Patent application title: Device for Disinfecting, Sterilizing and/or Maintaining Medical, in Particular Dental Instruments
Hans Heckenberger (Assmannshardt, DE)
Hans Heckenberger (Assmannshardt, DE)
Hans-Dieter Wiek (Hochdorf, DE)
Hans-Dieter Wiek (Hochdorf, DE)
Johann Stempfle (Pfaffenhofen, DE)
Bernd Gugel (Ulm, DE)
Herbert Lott (Bad Wurzach-Arnach, DE)
Kaltenbach & Voigt GmbH
IPC8 Class: AG01N3300FI
Class name: Chemical apparatus and process disinfecting, deodorizing, preserving, or sterilizing with indicating, signalling, recording, sampling, or inspection means
Publication date: 2012-03-08
Patent application number: 20120058014
A device for disinfecting, sterilizing and/or maintaining medical,
particularly dental, instruments comprises connecting units for
connecting supply containers for media used by the device, in particular
cleaning or care products, wherein the connecting units comprise control
and/or identification means, which enable an identification of the supply
14. A device for disinfecting, sterilizing and/or maintaining medical instruments, with connection units for connecting storage containers for media utilized by the device, wherein the connection units have checking or identification means that allow identification of the storage container.
15. The device of claim 14, wherein the connection units have a mechanical checking or identification element, which has a different design and/or positioning in accordance with the storage container to be connected.
16. The device of claim 15, wherein the mechanical checking or identification element is a pin or projection that engages in a recess formed in the container in the assembled state of the storage container.
17. The device of claim 15, wherein the mechanical checking or identification element is a clamp, which at least partly grips around the storage container in the assembled state of the latter.
18. The device of claim 15, wherein the mechanical checking or identification element is arranged on a flap or door of the device and the device furthermore has a unit for checking the complete closure of the flap or door.
19. The device of claim 14, wherein the storage container has a transponder and the connection units have a readout device for reading out the transponder.
20. The device of claim 14, wherein the storage container has a magnet that characterizes the product situated in the container, and the connection units have means for detecting the magnetic field from this magnet.
21. The device of claim 14, wherein the storage container has an optical encoding on its exterior and the connection units have means that are designed to detect and evaluate the optical encoding.
22. The device of claim 21, wherein the optical encoding is a colored ring or an image.
23. The device of claim 14, wherein the connection units have means that are designed to detect physical and/or chemical properties of the product situated in the container.
24. The device of claim 14, wherein the connection units have means for manual input of a code attached to the container.
25. The device of claim 14, wherein the connection units have a lock that interacts with a key situated in the storage container.
26. The device of claim 14, wherein an electric circuit with at least one passive component is arranged on the container, with the connection units having means designed to be connected to the circuit and to establish characteristic properties of the passive component.
27. The device of claim 14, wherein the circuit has a fuse element, which the state of which is irreversibly alterable the means of the connection unit.
 The present invention relates to a device provided for
disinfecting, sterilizing and/or maintaining medical instruments. More
particularly, the device should be used to prepare dental instruments.
 Medical or dental handpieces are tubular parts that the medical practitioner grips as a handle sleeve during the treatment. A handpiece usually used in dental practice is a so-called drill handpiece, which carries a treatment tool, more particularly a drill, at its front end and the back end of which is coupled to a supply tube by means of a coupling. Feed lines for energy for driving the treatment instrument and fluid lines for treatment media, e.g. air and/or water, extend through the handpiece. A distinction is often made between so-called turbine handpieces, in which pressurized air is provided for feeding a turbine arranged in the front end region, and so-called motor handpieces, which have an electric motor as a drive unit.
 In order to maintain the function of the handpieces, maintenance is required from time to time, particularly for the rotatably mounted drive elements. Furthermore, the ever more stringent hygienic requirements in dental practice lead to handpieces having to be prepared at regular time intervals. The successful preparation and maintenance of the appropriate requirements must be recorded in full by the dentist; this entails not insignificant personal and organizational effort.
 Until now, dental handpieces were manually reprocessed by the instruments firstly being spray-disinfected after use on the patient and being externally washed. By contrast, in general the interior of the instruments was not cleaned. However, in the meantime cleaning and disinfection devices are commercially available, in which the instruments are prepared before they are subjected to oil care. Machine preparation has significant advantages over manual maintenance of the instruments since only machine methods allow safe and reproducible cleaning and maintenance.
 However, the devices known up until now can generally only be used for individual preparation steps, and so cleaning, maintenance and sterilization have to be carried out separately in each case. The totality of the devices required for this takes up a relatively large amount of space, with each device respectively requiring electric, pneumatic and fluidic connections. Accordingly, the implementation of a complete machine preparation of dental instruments by means of individual devices is very awkward and connected with great expense.
 A further disadvantage consists of the fact that the individual devices generally are not interconnected, which is why there cannot be data interchange between the devices. This in turn leads to more overheads for the operating staff because it is not possible to create a continuous automatic documentation of the instrument preparation. Furthermore, the instruments have to be conveyed manually from device to device in intermediate steps, which entails intensive employment of staff and requires much time.
 The present invention is therefore based on the object of specifying a novel device for disinfecting, sterilizing and/or maintaining, or generally for preparing, medical, more particularly dental, instruments, which device avoids the aforementioned disadvantages.
 In particular, the present invention relates to the connection units, provided on the device, for connecting storage containers for the media utilized by the device. These are cleaning and/or maintenance products, i.e. various chemical substances that are used during the different preparation steps. Mistaking the substances, which results in a modified supply sequence, could lead to severe problems, in particular to damage to the instruments to be prepared.
 In order to avoid this, a device for disinfecting, sterilizing and/or maintaining medical, more particularly dental instruments is proposed according to the present invention, which device has connection units for connecting storage containers for media, more particularly cleaning or maintenance products, utilized by the device, wherein, according to the invention, the connection units have checking or identification means that allow identification of the storage container.
 As per a first exemplary embodiment, the connection units for example have a mechanical checking element, which has a different design and/or positioning in accordance with the storage container to be connected. This mechanical checking element can be a pin or projection that engages in a recess formed in the container in the assembled state of the storage container on the device. Alternatively, a clamp, which grips around the associated storage container, can also be utilized as a checking element.
 These simple measures result in encoding of the various containers, and so this ensures that the individual containers in each case can only be assembled at the connector provided for them. Mistakes of the type described above can thus be avoided, and so the operational safety of the device according to the invention is increased.
 As an alternative to the above-described solution, it would also be feasible to assign a transponder to the storage container, with the connection units of the device then having a readout device for reading out the transponder.
 As per a further variant according to the invention, provision is made for the storage container to have a magnet that characterizes the product situated in it, and for the connection units to have means for detecting the magnetic field from this magnet.
 As per a further variant, provision is made for the storage container to have an optical encoding, for example a colored ring or an image, on its exterior and for the connection units to have means that are designed to detect and evaluate this optical encoding.
 Another variant in turn provides for the connection units to have means that are designed to detect physical and/or chemical properties of the product situated in the container. This can also ensure that the storage container with the product situated therein is arranged at a correct position or that an erroneous arrangement can be identified.
 Another variant in turn provides for the connection units to have means for manual input of a code attached to the container. When the container is connected to the device, the relevant user must accordingly enter the code, with the latter in turn being checked by connection units in respect of whether it characterizes the correct medium situated in the container.
 As per a further alternative, provision is made for the connection units to have a lock that interacts with a key situated in the storage container.
 Finally, provision could also be made for an electric circuit with at least one passive component to be arranged on the container, with the connection units having means designed to be connected to the circuit and to establish characteristic properties of the passive component. This could also characterize the type of the medium situated in the container. In the process, provision can advantageously be made for the circuit additionally to have a fuse element, the state of which is irreversibly alterable by the means of the connection unit.
 All above-described variants make it possible to avoid inadvertent mixing up of a storage container and the resulting erroneous arrangement thereof.
 In the following text, the invention shall be explained in more detail on the basis of the attached drawing, in which:
 FIG. 1 shows a sectional illustration of a process or rinsing chamber of a device according to the invention for disinfecting, sterilizing and/or maintaining dental instruments;
 FIG. 2 shows a first variant for mechanically encoding a maintenance-product container;
 FIG. 3 shows a second option for encoding a maintenance-product container;
 FIGS. 4a and 4b show the interaction between a storage container and a checking element in the form of a clamp;
 FIGS. 5a and 5b show a third variant for mechanically encoding a maintenance-product container;
 FIGS. 6a to 6c show various feasible embodiments of a maintenance-product container; and
 FIGS. 7 to 12 show further variants for identifying a maintenance-product container.
 FIG. 1 first of all schematically shows the embodiment of a device for disinfecting, sterilizing and/or maintaining medical, more particularly dental, instruments, with the device in general being denoted by the reference sign 1 below. A central element of the maintenance device 1 according to the invention is a pressure container 2, which surrounds a process or rinsing chamber 3. During the process, the instruments 4 to be cleaned or maintained are arranged in this rinsing chamber 3. Here, the instruments 4 are arranged with the aid of an instrument holder, on which a plurality of plug-in points or couplings 5 are arranged. Provision is preferably made for various couplings 5, so that it is possible to prepare instruments 4 having coupling systems from different manufacturers. In the present case, the cover 6 of the process chamber 3 serves as instrument holder. This cover 6 ensures the fluidic coupling to a supply system of the instruments 4 to be cleaned. It is clamped onto the rim or flange of the pressure container 2 by a sealing unit and sealed with respect to this container. A cleaning and/or maintenance product can then be applied to the individual instruments 4 and the channels thereof, individually or in combination, via connecting tubes integrated into the cover 6.
 The process when cleaning and/or maintaining the instruments 4 shall first of all be described in general terms below. Here, the pressure seal of the process chamber 3 is checked before the preparation is started. In the process, it is ensured that the cover 6 has been inserted correctly and sealed to the pressure container 2. A check is also carried out as to whether the fluid lines between the cover 6 and the lines running in the flange of the pressure container 2 are correctly connected.
 In order to supply the device 1 with water, tap water is preferably filtered by means of an osmosis installation with or without downstream mixed bed ion exchanger, with the dissolved salts being removed. The water with a quality of <15 μS/cm is routed into a device-side storage container, where the filling level is monitored via a level switch, which is embodied as a float switch, and the quality is monitored in a conductance sensor. The inlet into the storage container is embodied with a so-called cascade for reasons of hygiene.
 When the instruments are prepared with the aid of the device according to the invention, the following steps are then carried out in succession:
 The water is first of all routed from the above-described storage container into the process chamber 3, wherein this can be brought about via a pump or by suction via a vacuum. The water is heated to approximately 45° C. in the process chamber 3 with the aid of heating elements. In the process, care is taken that the temperature is not above 45° C. in order to prevent proteins from coagulating. The water is furthermore circulated with the aid of a pump and directed onto the external surfaces of the instruments 4 via spray nozzles, which are attached on the lateral surface of the pressure container 2 or in a central dome, in order to clean the instruments. In the process, the cleaning water can be routed through the instruments 4 and/or the spray channels of the instruments 4 and/or through the spray nozzles of the process chamber 3 for external cleaning.
 The washing medium can be heated during the circulation, and so the surfaces to be cleaned are at first cleaned by a cold washing medium. The cleaning product can in this case be added to the process chamber 3 in the form of a powder or in tablet form, or it can be metered in from an appropriate storage container. The washing medium can in this case consist of surfactants or phosphates and have a pH-value of greater than 10. In order to complete the washing process, the water is let out of the pressure container 2.
 In a subsequent step, the water is then routed into the process chamber 3 from the storage container and now it is heated to approximately 45° C. to 60° C. Rinse aid or neutralizer is added in a metered fashion from a further storage container during the circulation of the water. Alternatively, as a result of the higher temperature compared to step a), a second component of a cleaning tablet can now also be dissolved. The liquid is, once again in a parallel or time-offset fashion, or in an interval operation, routed through the instruments 4 and the spray channels or directed on the external surfaces of the instruments 4 via the spray nozzles. Phosphoric acid ester with a pH-value of between 3 and 5 in particular is used as rinse aid or neutralizer.
 The liquid can be let out of the pressure container again and into the drain, or it remains in the container in order to take up excess maintenance product emerging from the instruments 4 in the subsequent maintenance process or to rinse the oily external instrument surface briefly with warm liquid. In this case, the liquid is only let out after the maintenance process, with it possibly being helpful to apply pressurized air to the instruments 4 in order to prevent spray water from penetrating into the interior of the instruments 4.
 in a third step, Maintenance product from a maintenance product storage container is routed into the interior of the instrument, so that the gears and bearing surfaces are lubricated. Here, the maintenance product can be injected into a pressurized-air jet in liquid form as oil or from a pressure can. The oil can also be foamed via the foaming agent contained in the pressure can and the interior of the instrument can be filled with this oil/air foam. In this case, the air bubbles collapse relatively quickly, and so the oil forms a uniform thin oil film in the entire interior of the instruments. Biodegradable fatty acid-ester oil/white oil mixtures are used as lubricants.
d) Rinsing Off
 After the maintenance process described above, the external sides of the instruments can be rinsed off with the rinse-aid liquid still located in the container. As an alternative to this, fresh water from the storage container is routed into the process chamber 3 via a pump and directed on the external surfaces of the instruments via the spray nozzles.
 Fresh water from the storage container is fed into the process chamber 3 for the purpose of sterilizing the instruments. For ventilation purposes, a vacuum apparatus is connected in the process chamber 3, with the pressure within the process chamber 3 being monitored or registered.
 The air is sucked out of the process chamber 3 with the aid of the vacuum apparatus. The vacuum is reduced to atmospheric pressure by heating the water via heating elements. The process chamber 3 is then filled with water vapor, wherein, depending on the sterilization program, this process can be repeated a number of times.
 The evaporated water volume can be refilled in every vacuum cycle, wherein, as an alternative to this, the complete amount of water required for generating the steam can also be introduced into the process chamber 3 directly at the start of the sterilization cycle.
 As an alternative to generating steam by heating elements situated in the process chamber 3, water vapor can also be fed in from a steam pressure chamber, situated outside of the process chamber 3, for equalizing the pressure during the ventilation and for the sterilization.
f) Drying and Cooling
 Once the sterilization is complete, the instruments 4 are dried by condensing the water vapor situated in the process chamber 3. This is achieved by virtue of the fact that the container wall or elements situated in the container are cooled, for example by routing water through them, which water was taken from the storage container. Here, the water can be fed continuously or during intervals. The water is led away after the cooling process is complete. The cover 6 can be opened because the temperature within the chamber 3 has now dropped below 50° C. This completes the preparation cycle for the instruments 4.
 What emerges from the description above is that the device 1 allows a fully automatic preparation of dental instruments. The operating staff no longer need to take action and so this is a very convenient system. It goes without saying that it is possible to deviate from the described process for preparing the instruments.
 It can furthermore be gathered from the procedural steps described above that different chemical substances are used for cleaning, maintenance and disinfection when the instruments are prepared. The substances are offered and utilized in different states (solid, powdery or liquid) and packaging (spray cans, liquid-dispenser bottles or tablets). Here, the different products are usually labeled by appropriate imprints on the packaging or the vessel.
 The staff operating the device must during use thereof note the different labels on the packaging; for example, the staff must insert the correct cartridge or spray can into the associated connection unit. Mixing up the substances would result in a modified sequence of application, which can, as a worst case scenario, lead to damage to the instruments to be prepared but at least can lead to an impairment of the envisaged effect. This can result in significant damage to both the patient and the user.
 In order to avoid these disadvantages, the invention proposes to embody the device in such a way that it independently identifies the various storage containers or prevents an erroneous arrangement.
 Provision is made in a first variant for providing the vessels or storage containers for the various substances with a mechanical encoding system that is based on different external shapes of the vessels. The device is then equipped with an appropriate identification system or blocking system, which in end effect leads to it only being possible to arrange the storage containers on the connection unit of the device provided for it. To this end, the storage containers can have different external shapes and/or different dimensions. It would also be feasible to equip these with different connection threads or different diameters for the connection ports.
 The storage container in the form of a cartridge or can is usually connected to the corresponding connection unit by screwing into a connection valve, insertion into a connection valve and holding by magnetic forces, pressing into the inclusion valve via a lift mechanism or pressing against the connection valve or holding by spring forces. It is now proposed to apply a tapered constriction to the storage container at different heights, depending on the substance, with a device-side encoding identification element or checking element in the form of a bracket, clamp, gap gauge or pin engaging into the constriction when the storage container is inserted into the connection unit. If the storage container does not have the required constriction, or if the constriction is arranged at the wrong location, this results in it not being possible to connect the container to the connection unit or it not being possible to close a door provided on the device, which in end effect leads to it not being possible to operate the device. The supply of incorrect media is eliminated by this.
 A first embodiment of this idea according to the invention is illustrated in FIG. 2. A can, provided with the reference sign 50, is in this case inserted into the connector 60 of the device, the connector 60 having a checking or identification element 61 in the form of a pin, which is attached to a bracket 62. The can 50 has a constriction 51 on its external circumference, which is embodied level with the pin 61 so that the latter can engage into the constriction 51. The width of the constriction 50 is dimensioned so that the can 50 has sufficient play in the axial direction for complete screwing in or insertion.
 By contrast, if the constriction 51 is not arranged level with the pin 61 or not even present, this is an incorrect storage container that is not provided for insertion into the illustrated connector 60. Since the pin 61 now prevents insertion of the incorrect container, this accordingly ensures that it is only possible to connect containers with the right contents.
 A second variant is illustrated in FIGS. 3 and 4a and/or 4b. Here, a can 50 is screwed into a non-pivotable connector 60, and so it is already in the use position. Inserting an incorrect can is now indicated by virtue of the fact that a jaw-shaped clamp 66 is arranged on a housing flap 65. This clamp in turn is provided to engage into a corresponding circumferential constriction 52 on the casing of the can 50. If the constriction 52 is embodied at the wrong level, this results in the configuration from FIG. 4a, in which the jaw-shaped clamp 66 prevents the housing flap 65 from closing. By contrast, the configuration as per FIG. 4b emerges if the correct can 50 was inserted, in which the housing flap 65 can be completely closed. Here, electric circuits or sensors can monitor the complete closure of the housing flap 65 as an additional safety measure. The device is prevented from operating if this flap 65 is not completely closed.
 A third embodiment is illustrated in FIGS. 5a and 5b, in which a can 50 can be screwed into a pivotable connector 60 and is then pivoted back into the use position in FIG. 5b. Use is once again made of a jaw-shaped clamp 66, which engages into the circumferential constriction 52 if the correct storage container is used. By contrast, pivoting back is prevented if an attempt is made to arrange an incorrect can.
 Thus, all three described variants are based on attaching a checking element on the connector 60 of the device, which checking element interacts with corresponding shaping of the storage container to prevent inadvertent insertion of an incorrect storage container. In the process, very different constrictions or recesses can be provided in the circumferential wall of the container 50, as shown in FIGS. 6a to 6c.
 FIGS. 7 to 12 show alternative solutions for checking the identity of the connected storage container. These solutions shall be explained in the following text.
 The storage container 50 in the variant as per FIG. 7 is provided with a transponder 70. The connection units of the device in turn have a schematically illustrated readout device 71 for communicating with the transponder 70. The transponder 70 is preferably situated externally on the base of the can 50; however, it can also be situated on the lateral surface. The carrier frequency for communication is approximately in the vicinity of 125 kHz. If several cans are used, each can receives its own encoding with the aid of the transponder in order to stop the device being equipped incorrectly. The amount of content removed or the cycle number of the removal is written back on the transponder, and so the amount of content still available in the can can also be deduced. By way of example, this could also be displayed on the device in order to initiate the procurement of a replacement storage container in good time. This provides an additional advantage in addition to preventing incorrect equipping.
 In the variant as per FIG. 8, the storage container 50 is provided with a magnet 75, which characterizes the contents of the can. The connection units of the device have a corresponding sensor 76, for example a Hall sensor, by means of which the magnetic field of the magnet 75 can be detected. The contents of the storage container 50 can also be characterized in this case by selecting suitable magnets. Furthermore, the magnet 75 could simultaneously be used to actuate or open a valve situated in the media path of the connection units. This additionally increases the operational safety.
 In the variant as per FIG. 9 an optical marking has been applied to the exterior of the storage container, which marking is formed by a colored ring 80 in the illustrated embodiment. A color sensor 81 situated on the device 1 can then identify the color printed onto the storage container 50. Using different colors once again makes it possible to distinguish between different storage containers. As an alternative to this it would also be feasible to arrange an image or, in general terms, an optical element on the exterior of the storage container and identify and evaluate this by appropriate means of the device. The symbol situated on the can could then be established with the aid of a digital camera and appropriate pattern recognition software in order to identify erroneous equipping, if appropriate, or in order to identify the use of the correct storage container.
 In the variant as per FIG. 10, a code 85 is printed onto the lateral surface of the storage container. This code has to be entered by the user via an input field 86 situated on the device after the container was attached. An appropriate checking unit on the device then checks the correctness of the code, with the container being opened in the case of a positive result. This entered code can then also be stored internally so that it is no longer available for further openings. This also prevents multiple use of the container.
 In the variant as per FIG. 11, the storage container 50 contains a type of key, which interacts with a corresponding lock or lock cylinder in the device. Thus, the key 90 of the storage container 50 can be utilized to open the path to the can 50 or to hold the can. This can be brought about by mechanical, electronic or electrical means. In the process, the key could be implemented as a rim end or the like, or it could be embodied so that it simultaneously serves as can receptacle for the device.
 In a variant not illustrated in the Figures, provision is furthermore made for the contents of the storage container to be identified by its physical and/or chemical properties. To this end, the connection unit has a sensor by means of which e.g. the conductance, the refractive index, the color, the fluorescence and the like is determined when the medium is removed for the first time. This can in turn identify incorrect equipping.
 Finally, FIG. 12 shows a variant in which the contents of the storage container are identified via an electric circuit. The latter contains at least one passive component, e.g. a resistor, an inductor or a capacitor. The circuit is arranged on a circuit board associated with the container. It has a contact connection that allows connection to the connection units of the preparation device.
 In the variant illustrated in FIG. 12, a connection is established to the device via the connector K1, for example when the storage container is inserted. The resistors R1 and R2 result in a voltage divider, with it then being possible to establish the voltage via the PIN2 when a predetermined voltage is applied to the connector K1. The storage containers can then be encoded accordingly by utilizing different values for the resistors.
 The circuit furthermore has a fuse element, the state of which is alterable once. By way of example, this element can be formed by a diode in the overload region.
 The input 1 on the plug-in connector K1 can be used to establish whether the fuse is still intact. If the storage container is emptied completely, the switch S1 can trigger the fuse. The blown fuse then serves as an indicator that the container is empty. If an attempt is made to transfer the circuit board to another can, this can be identified by the device on the basis of the blown fuse. A thin circuit-board conductor element, which burns out, or a resistor with a very low rating could also be used in place of the diode.
 All described variants afford the possibility of unambiguously characterizing the container with the medium contained therein, and so incorrectly equipping the device is reliably prevented.
Patent applications by Hans Heckenberger, Assmannshardt DE
Patent applications by Hans-Dieter Wiek, Hochdorf DE
Patent applications by Johann Stempfle, Pfaffenhofen DE
Patent applications by Kaltenbach & Voigt GmbH
Patent applications in class WITH INDICATING, SIGNALLING, RECORDING, SAMPLING, OR INSPECTION MEANS
Patent applications in all subclasses WITH INDICATING, SIGNALLING, RECORDING, SAMPLING, OR INSPECTION MEANS