FIELD OF THE INVENTION
The present invention concerns a washing plant, of the
modular type, comprising a plurality of washer machines aligned according to a determinate
disposition, connected with each other operationally, and able to perform the steps
of pre-washing, washing, heat-disinfection and drying of objects, for example but
not limited to medical instruments for hospital wards, operating rooms, laboratories
and the pharmaceutical industry in general.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
Usually, hospital structures comprise a plant for treating
objects such as for example instruments used in the operating rooms and therefore
potentially infected and not sterile, before they can be used again. This treatment
usually consists of a pre-washing step, of a washing cycle proper, heat-disinfection
In particular, known plants are normally divided into several
sectors, isolated from each other for reasons of hygiene and known respectively
as the "dirty" sector, or reception, the "clean" sector, and the "sterile" sector.
In the first sector, or "dirty" sector, the dirty objects
that are to be subjected to the various treatments arrive. The treatments carried
out are generally: pre-washing with cold water only, possible washing in an ultrasound
bath, washing in hot water and possibly detergents, the necessary rinses, heat-disinfection
and final drying. In particular, heat-disinfection, which is a particular type of
washing, is done with hot water, usually at a temperature comprised between about
90°C and about 93°C.
The above steps are done by means of a plurality of machines
suitable to perform the above treatments.
After they have been heat-disinfected and dried, the objects
pass to the second "clean" sector where they are possibly packaged and from here
they are fed to sterilization machines, generally consisting of autoclaves, which
The objects, thus sterilized, pass to the following sterile
sector where they are stored or sent again for use in the operating room.
In the field of washing plants, it is known that the pre-treatment
operations are performed in a much shorter time compared with the time employed
to wash, heat-disinfect and dry the objects washed.
Therefore, in known washing plants, the washing and heat-disinfection
operations and the subsequent drying represent a "bottleneck" along the washing
Purpose of the present invention is to achieve a modular-type
washing plant which, in general, has a high overall productivity and in particular
which reduces the waiting times between the pre-treatment and the washing, so as
to increase the productivity of the washer machines in a manner temporally coordinated
with the productivity of the pre-treatment machines.
The Applicant has devised, tested and embodied the present
invention to overcome the shortcomings of the state of the art and to obtain these
and other purposes and advantages.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The present invention is set forth and characterized in
the independent claim, while the dependent claims describe other characteristics
of the invention or variants to the main inventive idea.
According to the present invention, a washing plant is
able to perform at least a cycle for washing objects, which comprises at least a
pre-treatment step and a step of washing and heat-disinfection. The plant can be
used for the pre-treatment, washing, heat-disinfection and drying of objects intended
for example but not limited to surgical wards, laboratories and the pharmaceutical
industry in general.
According to the present invention, the washing plant comprises
at least a pre-treatment station, provided with at least a pre-treatment machine
to perform the pre-treatment step, for example but not only a pre-wash machine and/or
an ultrasound wash machine for said objects.
Furthermore, according to the present invention, the washing
plant comprises a washing station provided with at least two washer machines disposed
in parallel with each other and able to carry out the step of washing and heat disinfecting
According to the present invention, the washing plant also
comprises at least a trolley able to selectively move the objects from the pre-treatment
machine to the washer machines, in order to feed them alternately, one at a time.
One advantage of the present invention is that it reduces
the waiting times between the pre-treatment and washing, to increase the productivity
of the washer machines in a manner that is temporally coordinated with the productivity
of the pre-treatment machines.
Advantageously, the trolley is able to selectively translate
the objects from the pre-treatment station to a selected one of the washer machines,
so that the washer machines can be fed alternately by the translation system. In
particular, the objects to be washed are fed by the trolley to the selected washer
machine which first becomes available from the moment when the operations to pre-treat
the objects have finished.
To this purpose, the washer machines are advantageously
disposed aligned, or in a row, along an axis of alignment, parallel to each other,
so that the trolley selectively displaces the objects to be washed along the row
of washer machines in order to feed them to the washer machine that is accessible.
Advantageously, given that the time the objects remain
in the pre-treatment station is very short, compared with the duration of the subsequent
washing operations, they are fed, as soon as the pre-treatment is concluded, to
the first available washer machine, without remaining at the exit from the corresponding
pre-treatment machine; the next objects exiting from the pre-treatment station are
advantageously fed, by means of the translation system, to another washer machine
accessible along the row, thus increasing the productivity of the washing station.
According to another advantageous feature of the present
invention, it is no longer indispensable to prepare large intermediate stores to
accommodate the objects exiting from the pre-treatment station, while waiting for
the washer machines to become free. In fact, since the washing station comprises
a larger number of washer machines, fed alternately, than the number of pre-treatment
machines, it can operate continuously on the objects exiting from the pre-treatment
In any case, intermediate stores for the objects exiting
from the pre-treatment station can be provided, if the whole washing station is
unusable, or has a reduced productivity following malfunctions or maintenance, total
Advantageously, by suitably synchronizing the operating
times of the pre-treatment station and the washing station, it is possible to make
the pre-treatment machines and the washer machines operate substantially continuously,
and therefore without the latter representing a "bottleneck" in the washing plant.
According to another advantageous feature of the present
invention, the washing plant obtained is of the modular type, very functional and
simplified, since the pre-treatment and washing stations are distinct and independent.
In this way, in the event of breakdowns and/or malfunctions, for example to one
of the washer machines, the production of the washing cycle is not stopped, and
washed objects do not accumulate at the exit from the pre-treatment station because
in any case other washer machines are available.
According to another form of embodiment of the present
invention, downstream of the washing station a drying station is disposed, comprising
drying machines, each one connected directly to the exit of at least one relative
Advantageously, a washing station is achieved consisting
of a plurality of washer machines in parallel, disposed in series with a drying
station consisting of a plurality of drying machines, also advantageously, but not
only, disposed in parallel. The physical separation of the drying operation in another
and distinct drying machine, distinct from the washer machine, allows to empty the
latter more quickly, so as to render it available for a subsequent washing cycle
and also allows to accelerate the drying operation itself. In fact, the drying chamber
of each drying machine that receives the object, washed and to be dried, is itself
substantially dry from the beginning of the drying operation, and therefore less
energy and/or less time will be necessary to dry the object alone, which is washed
Therefore, the overall productivity of the washing plant
is greatly increased.
Advantageously, therefore, according to the present invention,
it is possible to achieve a modular washing plant in which the different operations
of the washing cycle, such as for example pre-wash, ultrasound treatment, washing,
heat disinfection and drying, are performed in independent machines, modular and
selectively associated, by means of suitable means to move the objects, according
to the temporal duration and the physical characteristics of said operations.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
These and other characteristics of the present invention
will become apparent from the following description of a preferential form of embodiment,
given as a non-restrictive example with reference to the attached drawing wherein:
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF A PREFERENTIAL FORM OF EMBODIMENT
- fig. 1 is a plane schematic view of a complete pre-washing, washing, heat-disinfection
and sterilization plant, comprising a washing plant according to the present invention;
- fig. 2 is a perspective view of a washing plant according to one embodiment
of the present invention.
With reference to fig. 1, a washing plant 10 can be used
for example in a plant P in which the complete treatment of pre-washing, washing,
heat-disinfection of dirty objects is carried out, in a first zone, called "dirty"
zone D, and the sterilization of the washed objects is carried out in a second zone,
called "clean" zone C.
The washing plant 10 according to the present invention
can be used, in particular, to perform a plurality of cycles of unitary operations
to wash objects, by means of suitable machines, for pre-treating, washing, heat-disinfecting
and drying objects such as, for example but not only, dirty instruments arriving
from hospital wards, operating rooms, laboratories and from the pharmaceutical industry
and usually contained in baskets.
By washing operations we mean both the pre-treatment operations,
pre-washing and/or washing in cold water, ultrasound washing, and also the subsequent
operations of washing in hot water, with chemical detergents, and also heat-disinfection,
with the relative rinses and drying.
The washing plant 10 comprises at least a pre-treatment
station 13 and a washing station 14 for the objects, served continuously by the
pre-treatment station 13 (fig. 2). The objects are transported along the pre-treatment
station 13 and the washing station 14 by means of suitable movement means, as will
be shown in detail in the following part of the description.
In the pre-treatment station 13 a pre-treatment cycle is
performed, which comprises one or more steps or unitary operations of pre-treatment,
preliminary and preparatory to the subsequent washing and heat-disinfection, such
as a pre-wash, a wash with cold water and/or an ultrasound bath.
In this case, the pre-treatment station 13 comprises at
least a pre-wash machine 11 and at least an ultrasound wash machine 12, disposed
in series with each other.
On the contrary, in the washing station 14, operations
of washing in hot water, possibly with detergents, heat disinfection, corresponding
intermediate and final rinses and the relative drying are performed.
The washing station 14 comprises a plurality of washer
machines 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 able to perform the steps or operations of washing,
heat-disinfection and drying of the objects, and each is provided with a suitable
washing chamber 27 inside which said steps are performed.
The washer machines 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 are positioned aligned
and parallel to an axis of alignment T, so that the entrance to each of them is
parallel to the entrance of the other adjacent washer machines.
The objects are fed, as indicated by the arrow A, into
the pre-wash machine 11 of the pre-treatment station 13 by means of said movement
means which comprises a first manual trolley 25 and a subsequent trolley 23a provided
with a mobile arm 24a and a conveyor belt 24b. A trolley 23b, identical to the trolley
23a, allows passage from the pre-wash machine 11 to the ultrasound wash machine
According to the present invention, the movement means
which moves the objects to be washed also comprises a trolley 22, 125, able to move
the objects between the different washer machines 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 parallel to
the axis of alignment T, so as to feed the objects to be washed to the washing chamber
27 of a selected one of the washer machines 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, for example according
to the washing cycle to which the objects are to be subjected, the current availability
and accessibility of the washer machines and similar parameters.
The respective washing chambers 27 are simultaneously and
selectively all potentially accessible for the objects moved by the trolley 22,
125 and, of these, at least one accessible for washing is selected.
The trolley can be of the automated type, trolley 22, or
of the type moved manually, trolley 125, as required.
In particular, the trolley 22, of the automated type, is
able to translate automatically parallel to the axis of alignment T and is provided
with a mobile arm 21a and a conveyor belt 21b, identical to the arm 24a and the
conveyor belt 24b, to move the objects to be washed inside a selected washer machine
16, 17, 18, 19, 20, in a direction indicated by the arrows F, perpendicular to the
axis of alignment T.
The trolley 22 may be made and moved as described in the
applications for an
Italian patent UD2005A000194, filed 16.11.2005
UD2005A000216, filed 21.12.2005
UD2006A000228, filed 25.10.2006
, all in the name of the present Applicant.
For example, the trolley 22 can be mounted cantilevered
with respect to a supporting frame associated with the washer machines 16, 17, 18,
19, 20, or it can be made partly or completely resting on the floor in front of
the washer machines 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, as shown in fig. 2.
According to another form of embodiment of the present
invention, the movement of the objects to be washed is, instead, achieved by means
of a fixed roller system, or a conveyor belt, a slider and similar equivalent embodiments,
not shown in the drawings.
The interval of time needed to perform a pre-treatment
cycle at the pre-treatment station 13 in this case is much less than that needed
to perform a cycle of washing and heat-disinfection in one of the washer machines
16, 17, 18, 19, 20.
For example, the overall time for pre-washing and ultrasound
washing is a few minutes, while the time required for washing, heat-definition and
drying is at least about ten minutes.
In the case shown in fig. 2, the time required for three
pre-treatment cycles, each consisting of a pre-wash in the machine 11 and an ultrasound
wash in the machine 12, is substantially comparable, as duration, with the washing
time of a single washer machine 16, 17, 18, 19, 20.
Therefore, by means of at least three washer machines 16,
17, 18, 19, 20 in parallel, where each performs the washing, heat-disinfection and
drying substantially continuously, with a suitably staggered timing, the washing
station 14 operates substantially continuously, receiving advantageously continuously
the objects exiting from the pre-treatment station 13 and hence having a productivity
comparable to the pre-treatment station 13.
The objects can be dried in the same washer machines 16,
17, 18, 19, 20 or, according to an advantageous embodiment of the invention, in
drying machines downstream of the washer machines 16, 17, 18, 19, 20. In this last
case, the washing plant 10 comprises a drying station 15, distinct from and disposed
downstream of the washing station 14, and provided with drying machines 28.
Fig. 2 shows two washer machines 16, 17 which, apart from
washing and heat-disinfection, also carry out drying operations, and three washer
machines 18, 19, 20 associated with relative drying machines 28, in which the drying
of the washed objects is not carried out in the washer machines 18, 19, 20 but in
the relative drying machines 28. The latter receive the washed objects from the
washer machines 18, 19, 20 to be dried in the relative drying chambers 29 of the
drying machines 28. The passage of the objects from the washer machines 18, 19,
20 to the drying machines 28 is achieved by means of three corresponding trolleys
123, identical to the trolleys 23a, 23b, and which are positioned directly at exit
from each washer machine 18, 19, 20.
Once the objects have been dried in the washing station
14, as shown in fig. 2 for the washer machines 16 and 17, or in the drying station
15, as shown in fig. 2 for the washer machines 18, 19, 20, the objects are removed
by means of a trolley 223, identical to the trolleys 23a, 23b and 123, and sent
to the subsequent treatment or stored, for example by means of at least a manual
trolley 225, and/or a discharge roller 26, to transport them to a store.
It is clear that, as an alternative to the trolley 223,
in order to discharge the dried objects it is possible to use an automated trolley
which translates parallel to the axis of alignment T and is made as described in
the already cited applications for an
Italian patent UD2005A000194
, in the name of the present Applicant.
According to another variant, the dried objects can be
discharged by means of a manual trolley, identical to the trolleys 25, 125, 225,
or by means of a mechanical roller identical to the roller 26, or a conveyor belt.
Furthermore, it is clear that, according to necessity, the dried objects can be
discharged by hand by a suitable worker.
Therefore, by using the drying station 15, provided with
drying machines 28 in parallel and disposed in correspondence with the exit of the
respective washer machines 18, 19, 20, the productivity of the washing station 14
is effectively increased, and also that of the washing plant 10 as a whole. One
form of embodiment of the invention which gives even greater productivity provides
that all the washer machines 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 are associated with relative drying
It is clear that modifications and/or additions of parts
may be made to the washing plant 10 as described heretofore, without departing from
the field and scope of the present invention.
For example, variants are provided on the type and/or number
of pre-treatment machines 11, 12 in the pre-treatment station 13, to adapt to possible
According to a first variant, the pre-treatment station
13 can comprise only one cold-water pre-wash machine, or only two pre-wash machines
11 disposed in series, if the pre-wash alone is sufficient.
According to a second variant, the pre-treatment station
13 comprises three or more pre-treatment machines 11, 12 disposed in series. For
example, the pre-treatment station 13 can comprise two pre-wash machines 11 and
an ultrasound wash machine 12 in series with each other, or a pre-wash machine 11,
an ultrasound wash machine 12 and a cold-water wash machine in series with each
According to a third variant of the invention, the pre-treatment
station 13 can comprise two or more batteries consisting of a plurality of pre-treatment
machines 11, 12 disposed in series. The batteries are in turn disposed in parallel
with each other. This variant is particularly advantageous when the treatment station
14 comprises a high number of washer machines 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, for example four
Another variant of the present invention provides to achieve
a roller or conveyor belt between the pre-treatment station 13 and the treatment
station 14, which functions as a store for the objects already pre-treated and waiting
to be subjected to washing and heat-disinfection. This is advantageous especially
when the pre-treatment station 13 has a productivity greater than the treatment
station 14, for example because one of the washer machines 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 is
It is also clear that, although the present invention has
been described with reference to some specific examples, a person of skill in the
art shall certainly be able to achieve many other equivalent forms of washing plant,
having the characteristics as set forth in the claims and hence all coming within
the field of protection defined thereby.