The importance of gloveboxes has steadily grown from their early years. Now they are part of mainstream manufacturing. But just because they are common doesn't mean they are simple. There are a lot of components involved, and now glovebox manufacturers are finding it wise to offer a basic unit for which customers can choose from a variety of optional components to "customize" their piece of equipment for their application. As Michael Buckwalter of Terra Universal (manufacturer of gloveboxes) stated, " glovebox isn't a one-size-fits-all enclosure…"
Technical journalists like to jump on hot, new, sexy topics like nanotechnology, MEMS, and molecular computing. But there are other essential technologies that are not quite as glamorous and do not receive the press they deserve. Gloveboxes are an excellent example.
The importance of gloveboxes has steadily grown from their early introduction in nucleonics, where they were required for handling radioactive substances, and later in research labs. Since then, the glovebox has expanded into mainstream manufacturing. Gloveboxes really have two basic functions: to protect the worker from substances inside the box and to keep the substances inside the box from ambient contamination.
Gloveboxes consist basically of the enclosure, ports, gloves, and connector systems. Rich Renehan, president of Renco, a supplier of gloves, sleeves, and connector systems, likens glovebox systems to software (gloves) and hardware (the remaining components). “There’s a lot more to gloveboxes than one might think,” explains Renehan. He enumerates: materials (for both hardware and software); a variety of sizes, shapes, and materials for the gloves and sleeves; pressure ports and pressure control; and ESD, ESH (environmental, safety, and health), and ergonomic considerations. Pressure control, for example, is critical. Pressure needs to be
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