good stability on the bench-top, where its small size (diameter 11, height 15) allows it to fit easily.

For labs that sometimes require high-speed centrifuging and more sophisticated features, Kendro Laboratory Products, Asheville, N.C., produces the Primo model as part of its extensive Sorvall line of centrifuges. This centrifuge offers great flexibility because it can function as a microcentrifuge, a high-speed and a general-purpose centrifuge in one instrument. A similar Primo R (refrigerated) model is also available. Both devices are available with a wide choice of rotors and adapters for tubes from 0.2 to100 ml and both produce speeds of from 300 to 15,000 rpm.

The devices include an automatic rotor recognition system and electronic imbalance protection. (Primo instruments accept fixed-angle, swinging bucket and micro-liter rotors.) The Highconic 6 x 50 ml fixed-angle rotor allows the centrifugation of conical cell culture vessels at up to 10,000 x g, while a high-performance 24-place microliter rotor rapidly accelerates 1.5 or 2 ml tubes to a maximum RCF of 21,885 x g. Both rotors are autoclavable to 121C.

Process control is via the EASYcontrol II panel, which displays all operational and run parameters. Time, speed and RCF values are set using a touch-pad, with two acceleration and nine braking curves available for sensitive sampl es. A quick-run key is also available for short spins.

Among its wide range of clinical and research laboratory centrifuges, Beckman Coulter, Inc., Fullerton, Calif., offers the SPINCHRON 15 centrifuge, designed to provide versatility and high capacity for full-service clinical lab needs.

The unit is available in a non-refrigerated model with a speed up to 14,500 rpm and refrigerated model with a speed up to 15,300 rpm. Both have the ability to spin tubes, plates and rotors for a wide variety of applications. The devices feature a versatile, four-position, swinging bucket rotor with a flexible adapter system that can accommodate virtually all popular sizes of tubes and bottles up to 180 mL. Additional rotors are available in a variety of fixed-angle configurations ranging from six positions of 30 mL capacity to 60 positions designed for 1.5 and 2.0 mL microcentrifuge tubes A two-position micro-plate rotor handles six micro-titer plates. Additional features include a brushless, maintenance-free drive system, a door interlock system and a self-balancing drive mechanism. Combined, these features make the devices quiet, long-lived and safe.

Whichever specific set of features a clinician requires in a centrifuge is likely available in the vast array of these devices now on the market. This seemingly mundane machine has grown increasingly complex, as molecular and genetic applications have demanded higher speeds and more precise controls. More basic models serve most needs, however, and are well built, affordable and highly dependable, assuring many years of service.

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