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By Sam - 11th January, 2024 | Posted in Laboratory
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Vertical vs Horizontal – Introduction to Autoclave Loading Styles

Autoclaves are used to sterilise equipment and materials by subjecting them to high-pressure saturated steam to eliminate microorganisms.

A vertical loading autoclave is a sterilisation device with a chamber oriented vertically meanwhile a horizontal loading autoclave is a sterilisation device with a chamber oriented horizontally.

Both vertical and horizontal loading autoclaves offer their own advantages, and the choice between them depends on several factors.

Space and Facility Considerations

When assessing which style of autoclave is best suited to your needs, it’s important to review the physical layout of the space within your facility. Consider your space constraints, workflow, accessibility and sterilisation requirements.

Space Constraints

Vertical-loading autoclaves have a smaller footprint and may be suitable for facilities with limited floor space. If your laboratory has restricted space, a vertical loading autoclave could be a more practical choice as it takes up less horizontal space.

Horizontal-loading autoclaves on the other hand, generally have a larger footprint but can accommodate larger loads. If your facility has ample horizontal space, a horizontal autoclave might be more suitable, especially if there’s a need to process large or bulky items.

Workflow and Accessibility

Loading and unloading items in a vertical autoclave typically involves less bending and reaching. This can be advantageous if there are concerns about operator strain or if the autoclave is placed in a location where it’s not easy to access the chamber at ground level.

Horizontal-loading autoclaves have a chamber that opens horizontally, allowing for easier loading and unloading of larger or heavier items. If your workflow involves processing substantial quantities of materials or large equipment, this style of autoclave may be more suitable for your use case.

Sterilisation Requirements

Vertical-loading autoclaves are suitable for sterilising upright items including liquids in tall containers and small, packaged items. They may be preferred for certain types of laboratory equipment.

Horizontal-loading autoclaves on the other hand are better suited for sterilising large and bulkier items, including media, glassware, and other equipment which might not fit in a vertical autoclave.Vertical vs horizontal loading autoclaves

Load Capacity and Volume 

Another variable to consider when deciding on your vertical or horizontal loading autoclave is your load capacity and volume requirements.

Our smallest horizontal loading autoclave for laboratory applications which we supply together in partnership with Steelco offers up to 11 standard chamber sizes with a volume ranging from 110 to 920 litres. For facilities requiring a larger steriliser, we also offer bulk-capacity autoclaves designed with up to 11 standard chamber sizes with a volume ranging from 920 to 9.070 litres.

Our range of vertical loading compact autoclaves, the VS LD range is designed with a chamber volume ranging from 85-125 litres. This is ideal for facilities that still require maximum performance with the use of minimal space.

Types of Materials and Equipment

Vertical and horizontal loading autoclaves can accommodate different types of materials, and their suitability depends on the specific requirements of the items needing to be sterilised.

Vertical loading autoclaves are commonly used to sterilise glassware, culture media, laboratory instruments, biological waste and pipette tips and tubes meanwhile horizontal autoclaves are typically used to sterilise large instruments, bulk materials, media and glassware.

It’s important to note that the choice between vertical and horizontal autoclaves depends on factors such as the size, shape, and nature of the materials being sterilised.

Loading and Unloading Procedures

Loading and unloading processes in autoclaves can vary based on their orientation, whether vertical or horizontal.

Vertical loading autoclaves have a top-loading design which allows items to be easily retrieved without excessive bending or stretching. Horizontal autoclaves on the other hand offer a front-loading design, making it easier for personnel to load and unload items without excessive reaching or lifting.

Vertical vs horizontal autoclaves

Autoclave Maintenance and Care

Maintenance requirements and ease of cleaning are important considerations for both horizontal and vertical loading autoclaves with both being key elements in helping to protect their life span.

Here at Sychem, we offer several customisable service solutions to ensure your autoclave continues operating at its highest possible potential with weekly, quarterly, biannual and annual testing.

With a team of over 35 highly skilled service and test personnel stationed throughout the UK, we provide the necessary equipment checks and tests required to ensure your equipment continues to operate to recognised industry standards. 

Conclusion and Decision-Making

The choice between a vertical and horizontal loading autoclave entails numerous considerations all of which are important when making your final decision between the two different styles.

Ultimately, the choice between vertical and horizontal loading autoclaves depends on the specific needs of the facility, size and available space, load capacity and volume requirements and the nature of items needing to be sterilised.

If you’re still unsure about which style of autoclave would best suit your facility, we have a team of experts available to support you.

Contact us today to discuss your requirements, and let us help design the perfect bespoke solution tailored to your facility’s requirements.


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