Additive manufacturing (AM), commonly called 3D printing, isn’t just for rocket scientists anymore. Its use has increased exponentially as companies and researchers discover useful applications and innovative methods. Availability of equipment and supplies for performing three-dimensional printing is becoming almost commonplace; it’s just a matter of time before retailers start to offer 3D printing services, or a few mavericks begin to do it in their homes (broken coffee cup? No problem; I’ll just make another one!).
Prominently featured in the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry, a barrier isolator creates an aseptic environment for compounding parenteral (injectable), ophthalmic, and inhaled medications. Due to the significant risk posed by microbiological contamination, the critical area where the compounding takes place requires protection beyond that of a typical laboratory glovebox.
Since the first publication of USP’s General Chapter <797> Pharmaceutical Compounding—Sterile Preparations, compounding aseptic isolators (CAI) have offered the most economical alternative to constructing a dedicated cleanroom for sterile compounding. However, pharmaceutical compounding standards have undergone a major overhaul in recent years, including a developing revision of USP 797.
Glove boxes were first used in the 1940s as controlled environments for the military to research radioactive materials. These special controlled environments increased in popularity as the medical field began handling viruses and other pathogens for the creation of vaccines and pharmaceuticals.
These days, a number of glove box configurations are used in even more unimaginable ways that impact our lives. The following are just a few surprising glove box practices.
What Is a Glove Box?
Sometimes a controlled environment becomes a necessity during the performance of experiments or the handling of certain materials. When this happens, a special device, called an isolation glove box, allows researchers to perform their tasks with materials kept in strict isolation. The positive-pressure box shields materials from damaging environmental elements such as moisture.
But what exactly is a glove box? As its name suggests, it is a sealed box manufactured using materials such as acrylic, static-dissipative PVC or stainless steel that includes two or more gloves, used to handle the contents within. While there are several types of glove boxes, the basic premise behind them all is the same…to give the user the ability to handle substances or objects without breaking strict isolation protocols.
The two main types of glove boxes are “Isolation” and “containment.” The difference depends on what needs protection: the sample inside, or the environment outside. Isolation boxes contain positive pressure; the surplus insert gas is expelled out into the room through valves. Containment boxes are negative pressure – the air must be vented to the outside, or through a filter due to processing hazards created inside (fumes, vapors, dust).
Glove boxes are a common sight in many scientific facilities, mainly in the medical and research fields, but can also be found in unexpected environments. For example, a mobile glove box was included on the Mir space station, where hundreds of specially designed experiments were carried out.