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Used Equipment and Cannabis Testing Labs

autoclave testing laboratories by priorclave

Lab Manager magazine published an excellent issue this past summer focused entirely on the cannabis industry and cannabis testing labs. This is obviously a challenging area, because of the massive amount of uncertainty surrounding banking for cannabis-related businesses, and the high cost of setting up a proper cannabis testing lab. 

Lab Manager generically notes that “[u]sed equipment can often be purchased at a much lower cost compared to new” before recommending “exercising caution when purchasing used instruments” because “purchasing decisions have important implications for the future success of the laboratory.”

autoclave safety, used autoclaves, cannabis testing labs

aging autoclave explosion aftermath

All of this is true. But there is a big difference between buying a used high-performance liquid chromatograph (HPLC) and a used autoclave. Specifically, to our knowledge an improperly maintained HPLC analyzer has never blown a hole in the wall

Selecting an Autoclave for Cannabis Testing Labs

Lab Manager called on several lab equipment suppliers to offer new cannabis testing labs pointers when purchasing. Clair Bragg (CEO of GenTech Scientific Inc.) advised, “It’s important to choose a supplier that will be a true service partner for the life of the equipment, and beyond.”

Ceylan Bilgin, the director of marketing at International Equipment Trading Ltd. (IET), expanded on this, noting the ongoing growth and evolution of the industry. She recommended “purchasing an instrument that not just meets, but exceeds current testing guidelines to stay ahead of the curve.”

In our experience, most cannabis testing labs favor a top-loading steam autoclave. Top-loaders are good choices because they are extremely energy/cost efficient and take up little space in the lab. Nonetheless, they offer all of the advantages of a multi-purpose laboratory autoclave. More importantly, a high-quality top-loader will continue to perform as you scale up operations.

Regardless of whether you’re buying used or new, North American buyers will want to be sure that their autoclave has an “ASME-stamped pressure vessels.” This ensures that the pressure vessel was manufactured to the appropriate standards. This is both an important safety issue, as well as an operational concern: Almost every locale in the U.S. and Canada requires testing labs use ASME-stamped steam autoclaves. Even if your area doesn’t specifically require ASME-stamped pressure vessels, using a non-stamped autoclave might run afoul your insurance. 

Used Autoclave Caveats

Presuming the autoclave appears to be in good working order, is suitable for your work, and bears an ASME stamp, buying used can still be a very risky proposition. You can’t have a complete picture of how a second-hand autoclave was used in the past. What strains has it experienced?

If you do decide to purchase used or refurbished, make sure that the pressure vessel has been tested. A third-party lab should have performed an ultrasound thickness test “in accordance with ASME Code Section 5″. That lab should confirm that the pressure vessel thickness is still within the “corrosion allowance” listed for that model. This confirms that the pressure vessel can withstand the amount of pressure that the autoclave typical generates.