Jim Robinson • Senior VP Product Development at AeroClave
EMTs, ambulance workers, fire fighters, and more are often exposed to invisible pathogens and the threat of infection. In these settings, decontamination is critical for everyone’s safety. Hygienic routines to clean and disinfect surfaces contaminated with biological materials must be quick and easy to use. To help solve these issues AeroClave created its Room and Vehicle Decontamination Systems. The systems all use a non-toxic mist to combat the spread of infectious diseases. One of the first questions however, was how to control the equipment. The AeroClave team needed control and operator interface in a compact package. Additionally, the technology had to be easy to program with the ability to use the same code among different products.
The answer was an IDEC FT1A SmartAXIS Touch PLC+HMI. AeroClave’s disinfection process uses a room-fogging technology to generate a fine mist that reaches into crevices and other hard-to-reach surfaces. Whether it’s an operating room or the interior of an ambulance, the dry disinfecting mist permeates the entire area. The ease and versatility of the interface relies on the FT1A SmartAXIS Touch unit’s intuitive, streamlined interface, which provides a main screen that has a start button to run the unit. All status and error notifications are displayed on the main screen, and to increase accessibility, the screen’s button is context sensitive—when the unit is running, that same button functions as an e-stop.
This PLC+HMI provides control, I/O and operator interface in a single housing. It minimizes space requirements, but also eliminates the need to integrate these different functions. The PLC portion of the unit monitors the flow of both fluid and air during the decontamination process. If either reading falls outside a specific range of values, the system will shut down and the operator will be notified of the error condition. This removes the need for the operator to manually shut the unit down.
Closed-loop control is embedded in the PLC as well as Modbus RTU and TCP IP communications enabling the PLC to adapt to the requirements of the decontamination process.
AeroClave’s systems and processes can be complex in some aspects, particularly in terms of chemical reactions, but they must meet their customers’ demands for ease of use. The HMI portion of the PLC+HM unit shields operators from the system’s complexity with single button activation. This one-button approach is important because most Aeroclave systems are configured once during installation, and can thereafter be operated with an on/off button on the HMI touchscreen.
If the PLC+HMI detects a critical situation, it will automatically shut down. After the operator acknowledges the error, the system will reset and restart on its own. If a problem is encountered, the PLC+HMI logs the anomaly. For ease-of-use, the full help manual is available from HMI touchscreen.
The operator interface of the RDS 3110 also provides remote control, so users can monitor the disinfecting process and analyze critical data without placing themselves in harm’s way or risking contamination.
Part of what the IDEC PLC+HMI brings to the table is a platform allowing AeroClave to quickly and easily modify their equipment. For example, the rapid innovation and design of their Ambulance Decontamination System went from conceptualization to field deployment in less than 90 days, meaning these disinfecting systems were quickly in the hands of professionals.