Autoclaves use high-pressure and high-temperature steam to guarantee complete sterilization and the destruction of even heat-resistant bacteria. The temperature of the steam inside their chamber can reach well over 100 degrees since the higher pressure also raises the boiling point of water (and thus steam).
This allows them to either make medical waste harmless before it can be transported away or disposed of, or to sterilize certain tools and medical equipment so they can be used again to treat patients without any infections risks to them or medical staff.
As for the different types of autoclave machines, they can mostly be differentiated by 2 main factors: class (efficiency and types of loads handled), as well as size (chamber capacity).
Types of autoclave machines used for sterilization – according to class
1. Class N autoclave
Class N autoclave is the lowest class device. According to European standard EN 13060, since 2004 it can be used only as an auxiliary unit. Sterilizer of this class does not have a vacuum pump (which is present in higher class autoclaves), so only instruments with a solid structure can be sterilized within such device. It is also not possible to sterilize hollow or porous cartridges or sterilize items in packages. Class N sterilizers also do not have an effective drying option, unlike more advanced autoclaves.
2. Class S autoclave
Class S autoclave is an intermediate class between N and B. Within such device we can sterilize more complex instruments, B type batches, except for instruments of capillary construction (A type batches). Class S allows the sterilization of single-packed, multilayer packed and more massive instruments, which cannot be sterilized in class N autoclaves. Autoclaves of this class have a vacuum pump, which makes it possible to completely remove the air from the chamber before starting the sterilization process. However, only a single-stage pre-vacuum is used here; it is less effective than the vacuum used in class B autoclaves.
3. Class B autoclave
Class B autoclaves are the most advanced steam sterilizers. These are certified MEDICAL DEVICES USED IN BEAUTY PARLOURS, tattoo studios, private dental parlours, even in hospitals and large clinics. They also meet all the sanitary-epidemiological requirements. They can sterilize all types of batches, even the most complex ones. Class B autoclave, thanks to fractionated pre-vacuum, completely removes air from the chamber. It is the most effective modern technique of sterilization of all types of tools.
Types of autoclave machines used for sterilization – according to size
1.Small tabletop autoclaves
Smaller dental or other clinics probably will not have the same amount of space available as hospitals, and won’t even generate as much waste, or use as many tools. Their capacity is about 25 liters.
2.Medium autoclave machines
Ideal for larger medical facilities that need a steam sterilizer that can handle more materials at a time, but still does not take up as much space, such as operating theaters in hospitals. Their capacity ranges from 75 to 200 lit
Specifically developed for laboratory sterilisation applications, Vertical Autoclaves, make the process easier, safer, more precise, reproducible and easier to validate. The compact and space-saving design of the Vertical Autoclave makes them great for cramped laboratories, where space is at a premium, and the increased chamber height (up to 50% more capacity) means they can handle most standard media bottles, and Erlenmeyer flasks.
When safety and contamination are a concern, a Pass-Through Autoclave is a must. Mostly found in biological laboratories and production facilities, the Pass-Through Autoclave acts as a sterilisation chamber enabling the transfer of materials and products from the laboratory to the outside environment, safely. The ‘machine side’ (sterilisation chamber) is located on the laboratory side (sterile environment) of the wall, where various items can be loaded for the sterilisation process, and retrieved on the other side (non-sterile), clean and free of contaminants.