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Company to Offer Humidity and Temperature Control Systems for Arraying Equipment

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Making products out of thin air is all in a day’s work for Air Innovations, of Syracuse, NY.

“We either buy up or develop niche products that have something to do with humidity or air filtration control,” explained Chris Day, a director of operations at the company.

Recently, the company decided to float the idea of adding humidity and temperature control systems for microarraying robots to its product lineup, which ranges from floral coolers for national supermarket chains to the humidity and filtration devices used by leading semiconductor manufacturers in the production of their chips.

To do so, it formed a new division, ArrayAir. The division, which Day is developing, came about after Mike Tanaka, a technologist who built cleanrooms for semiconductors, approached the company with the idea that the newest market was in a different kind of chip. After following upon Tanaka’s suggestion with research into the market, the company came to the conclusion that “there’s a need for this product in the market,” said Day.

Indeed, scientists working in the microarray field know how important these factors are, as the humidity of the environment in which arrays are produced controls the evaporation rate of reagents off of the slide.

“For microarrays, the evaporation rate off the slide is a key parameter to control,” said Richard Fisler, the product manager for Packard Biosciences’ arraying machines. “It controls the morphology of the spot and is probably one of the biggest contributors to good consistent microarrays.”

ArrayAir has designed two products to control temperature and humidity in arraying robots, and to provide high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration. HEPA filtration is a system of filtering out particles in the air that is used in standard cleanrooms. While large-scale array manufacturers such as Affymetrix and Motorola make their arrays in HEPA-filtered cleanrooms, and some high-end arraying robots such as Packard’s and the GeneMachines OmniGrid also offer HEPA filtration, the bulk of do-it-yourself arrays are still made in non-filtered air. As a result, dirt and dust in the air can raise the background level on the array.

ArrayAir designed its filtration devices based on its work in the semiconductor industry, where standards of filtration and environmental control are even higher than those in the microarray world.

One product, said Day, is “geared towards microarrays with a size of four cubic feet and under,” while the other the other “is designed for 50 cubic feet and below.” The systems control the temperatures at a range between 55 to 80 degrees Farenheit and control humidity at between 55 and 80 percent relative humidity.

In addition to these ready-made systems, which an end user of microarray equipment such as a core facility director could add to an already functioning system, the company also foresees designing custom-made systems either for manufacturers of specific arraying robots who want to add a feature to their machines, or for large-scale manufacturers of arrays.

“Collectively, we have a great deal of experience with cleanrooms and the control of their environments,” said Day. “So the idea of ArrayAir is to use the same basic technologies, for microarrays. And we can also put this knowledge to work for the large-scale manufacturers of arrays.”

While the company has had several sales already, it is still recruiting sales representatives with microarray experience.

It also remains to be seen whether there is a sufficient demand among manufacturers of arraying robots and others for external environmental control systems, and whether the companies are willing to welcome this specialized newcomer into their airspace.

— MMJ

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