There are a good number of tabletop autoclaves on the market positioned as “affordable” benchtop laboratory autoclaves. Typically priced below $10,000 and often sold by reputable dealers, these look like a great deal.
Unfortunately, when serious researchers purchase these “economical” autoclaves for sophisticated research purposes, they are frequently disappointed. These less expensive units are essentially repackaged porous-load dental autoclaves, best suited to low-throughput healthcare and similar settings. Their controls and piping hinder common research tasks, such as liquid sterilization, growth media prep, and waste processing. Their design means that these low-cost medical-grade units—which might last a decade in a dental clinic—frequently have a functional laboratory lifespan of less than five years. On the other hand, purpose-built research grade autoclaves typically continue reliable operation for 15 years or more.
Tabletop Autoclave Red Flags
When shopping for a research-grade tabletop autoclave, watch out for the following “features”—they often mean that the model you’re looking at is a medical autoclave being marketed for laboratory use!
The following features and phrases should raise red flags:
- Fast drying or auto dry. Usually means the chamber will be depressurized at some point in the cycle, which is bad news if you need to prep growth media or liquids.
- Pre-set programs: If there is an emphasis on factory-set programs you will likely be restricted to cycles most useful in a medical clinic. Look for phrases like “fixed cycles” or “pre-set programs.”
- Self-Contained or “Auto fill”: This very likely means that the sterilizer has no drain or fresh water inlet. It likely recirculates water, and is unacceptable for most waste processing.
- Medical terminology: If the brochure says the unit is also suitable for medical use, then it it’s unlikely to last long in a research or quality assurance application.
- FDA Approved. Sterilizers with FDA approval are intended for medical applications first, research activities second.
Priorclave Tabletop Sterilizer Options
Priorclave offers two benchtop autoclaves, each designed from the start for small-scale laboratory and research applications. The smallest of these, at 40 liters in capacity, will easily fit on a standard 30” countertop, yet still offers all the features of a full-size research autoclave:
They are fully programmable with electronic logging, ETL-listed, and have ASME-rated pressure vessels constructed of 316L stainless steel. Each vessel has a 15-year warranty, and the unit comes with lifetime technical support. Owing to their rugged design, these benchtop research-grade autoclaves have a lower total lifetime cost than the more common “affordable” options.