Pharmaceutical powders have been conveyed by vacuum for years because the vacuum suction safely kept the powder within the system, which a positive pressure system did not. But PharmTech magazine notes that there are two major differences now.
New Uses of Vacuum Technology in Pharma
First, a far wider range of materials is being conveyed by vacuum – granulations, pre-blends and so on. Second, custom-developed pneumatic receivers are being used for continuous processes such as extrusion, blending, mixing and granulation, as well as periodic operations such as refilling.
One of the advantages of the vacuum conveyor is its gentleness. It can transport finished products such as tablets or capsules without damaging them by running at lower speeds. This means it can be used to send finished items to the packaging process, thus automating more of the process. A vacuum conveyor doesnt take up a huge amount of room either, so its a good design solution for pharmaceutical facilities that are tight on space.
Many pharma processes require materials to be picked up from several different sources. If the material isnt harmful, it may be in an open drum, in which case a paddle can be used to pick it up and feed it to the conveyor. If the material is more hazardous, an interface that protects the operator can be provided by specially designed boxes that incorporate handling gloves.
Dilute and Dense Phase Conveying – Whats the Difference?
If a manufacturer doesnt need to segregate materials inside the conveying line and attrition is not a significant concern, dilute phase conveying is frequently used. This enables higher speeds in the line.
In dense phase conveying, more material is moved using less gas, with the result that it moves more slowly and the process is gentler on the granulate or powder being moved. Material doesnt tend to separate, which means that this is an ideal process for conveying blended powders to machines that will produce tablets.
Pharma companies are always advised to design and model their vacuum conveying systems before implementing them, and this is where the advice of a supplier with vacuum process expertise in this particular industry, such as http://www.aptech.uk.com/pneumatic-conveying/vacuum-conveying/, will be key.
Vacuum technology is becoming more and more widely used now that it can be linked to other parts of the manufacturing process.