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The Irony of Metal Fume Cupboards

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Throughout time, fume cupboards have been made from several different materials. Believe it or not, but possible the oldest example known was basically a wooden box with sliding sashes. Can you imagine that? Surely with corrosive substances that’s a bad idea.

Surprisingly though, due to its use of wood and glass, they actually worked pretty well. The wood used was a hardwood like oak, which can offer a decent resistance to chemicals that were being used in them.

Unfortunately, they did have some heat resistance issues, which brought about the switch to metal cabinets. However, metal cupboards weren’t much better. Whether it was mild steel, stainless steel or aluminium, they all have their faults and usually it comes down to corrosion.

If that’s the case, what’s the best material to use when building a fume cupboard and why do we still see facilities operating cabinets made from metals that easily corrode?

A view from our MD, Laurie Wood:

I have visited several hundred different laboratories in my career and time after time I see fume cupboards corroding. Some within only a few months or years.

The questions is – Why are fume cupboards (which by their very nature are highly likely to contain corrosive substances) still manufactured from steel?

The simple reason is that it is the easiest material for manufacturers to use. Mild steel with a thin epoxy powder coating has been used for decades now and end-users are often unaware that a more cost-effective alternative is available.

Here at ISG, we use virgin medical grade Polypropylene which offers 100% corrosion resistance and of course requires no powder coating or painting. We also offer a variety of work surfaces to suit given applications instead of just using Trespa (which is OK for general lab benches but is not the best material for fume cupboards).

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