Incubators are devices that facilitate the growth of an organism by providing them an optimum temperature and environment. Mechanical incubators were invented around 1700’s in France, whereas the first commercial incubator was designed by Hearson in 1881. Medically, incubators are used to provide a suitable environment for the growth of infants, hypothermic patients, and new born animals. In microbiology, culture incubators are used to facilitate the growth of microorganisms or eukaryotic (animal and plant) cell cultures. In hatching centers, incubators are used to facilitate the hatching process of chicken and other poultry used either for research or for human consumption. Incubators therefore form a critical part of hospitals, research labs, vaccination production centers, pharmaceutical companies and diagnostic labs.
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Neonatal incubators consist of a variety of equipment that assist in the growth and survival of the newborn by providing them nutrition and suitable environment. Some equipment include: oxygen supplementation, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mechanism, mechanical ventilation, air humidifier, intravenous provisions, pulse oximeter, cardio-respiratory monitor, neonatal defibrillator and neonatal ventilator. For microbiological use the first and simplest incubators were just insulated boxes with attached thermometers to denote the temperature within the chamber. Modern culture incubators have inbuilt thermostats, gas concentration monitors, along with pH monitors and humidifiers. CO2 incubators are other variants of culture incubators that provide an optimum concentration of CO2 gas for proper growth of animal/plant cell cultures. On the other hand compressor cooled incubators are designed to provide a lower than room temperature for certain microorganisms that require such specifically cooler temperatures. Peltier cooling incubators are variants of cooling incubators used to incubate insects, they apply the Peltier technology to provide a cooler environment within a hotter outer environment with minimal disturbance from the vibration and noise of compressors. Culture incubators are also designed for easy sterilization, periodic fumigation and can occupy around 20 liters to more than 800 liters capacity of cultures. Hatcheries perform large scale incubation by either multiple individual incubator machines or large incubator rooms. In such institutions the function of incubator is limited to provide a constant source of heat and temperature maintenance. Animal incubators are generally used for mammals and adult animals during various veterinary procedures; they are similar to neonatal incubators in their function and equipment design.
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At present the market for incubators is largest in the North American, European and Asia-Pacific region because these regions together form the most populated yet urbanized region in the world that routinely require medical incubators for varied purposes. In general the largest market for all variants of incubator (neonatal, hatching and microbiological) together is present in the Asia Pacific region. The largest market for advanced neonatal incubators remains highest in the North American and West European region. The RoW and Asia Pacific region exhibits the fastest growth in incubator purchases worldwide, with a recent trend shifting towards more advanced versions. Another factor would be the presence of a majority of the manufacturers in the Asia Pacific region.
Some of the neonatal incubator manufacturers include: GE Healthcare (General Electric Company), Phoenix Medical Systems (P) Ltd, Memmert GmbH, Drägerwerk AG & Co. KGaA, Natus Medical Incorporated.etc to name a few. Microbiological and hatching incubator manufacturers include: Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., Memmert GmbH, Andreas Hettich GmbH & Co.KG, Panasonic Healthcare Co., Ltd., and VWR International Ltd, to name a few. Neonatal animal incubators include: DRE Medical, Inc., ThermoCare Ltd, BMT Medical Technology s.r.o., etc to name a few.