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Laboratory Casework

No dearth of options for design and materials used for laboratory cabinetry and storage

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Laboratories are complex workplaces and all require easy to maintain storage cabinets and countertops with appropriate safety mechanisms in place as well as room to satisfy multiple users. Cabinets and countertops must also fulfill the specific needs of the laboratory in terms of accommodating various types of equipment, and they should be able to withstand long-term exposure to various radioactive, biological, and other hazardous materials to which they may be constantly exposed. Cabinetry, or casework, includes base and wall cabinets, storage and supply cabinets. Other components may include fume hoods, sinks and plumbing options, and power outlets.

Choosing the right laboratory cabinetry depends on a number of criteria, including the type of work being done, safety, durability, budget, and long-term plans. Options range from fixed installations to modular cabinets and mobile units and from custom-designed and installed systems to generic units. Modular cabinets can be adjustable and designed to meet changes in procedures, instrumentation, and personnel. Mobile units can be reconfigured by technicians, without the need to wait for maintenance personnel.

Casework can be made of several different materials, including wood, metal, or plastic laminate. Stainless-steel metal cabinets are extremely durable and used in labs with aggressive atmospheres or ones that require decontamination. Wood casework, usually made of oak, birch, or highgrade plywood, is useful in all types of commercial, industrial, and research laboratories. It offers a traditional decor, provides a stable base for equipment, and can withstand decades of use. Plastic laminate is economical and offered in colors and patterns that blend with or accent any decor. Phenolic resin cabinets are very durable and can be used in custom configurations. They are useful in wet or corrosive environments. Polypropylene cabinets, while high in cost, are useful in metal-free and corrosive environments. Mobile benches, made of high-grade steel, can be useful when flexibility and mobility are required.

Countertops experience the most day-to-day use, and abuse, in laboratories and should be chosen to withstand the work being conducted. There are more than ten categories of countertop materials used, including epoxy resin, solid phenolics, plastic laminate, stainless steel, and natural stone, as well as wood or wood composites, calcium silicate, ceramics, and modified plastic composites. Although no material is impervious to everything and suitable for every application, there are a number of options now available that help researchers meet their specifications for unique applications. Casework manufacturers and other vendors often work with researchers to help customize the designs and choose materials best suited for their budgets and applications.

Tanuja Koppal, PhD, is a freelance science writer and consultant based in Randolph, N.J.

Case Systems
The new CaseQ program is designed to offer laboratory customers guaranteed quicker delivery. Regardless of an order’s size, standard shipping from Case Systems’ facility is guaranteed in four weeks of completed order information receipt. The CaseQ offering includes laminate base, wall, hutch, tall, mobile cabinets, as well as work surfaces with the addition of popular accessories. The program further combines the most popular model numbers and sizes with the most frequently ordered Wilsonart color selections. It serves to benefit the renovation demands of laboratories served by Case Systems, Inc.

Kewaunee Scientific
The Research Collection of steel casework offers eight styles of steel inset and overlay casework as well as stainless steel casework. While the steel casework is rugged, strong, heavy gauge steel, full-frame construction, it is also beautifully finished with a VOC-free, acid-resistant powder coat finish. Signature Series wood casework is engineered and fabricated to exacting specifications. The casework is available using NAF, FSC-certified, hardwood plywood with Oak or Maple veneers. The EarthLine cabinet line is designed specifically to reduce the impact on the environment, and to contribute points to the US Green Building Council’s LEED program. The company’s casework is manufactured in Statesville, North Carolina.

Eagle Group
These stainless steel countertops are made of high-performance, 16 gauge, type 304 stainless steel and are constructed under rigorous sanitation standards. They possess excellent stain-resistant properties, along with resistance to a wide range of chemicals and corrosives. Durable construction allows them to exceed most load capacities. Standard countertop models are offered in a width of 30 inches and in lengths ranging from 35 inches to 144 inches. All countertops are die-formed and feature either square or boxed-marine front edges. Backsplashes are available with turndown and z-clips. Also available are optional endsplashes and cut-outs. Additional customizing is offered through Eagle’s SpecFAB® Division, with limitless configurations possible. These include the incorporation of compartmental sink bowls that can be placed in the countertop units.

Sheldon Laboratory Systems
The design of the patented and patent pending Axis® series of tables combines lab and lecture into a single, dynamic learning center, which makes for streamlined use of space and time. Axis was the first lab station on the market to incorporate the latest in computer technology and all models accommodate desktop computers, flat screen monitors and/or laptops. Adjustable from a sitting to standing height, the Axis series of table provides researchers full access to the oversized sink, gases, vacuum, etc. Sheldon has spent years studying, developing and designing the most innovative and the best quality lab products for clients and can assist in every phase of lab planning development, from planning to installation.

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