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Tualatin, OR
​The Power of Clean Air in 3D

By TJ McCueMonday, June 16, 2014
3D Design, CAD, Manufacturing

When Louis Pasteur developed the germ theory of disease, he was building on the work of Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis who introduced hand washing to the medical community in 1847. Such a practice seems incredibly basic, but it was overlooked as a way to prevent spreading diseases.

Clean air is also a given, a basic assumption that we take for granted as well. In most places, particularly in the USA, we already have it, but not everywhere you would expect. One location where you would truly want clean air is in a surgery room. Clean air, just like clean hands and sterile medical instruments, are essential to health.

Chad Luther, Sales Engineer for Huntair, explains that the company has been on a mission to help surgery centers not only appreciate, but create clean air. As one of the largest HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) manufacturers in the U.S., the company got the idea to create what it calls the CleanSuite system by looking at how the semiconductor industry keeps its chip manufacturing environments pristine.

Chad Luther showing me the CleanSuite Demonstration Lab

The company began by studying how air flows through an operating room environment with Autodesk Simulation software (computational fluid dynamics – CFD Advanced). They use those models to show surgeons how air flows over and around a patient. The goal, of course, is to change or optimize that flow to reduce airborne particles and contaminants and keep patients healthy. Essentially, the system is the equivalent to hand washing – where medical teams need to see how clean air flow can make a difference to a patient’s recovery.

Mike Farnsworth, Architectural Design Lead for the CleanSuite product, walks me through a presentation about air flow first, and then how they created a modular ceiling structure with Autodesk Inventor that saves a hospital money and time when installing the system.

Chad took me above the surgery demonstration area – a full scale mockup of all the modular equipment (shown below). I had to use the infrared feature on the video cam to capture the area.

Infrared photo of modular parts of CleanSuite system

Modular construction is about creating a consistent, repeatable product, under controlled factory or plant conditions. As I spent the afternoon visiting Huntair in its Tualatin, Oregon headquarters, I found a niche community of HVAC makers and craftsmen who were applying one-off, inventive thinking that would become a modular product or a component (some quite large) that they built themselves to gain a competitive advantage in today’s market.

One doesn’t expect innovation in a fan blade or a simple motor mount, but the team at Huntair does just that. And one certainly doesn’t expect a team of men and women who make giant air conditioning units to be the Louis Pasteur or Ignaz Semmelweis of surgery room air cleanliness, but there they are applying an inventor, problem-solving mentality to the real world challenge of clean air for patient health.

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