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Suction Systems in Pharma Production

Despite high responsibility, cost and competitive pressure are also increasing in pharmaceutical production, such that it comes down to the finest details. In the literal sense, dust particles may well be one of the smallest details that occur during production and pose hazards for product, man and machine. An ideal solution would be suction systems which are cleverly integrated into the production environment. On the one hand, they increase process safety and, in turn, product quality. On the other hand, they ensure clean air or safe handling of the collected suction waste for necessary employee protection. If the suction is adapted to the processes, it can work efficiently during operation as well as breaks in production. It increases the value retention of the machines and therefore also reduces repair-related production system downtimes. Essential advantages, a trip to Ukraine as well as manufacturer selection tips – read on for more about suction systems at a glance.

What do suction systems achieve? Safe processes, safe working and efficient procedures.

Process safety plays a very important role in the pharmaceutical industry as it ensures that fatal mistakes are avoided and the highest product quality is achieved. In this respect, powerful suction systems tailored to the respective production system are an essential factor. If, for example, a change is made from active substance A to a new batch for active substance B, not even the finest dust from the previous active substance may enter the following production process. The suction prevents possible cross-contamination reliably and throughout the process.

Further essential focus is on employee protection – the suction depends on the level of danger of the substances used. Most important in this respect is that employees do not come into contact with the suction waste. Emptying the collecting container or filter replacement must therefore not pose any risk of contamination and/or trained personnel must wear the appropriate protective gear.

A suction system individually adapted to specific requirements also plays an important role in the economic assessment of production. Automated as well as manual solutions should at best be integrated into the production sequences in order to save time and work efficiently. In addition, far less dust accumulates in the joints and axles of the machines. This results in less wear and tear, fewer unplanned downtimes and longer intervals for planned maintenance work. The production process does not need to be interrupted as frequently, which results in a higher output.

System concept based on a practical example: from the requirements to the solution.

Automatic suction of the finest dusts that occur in a tablet press in the pharmaceutical industry.

Ultimately, requirements in the pharmaceutical industry also vary from case to case. For the Ukrainian pharmaceutical manufacturer Farmak, the suction specialist Ringler developed a system that is designed to suction large quantities of the finest tablet dust at numerous suction points in extensive production rooms.

The fully automatic system consists of 145 metres of pipelines of stainless, hygienic high-grade steel, which are connected to a central extraction point for emptying the suction waste manually. The system is driven by a maximum of eight 3kW turbines, the high power of which drives up to seven of the total 14 suction points at the same time. If fewer suction points are active, the turbine power is automatically reduced.

Moreover, the stationary system scores points for userfriendliness when it comes to manual suction: fixed suction points are connected to the system so that employees only have to connect the hose. Individual emptying of suction containers manually is unnecessary as the suction waste is transferred directly to the central extraction point.

The suction points are opened via a closing valve and are sensor-controlled; this ensures that no more than seven suction points are active at any one time. A monitoring unit controls the air flow via differential pressure switches so that the function of the suction is ensured at all times and any faults are immediately signalled. Filter cleaning is similarly automated during operation as well as after switching off the production system.

Finally, questions you should ask a provider – so that you know what to look out for when purchasing.

Dust removal system with upstream cyclone pre-separator. The high separation efficiency meets the requirements of the pharmaceutical industry.

The most important point is determining whether your provider has the necessary experience: do they have sufficient expertise in process integration? Amongst other things, this is demonstrated by the questions a manufacturer asks before installing a dust removal system. For example, these should include:

– What exactly does the application look like?
– What is the dust medium, and what kind of dust quantities are we talking about?
– Which processes are up/ downstream?
– What are the problems currently?
– What are the prevalent environmental conditions, including in relation to explosion protection?
– How serious is a system breakdown? How high do the safety measures need to be set?

On the basis of such an initial discussion, a manufacturer should be able to develop a rough concept idea, which also enables a glimpse into the cost-benefit ratio. As a general rule, there then follows the concrete preparation for a tailored system.

If process safety is of particular importance to you, intelligent monitoring solutions should also be incorporated, which, for example, monitor the filter state, the air pressure or the flow velocity, in order to guarantee consistent performance of the system.

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