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For the average layperson, a glovebox is that black hole where we stash the woefully never-to-be-read car manual, and vehicle registration papers that are always hard to find amidst all the other miscellaneous items thrown in often without much thought.

On a much more scientific level though, the glovebox is an important and highly maintained item used in the manufacturing world for enclosing 3D printing and welding production processes. These enclosures are also used in the production of the following:

  • Semiconductors
  • Solar cells
  • LEDs
  • Lithium ion batteries
  • A range of medical devices
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Chemicals

The glovebox is often filled with gas such as argon or nitrogen. This allows the atmosphere to remain non-reactive, non-volatile, and inert. Operators within the manufacturing process are usually responsible for filling, monitoring, and purging the gas. There are four downfalls to these manual procedures though:

  • Substantial fluctuations can occur while low volume lots are being processed or tools are being changed.
  • The operators must be highly trained regarding safety, leading to concerns if someone else is operating the process on an off day.
  • Argon and nitrogen can be expensive.
  • Logs notated on a computer or by hand are much less effective than digitized processes which can log data by the second.

In response to the need to replace manual processes with digital, Inert and Siemens have partnered to create the PureLab HE 4GB 2500 glovebox system. It is already in use at universities and labs performing assembly, welding, 3D printing, and more. The PureLab glovebox measures 10 x 6 x 3.5 ft, with an interior work area of 8 x 3 x 2.5 ft. It is made out of steel and can handle 550 pounds on each of its four or six casters. Not only that, the system is modular so that researchers and manufacturers can add on to it easily, as needed.

Inert also included the SIMATIC S7-1200 programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and SIMATIC human-machine interface (HMI) color panels in this glovebox, allowing for precise regulation of temperature and airflow. All systems can be managed from one interface, and are customized regarding language and protocol for specific users. Remote access is available as well.

“As device and system designers and manufacturers around the world are being pushed by mil/aero OEMs to assist them in meeting their commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS), and Size, Weight, Power and Cost (SWaP-C) objectives (while still meeting their stringent quality standards such as defined by AS9100)―as well as by medical OEMs to meet the revised regulatory standards of ISO 13485:2016―so too are their facilities and assembly lines advancing,” states Inert in a recent press release.

“While clean room technology is ever-present, an often-overlooked solution to various manufacturing challenges is the micro-environment commonly referred to as ‘the glovebox.’ With today’s levels of hermetic achievement and digital control, they’re now at the forefront of things to watch evolve in tomorrow’s advanced manufacturing centers.”

Find out more about the Inert and Siemens’ partnership here.

What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts! Join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com.

[Images: Inert]

 

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