New technologies for powder blending challenges

Published: 3-Sep-2014

DEC installs powder handling and blending system at Chinese pharma manufacturer

To equip a new factory in the north of Beijing, a Chinese pharmaceutical company turned to the experts DEC specialising in powder handling and containment systems. Only six months later, a system for discharging the raw materials, mixing and transferring them to the pharmaceutical manufacturing process had emerged, ready for use.

For more than 25 years the Swiss-based company has been installing its machinery in major Swiss and international groups in the chemical, pharmaceutical, food and cosmetic sectors. Specialised in powder handling, the company relied on Siemens products and solutions for the management of this particular facility.

European and Chinese standards

For the new drug factory for a Chinese customer, Dec has again demonstrated its expertise in discharging, dosing, transferring, mixing, packaging and sampling powders of different types. In this case, the customer wished to prepare dozens of different 'recipes' with the same equipment. Each one requires the mixing of about 20 different pulverulent substances, some of which are toxic, corrosive or explosive. In some cases the products manifest all three characteristics. Furthermore, an additional challenge was to meet both European and Chinese standards.

To avoid any contamination or risk of potentially explosive mixture, each ingredient needs its own supply pipe. The customer wanted to be able to clean those pipes through sterilisation at 140°C without interrupting production. In the end, it was a question of working powders under a controlled atmosphere (laminar flow), while respecting REACH (registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals) regulations as well as the ATEX (explosive atmosphere) directive.

'We have the expertise and the products for transferring powders at risk. In areas where our competitors give up, we are getting to the heart of the matter. The constraints posed by difficult products are our added value. This is why we can stay in Switzerland,' says Martin Larruscain, project leader.

Guaranteed processes

To meet the many requirements, engineers of the Dec Group have designed two racks, each with twenty rods in stainless steel. There is also a system for cleaning equipment in downtime without disconnecting or opening. The RFID system, which enables identification of each rod, was therefore a decisive sales argument.

Early in the process, the PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) first unblocks the desired rod so that an operator can make it available to the RFID reader. Once the system has recognised and validated the rod presented, the operator may then connect the discharge pistol. At each step, the amount transferred is weighed and sent to the API, which permits dosage of ingredients and its control.

To ensure interference-free reading, the transponders are encapsulated in insulating Teflon spacers. All data in this production chain are then forwarded to the factory system. The saved settings enable reporting, histories, balance sheets, keeping track of changes in recipes and ensuring the traceability of each product.

Dietrich Engineering Consultants SA

The invention of this system of powder transfer encouraged Frederic F. Dietrich and his two sons to set up their business in 1987. The PTS (Powder Transfer System) makes it possible to move powders by vacuum and pressure. This company has greatly expanded its range of products and its expertise in the field of powder handling and containment methods.

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