Solving the bench space equation
Laboratories nowadays are equipment intensive and require as much bench space as possible. LNI Schmidlin, a provider of gas generators, was challenged by the manager of an Italian food lab to find a solution for his saturated lab bench.
Among several devices, about 13 GC-FIDs were working with several gas generators. The initial choice for having on-site gas generation was motivated by cost savings, safety improvement and a more convenient supply of gas than the traditional and heavy-logistics gas cylinders management.
But it became evident that the efficiency and productivity of the lab reached a limit as the bench occupation became fully saturated, and also because of the higher demand of analytical data. As a lab requires a more complex infrastructure than an office, the expansion into an existing building was found to be very difficult and expensive.
The lab manager was looking to improve the situation and set three goals:
- Develop compact instruments and accessories able to recover space in the lab.
- Maintain analytical instruments’ full performances by providing a continuous, reliable and high-purity hydrogen and air supply for GC-FIDs.
- Provide an industrial solution within only a few weeks after the problem statement.
Talks were conducted between three partners: the lab manager, the LNI Schmidlin R&D team and a large manufacturer company of lab instrumentation. The evaluation was held over several weeks, with the impact of the prototype evaluated on parameters including analytical performance, integration in the lab, maintenance and cost of ownership.
The R&D team investigated and developed the FID Station Plus - a solution based on horizontality, meaning that stacking devices will avoid further bench space ‘consumption’. LNI Schmidlin’s gas generation technology was used and configured into a flat concept.
The enclosure includes a 7 L water tank for up to six months of unattended gas generation when connected to an FID. The innovative design enables any GC device to be positioned above the gas generator.
Different versions of the generator provide hydrogen flow up to 600 mL/min at grade 6 (99.9999%) purity for airflow at 1500 mL/min with HC below 50 ppb. If this is not enough, several generators can be connected.
There was full acceptance of the solution provided and no drawbacks were identified during the validation period. The impact on the lab was considered positive and the prototype was kept in place for continuous operation.
The solution presents a threefold benefit of space savings, cost-effectiveness and improvements in safety. Discussions are now in place to implement the concept in different plants worldwide.
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