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Neglect and indifference are often the root cause of MR cooling failures

by John W. Mitchell, Senior Correspondent | October 07, 2019
From the October 2019 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Another important consideration is the variability among different cold heads and how dependable they can be. James Beier, vice president of service for Sumitomo Cryogenics of America Inc., has seen everything from cold heads that were rebuilt using handmade parts, to others that were simply repackaged without being refurbished.

“The installation of the cold head is just as important as the quality of the cold head for long life and minimizing cost,” he added. Sumitomo follows a vigorous quality control program, according to Beier, producing more than 2,500 cold heads a year with a warranty return rate of less than 0.5 percent.

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An MR cooling failure may start with a single component, but left unchecked it can have a cascading effect on a facility’s core mission, cautioned Turner Hansel, process chiller division manager for Filtrine Manufacturing Company, which makes MR chillers. "The loss of a single MR due to a chiller failure can cost a facility tens of thousands of dollars per day (in lost revenue), as well as the loss of Trauma One status."

Prevention, maintenance, redundancy, and monitoring
Because they design redundancy into their chillers with two refrigeration circuits and two pumps, Kehl with Dimplex Thermal said his company’s systems seldom overheat unless there is a site issue, such a power interruption, or the fluid system springs a leak — which is a relatively easy fix. Plus, now that all sites have access to well or city water as an emergency cooling response if need be, quenches have become an increasingly rare event. This is good news, considering the cost of replacing helium after a quench can be between $30-50,000, said Kehl.

For optimal performance, Elmore with KR Products said there are four preventive maintenance steps every MR operator should take to ensure peak chiller MR cooling:

- Check the glycol level and inspect the strainers for rust and algae.
- Inspect the pump for leaks.
- Check the fan and motor for excessive vibrations, which can cause the unit to draw air effectively.
- Wash out the filter screens and condenser, similar to spraying out the outside fan unit on a home air conditioner.

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