It’s no secret that multiproduct manufacturing facilities are quickly becoming the norm for many sectors of the life sciences industry. These dynamic facilities are positioned to meet fluctuating consumer demand and industry trends toward smaller batches and more personalized therapies.
By nature, these facilities feature shared equipment. To keep them cost-effective, drug makers must achieve a flexible manufacturing environment that enables efficient changeover between production runs.
For dry powder blending, improving changeover time poses unique challenges. Like all equipment in pharmaceutical production, the blenders must be cleaned, sanitized – and oftentimes sterilized – between batches to avoid cross-contamination.
But unlike liquid blending equipment, powder blenders must also be completely dry before reuse.
Most often, simple evaporation is the drying method used. Depending on the product mix, blender size and other environmental conditions, evaporative drying can take 8-24 hours to complete.
Some cleaning protocols include a final alcohol wipe-down. This speeds equipment drying, but typically only by an hour or two.
For pharmaceutical manufacturers, this means costly production capacity remains idle a good percentage of the time.
Compressed air is used throughout pharmaceutical facilities – and a drug company can tap into this supply at any point in the production or packaging process.
But in the sanitary environment of a typical blending suite, compressed air is generally not a viable option for drying equipment.
First and foremost, compressed air is energy intensive and costly to produce. And standard industrial compressors do not deliver clean, dry air and could introduce contaminants into the environment.
Compressor technologies exist to achieve the purity standards required in pharmaceutical manufacturing. But the compressed air generated by these systems is often deemed too costly for an equipment drying application.
Conventional centrifugal blowers are more energy-efficient and have been successfully used in a variety of industrial applications.
Conventional designs rely on a belt-pulley mechanism to achieve appropriate motor speed and air flow. During operation, belt-driven models can emit particulates into the air. And they can be prone to breakdown. Belts stretch, belts slip, belts break.
There is a cost-effective, better path to clean, dry air. The key is direct drive motor technology, which uses modern impeller design, smart controls and variable frequency drives to ramp up motor speeds more efficiently.
Direct drive technology achieves a balance of pressure and air flow without the drawbacks of belt-driven systems.
For example, this high-efficiency centrifugal blower system recently introduced by JetAir Technologies is built on a Rockwell Automation control platform and specifically designed for pharmaceutical blender and tank drying applications.
The direct drive blower is about 70 percent more energy efficient than an air compressor – and dries blenders and tanks up to 2,300 gallons (150 cubic feet) in 30 minutes or less with minimal operator intervention.
It also features HEPA filtration – and the portable unit can be used on multiple pieces of equipment with a filter change.
Learn more about how the PharmaDry system saves time and improves capacity utilization in multiproduct facilities.