US 3618734 A
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Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent  inventor Waheed N. Khan Silver Spring, Md.
[2i] Appl. No. 831,957
 Filed June 10, 1969  Patented Nov. 9, 1971  Assignee Research Foundation of Children s Hospital of the District at Columbia Washington, [LC
 SPECIMEN INCUBATOR 127.142; 119/15. 35 153/15, 51, s4;2|/s0; 34/205, 21 l, 2 i6, 233; 99/182  Reterences Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 2,325,368 7Il943 Christensen l95/i42 2,703,570 3/l955 Young i l9/i5 3,002,895 l0/l96l Freedman I 95/ i 43 3,302,6l5 2/i967 Tietje I l9/l5 Primary Examiner-Alvin E. Taneuhoitz Anomey.l. Gibson Semmes ABSTRACT: A specimen incubator including a closed cabinet having an access opening which can be selectively opened and closed, and wherein are mounted a plurality of specimen support trays movable in a path in the cabinet in a manner for selective placement of any given tray at the access opening, and further including means for controllably circulating a gaseous medium in the cabinet with means provided to preclude entrance of external atmosphere into the incubator under open conditions thereof, the incubator preferably including pluralities of specimen support trays in vertically separate tiers, and movement of the trays in the individual tiers being individually separately controllable.
SHEET 1 [1F 2 PATENTEDNOV 91971 SPECIMEN INCUBATOR BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION Heretofore, specimen incubator systems and arrangements in facilities such as hospitals, laboratories and the like, such as used in microbiological studies, for example, have been cumbersome and inconvenient in structure and placement within a facility. In many such known installations a centrally located communally used area was provided which, in many instances, required a substantial amount of a technician's time in transporting specimens to the area, and in such areas the arrangement was such that placement and arrangement of the specimens, observation thereof, removal for study and reporting required considerable periods of time, and in many instances necessitated inconvenient operations of a tedious nature. In such hitherto known arrangements there was, accordingly, a very substantial time loss factor for the laboratory technicians, as well as a highly undesirable delay in obtaining results of specimen culturing, studies, and reporting, with possible serious results stemming therefrom.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION It is a principle feature of the present invention to provide a specimen incubator of the nature in question, which overcomes drawbacks and undesirable features in previous known systems or installations, and which provides a self-contained incubator having such dimensions, construction and operation as to be easily placed in one or more convenient locations for use, and which is capable of holding a plurality of test specimens in such a manner that they are easily accessible for placement, observation, and removal at areas readily and quickly available for a technician. Time delays in overall incubation time and obtaining results thereof is substantially minimized, and results can be made available much more rapidly with a very substantial saving in technicians time. The present invention permits easy insertion and removal of a plurality of individual specimens in the incubator, and incorporates means operable in such a manner as to render each individual specimen readily and easily accessible to a technician. The invention also includes a structure whereby external atmosphere, which might invite contamination within an incubator, is precluded when an access opening into the incubator is used for insertion or removal of a test specimen.
Other and additional objects of the invention will be more readily understood from the following detailed description of an embodiment thereof when taken together with the accompanying drawings, in which:
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an incubator according to the invention, arranged on a support, and showing an access door in closed position;
FIG. 2 is a vertical elevational view of the incubator with a frzmt wall removed to disclose a specimen tray arrangement and schematically air circulation flow;
FIG. 3 is a horizontal sectional view of the invention generally on line 3-3 of FIG. 2, parts being broken away, and disclosing in greater clarity the arrangement of air circulating means including a spacing shelf and circulation apertures therein;
FIG. 4 is a fragmentary vertical sectional view illustrating structure adapted to maintain desired atmospheric conditions within the incubator with an open access door;
FIG. 5 is a fragmentary enlarged sectional view generally along line 55 of FIG. 4, with the access door closed;
FIG. 6 is a view similar to FIG. 5 with the access door open;
FIG. 7 is an enlarged fragmentary view disclosing a portion of drive mechanism for specimen trays or containers, shown operatively connected thereto;
FIG. 8 is a vertical sectional view of a specimen tray and specimen tube-supporting means thereon;
FIG. 9 is a top plan view of the tray of FIG. 8;
FIG. 10 is a view similar to FIG. 9 showing a modified specimen tube support; and
FIG. 11 is a fragmentary schematic plan view showing drive mechanism for specimen trays, taken generally along lines 11-11 ofFIG. 7.
Referring now in detail to the drawings, the incubator of the present invention, generally designated 20, includes a cabinet 22 adapted for placement on any suitable support such as shown for example in broken lines at 24. Inspection and viewing windows 26 are provided in the front and rear of the cabinet to permit readily viewing the interior of the cabinet and these windows can, if desired, be provided with tinted glass for light control. Access doors 28 are provided in the front and rear sides of the cabinet, and are selectively closable by means of sliding glass, or other transparent material, doors or panels 30, and having operating handles 32. Any suitable support and guide track means can be provided for the sliding doors 30, and preferably maintain a relatively tight sealing engagement with these doors to insure controlled atmospheric conditions within the incubator.
A plurality of vertically spaced shelves 34 are mounted in the cabinet, and can, if desired, be removable. The shelves have a plurality of circulation openings 36 therethrough, to permit airflow and circulation in the cabinet and the inner compartmented structure thereof.
A plurality of specimen trays 38 are arranged in vertically spaced tiers as shown in FIG. 2, above the respective shelves 34, and are adapted to be moved, selectively in the individual tiers, in paths 40 whereby the individual trays can be positioned at one of the access doors 28 for specimen placement in the trays or removal therefrom by an operator or technician. The individual trays can consist of generally cylindrical shaped containers 42 having closed bottoms 44 and open tops 46. The sides of the cylinders are open as indicated at 48 for access to the tray, and additionally for viewing of specimens placed therein. Shafts 50 are afiixed to the bottoms of the trays by any desired means such as by hubs 52, the shafts depending vertically downwardly from the trays. Movement of the trays along the paths, in each of the tiers, and support of the individual trays, will be readily apparent from FIG. 11 of the drawings. Upper and lower link chains 54 and 56 are supported on hubbed sprockets 58 and 60 supported on the shelves in spaced positions along the paths, and in the embodiment shown at the four corners of the paths. The sprocket wheels engage in the chain link openings in a usual manner for operatively driving the chains. Chain tensioners 62 are mounted at the corners of the paths to properly maintain driving tension on the chains, and to give adequate support for the containers. The specimen trays or containers have their shafts 50 inserted in spaced ones of open chain link connecting pins 64 of the chains. The provision of the upper and lower chain runs serve to support the specimen trays, through the shafts 50, in a vertical position, and, additionally, as the chains are moved in the respective paths will convey the individual specimen trays around the paths in an obvious manner.
The drive means whereby the chains and trays can be moved includes motor 66 and gear reduction box 68, supported on brackets 70 or the like. Output shaft 72 is connected to one-half of a separable pin-type coupling, generally designated 74, with the lowermost portion thereof being operatively spring tensioned by spring 76 into coupling relationship with the upper portion thereof. A handle 78 connected to the lowermost coupling part is adapted for manual movement thereof, as indicated by the arrow in FIG. 7, for manual coupling or uncoupling. A handwheel 81 is connected to shaft 80 of the sprockets, as is the uppermost portion of the coupling, and upon disengagement of the coupling with the handwheel can be used for manual movement of the specimen trays along the paths. As will be seen, drive means for the different sets of chains are individually provided and, as will be pointed out hereinafter, are selectively and individually operable for separate movement of the different sets of trays. Obviously, only one drive mechanism is needed for each of the sets of chains.
In addition to the foregoing described important feature, whereby any individual specimen tray can be brought to a position in front of one of the access doors, it is also of substantial importance that means be provided for ensuring that the ambient atmosphere within the incubator be maintained uniform throughout at the proper temperature, with means also being incorporated for filtering of air within the incubator. To this end, a fan blower 82 is mounted in the cabinet, including a motor and fan as shown in FIG. 2, and within, as regards the fan, a housing 84 within which is also mounted filter 86 and resistance heater 88. The inlet end of housing 84 is open to permit air within the incubator to enter and be driven by the fan through the filter and over the heater toward a clos ing flange 90 or the like having, in the embodiment shown, two openings 92 in proximity to the periphery thereof, to which are connected conduits 94 which extend to proximity with access doors 28, and terminate in perforated end conduit sections 96. The flange 90 is also provided with a centrally disposed air opening 96. The arrangement of the conduits and opening is such that, dependent upon operation of other components of the incubator, a flow of air is established as indicated by the arrows through the confines of the incubator when the access doors are closed, and when the access doors are open will create an air film or curtain across the access openings to prevent entry of outside air into the incubator. Means, as will appear hereinafter, are provided to restrict airflow through the perforated conduit sections 96 when the doors are closed. Under normal operation of the incubator, it is desirable to maintain a temperature therein in the neighborhood of 37 C. although, as will be readily understood, this can be varied as dictated by operating requirements for the incubator. Control of the air heater effects this operation.
Cages 98 are attached to the cabinet around the access openings and within which the access doors 28 are slidably contained and in sealing relationship with respect to the interior and exterior of the cabinet. An air inlet opening 100 is provided in each of the conduits 94 at its juncture point with the perforated end sections 94A. The doors have valve plates 102 formed as extensions thereof, or as plates affixed thereto, and which are operable upon closing of an access door to obturate air inlet openings 100 to preclude airflow from the conduit into and through the perforated sections. The doors when closed additionally prevent entrance of exterior air into the incubator. Airflow to form the film or curtain upon opening a door is indicated by arrows 104 in FIGS. 1 and 2. Circulation within the incubator is possible by means of, including, the apertures 36, the flow being indicated by arrows 106. If desired, air leakage can be provided for in connection with the air inlet opening 100 and plate valve 102 to further ensure against entry ofexterior air into the incubator.
Control of operation of the incubator is accomplished by a plurality of switches mounted on the exterior of the cabinet generally as indicated at 108. Motor switch sets M8,, M8 and MS, are operatively connected to respective ones of motors 66 to operate the chains in the various tiers. The motors being reversible, the left-hand ones of the switch buttons will operate the chains in one direction, and conversely the righthand switches will operate the chains in the other direction. The blower motor is operated by switch B and resistance heater is actuated by switch T. This is a variable temperature switch or rheostat, the control factor being indicated generally at 110 in FIG. 2,
If desired, the shelves 34 can be provided with upraised ridges 112, FIG. 3, and boxes 114 adapted to contain specimen material or the like can be supported on the shelves, and restrained thereon by means ofthe ridge.
Referring to FIGS. 8-10 inclusive, means can be incorporated for supporting test tubes or the like. In FIGS. 8 and 9 this includes an upper open ring 116 and a closed bottom cup 118. In the modification shown in FIG. 10, the upper ring is replaced by a spring clip 120 of a known construction, and
serves to increase stability of a supported test tube From the foregoing description, it will be readily seen that the incubator of the invention permits quick and easy disposition of any specimen within the incubator for easy access at the front and rear sides by operation of the various motor control switches. The condition of the air within the incubator is also readily controllable by means of the door structures and the control means for the air flow within the incubator in the manner hereinbefore described.
Under certain conditions, it is desirable to have a controllable carbon dioxide content within the incubator. To this end, a supply of carbon dioxide, not shown, can be introduced into the incubator by manipulation of C0, button C.
It will be apparent that the present incubator has desirable small dimensions adapted to contain a plurality of specimens, each of which is readily available through easy access means, and the size of the incubator permits plural placement in desirable use areas. The multiplicity of specimens which can be placed in such an incubator in a centrally located position saves a substantial amount of time in a technician s placement or removal to increase available incubation time. This saving in time results in speeding up operations where quick results are desired, such as in sensitivity tests and the like, due to minimizing time required following taking a specimen and placement in an incubator, and subsequent observation, and saving in overall reporting time. The number of technicians required under normal operating conditions is very substantially reduced due to the convenience and operation of, and selective placement of a plurality of these incubators.
Manifestly, minor changes can be effected in the invention without departing from the spirit and scope thereof, as defined in, and limited solely by the appended claims.
1. A specimen incubator comprising:
A. a closed cabinet having an access opening;
B. means to selectively open and close said opening;
C. a plurality of vertically spaced shelves having openings therein within said cabinet;
D. a plurality of individually tiered arrays of specimen support trays above said shelves, means for mounting said trays for movement along a path within said cabinet and means operable for selective placement of any of said trays at said opening;
E. housed controllable gas circulating means, comprising a selectively operable fan and gas flow conduit leading from said housed means and terminating in a perforated end-portion positioned exteriorly on the said cabinet adjacent to said access opening; and
F. said gas-circulating means operable when the closure means are opened to thereby prevent entrance of external atmosphere into the said cabinet.
2. A specimen incubator as claimed in claim 1, wherein the closure means for said access opening comprises a slidable door in sealing engagement with said access opening when in closed position, said conduit having an air opening therein preceding said perforated end portion, said door having a plate valve thereon adapted for insertion in said air opening in said conduit with said door in closed position to preclude flow through said perforations, and said housing having an opening therein for directing gas medium flow therefrom into the interior of the cabinet and through the shelf openings for circulation through and about the cabinet interior in a recirculating cycle of the medium.
3. A specimen incubator as claimed in claim 2, and further including a filter and an adjustable heater in said housing for filtration and temperature control of the gaseous medium circulated within said cabinet.