Scale-Up Chemical Processes at InChem Include New Pilot Plant

InChem Corporation has the capability to support scale-up for various types of chemical process, all on one site in Rock Hill, SC.  From the laboratory, to the pilot plant, to smaller reactors, to full scale, InChem is ready to support your development efforts. Each scale-up is different and needs the attention of experienced technical staff to provide the best opportunity for success.

First step is often glassware observation

The first step in the process often begins in the R&D laboratory with glassware.  Standard lab glassware up to 5 liters is set up in a fume hood.  Typically, the reaction flask is electrically heated with particular attention to the temperature between the heating mantel and the glass reaction flask.  This is especially important when a product is heat sensitive, and hot spots on the surface of the flask must be avoided.  The lab is equipped with a vacuum pump and chilled water supply to support various process requirements.

A series of batches can be run to refine the process or understand potential sources of variability.  The InChem team can assist in developing a trial plan.  Even for well-defined processes, we like to run a batch in the lab before going to the pilot plant. This will provide the opportunity to see the process in glass and get a better feel for how the reaction runs. Alternatively, an InChem representative may visit the customer’s lab to watch the process.

After work in the R&D lab, the next step in the process is usually the newly constructed pilot plant on the InChem site.  It’s also possible that you as a client have a developed lab process and it is reasonable to move directly to the pilot plant.

New pilot plant capabilities

Commissioned in 2019, the pilot plant has both a 5 and a 30-gallon reactor. The 5-gallon reactor has a helical agitator and is capable up to 200 psi.   The 30-gallon reactor has a 3-blade impeller agitator and can operate at up to 50 psi. There is a dedicated hot oil system for the pilot plant and two vacuum pumps for use in the processes.  Nitrogen, steam, chilled water, and compressed air are available in the area to support these processes.   Data from the pilot plant is tracked by Wonderware Historian Client™, and all process data is provided to our clients as part of a final report on a pilot plant program.

The pilot plant was configured with flexibility in mind.  The modular components and abundant space makes incorporation of ancillary equipment less complicated.  In 2021 a 50 gallon reactor will be installed in the pilot plant.  This unit, along with a helical agitator, will bring additional options and flexibility for clients’ chemical process development work.

Our client partners are encouraged to be on-site during their runs in the pilot plant.  On-site presence allows for better interaction, process understanding, and improved decision making to give the best opportunity for a successful batch. At InChem we pride ourselves on being transparent and open with our customers in order to provide the best service possible. We have a private office for client use and allow full access to the pilot plant and QC lab during processing.

Well-equipped QC lab

InChem has a well-equipped QC laboratory to support process scale-up and routine manufacturing.  Instrumental capabilities include GC, HPLC, FTIR, and UV-Vis. This year we added a new headspace GC to support projects in our distillation plant. A new GC with an autosampler has been ordered and will be in use before the end of 2020.  The lab also has the capability to run viscosities and a variety of wet chemical methods. Our QC lab crew, all degreed chemists, will work with you to ensure methods are in place before work begins.

After confirmation and process understanding is developed in the pilot plant, a number of options are available for the “next step” in product development.   The 250 gallon reactor is a good choice for making “a couple of drums”, and reactor K5 would be good for “a couple of totes”.   When you’re ready for truckload quantities, reactor K7 would be your best choice.

InChem has the experience, equipment, and staff to support your new product scale-up and commercialization.

Check out our web page to see a video of the pilot plant and learn more about our capabilities, call us at 1-800-331-7721 or contact us using our online contact form.

 

Specialty Chemical Manufacturers Can Use InChem’s Help To Boost Production During Pandemic

Specialty chemical manufacturers have been faced with a wide variety of challenges in the business environment created by the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

For some, the products they make and sell have become more desirable and they may be struggling to keep up with recent volume increase in their facilities or in their supply chains.  For others, demand has shrunk, and as a result they have had to scale back operations.

Additionally, many manufacturers have decided to scale back on their capital budgets, leaving new product lines on hold until companies can complete their assessment of the short and long-term implications of a decline in sales. Each situation represents a unique challenge, and leveraging the assets, people, and supply chain capabilities of contract chemical manufacturers may help some companies find an appropriate solution to any problem that they may be facing.

For many fortunate specialty chemical manufacturers, the challenges and opportunities brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic have generated a surge in demand for their products.  Companies that produce hard-surface cleaners, anti-microbial agents, hand sanitizers, household paints, etc., have seen a surge in demand that is difficult to keep up with.  However, a surge in demand may mean that suppliers don’t have enough capacity in their existing equipment.  It could also be causing serious supply chain issues as their own suppliers struggle to keep up with their demand.  In both situations, enlisting the help of a third-party manufacturer like InChem may provide a solution that not only eliminates the current problem, but adds value to your organization.

If your company is having trouble finding adequate capacity in your existing asset base to produce the needed chemicals, a third-party contract chemical manufacturing partner can help to bridge the gap in volume, and help reduce the risk of an important product line being single sourced.  This can be accomplished in a number of ways.  In some situations, it may be best to have a toll manufacturer work with you to move a portion of the production of your high-volume product to their equipment.  For other companies, it may be worth taking a look at the other processes in your plant and out-sourcing the low-volume or low-margin products to a toll manufacturing partner like InChem in order to free up internal capacity.

Toll and contract chemical manufacturers can also be utilized in order to bridge supply chain gaps.  Many chemical processes require high-purity raw materials.  In tight supply situations, supply chain managers may only be able to source lower-purity variations of the needed chemical.  In order to avoid risking product quality, sourcing managers can work with wiped film evaporation providers to take low cost, low purity product and refine it to a higher purity product without thermally degrading the material.

Additionally, many companies have decided to cut back on capital budgets for the remainder of 2020 and beyond.  As a result, many new products that would require capital expenditure in order to scale-up and commercialize in house are at risk of being put on hold until the business situation normalizes.  If this is the situation you find yourself in, consider reaching out to a toll manufacturer like InChem for help.  Throughout the toll and contract manufacturing industry there are companies with an incredibly diverse range of chemical processing capability.  By utilizing the existing asset base of toll and contract chemical manufacturers, project managers regain the ability to develop and scale-up new products without the need for costly, and time-consuming capital projects.

In the current business environment, companies of all sizes are working towards adjusting their businesses to meet customer requirements.  Toll and contract manufacturing partners are capable of developing and deploying solutions to many of the problems facing businesses today.  Reputable toll and contract manufacturers will be able to help guide your decision on which approach to choose.  They will give you the flexibility to make your choice based on financial, logistical, or supply chain concerns.  You will also be able to ensure that your new toll manufacturing partner will handle your valuable intellectual property confidentially, and with all due care.  Trustworthy toll manufacturers like InChem will offer their customers full transparency in how their products and intellectual property are handled, and will work with you to ensure that you feel comfortable leaving your product in their hands.

For more information about toll and contract manufacturing, and how it can be utilized to help achieve your goals, learn about InChem’s flexible services here.  InChem has a wide variety of specialty chemical manufacturing equipment ranging from thin film distillation, flammable and toxic chemical handling, and high viscosity mixing.  We hope you will reach out to us through our online contact form to learn more about how InChem can help you, or call 1-800-331-7721.

InChem’s Multiple Wiped-Film Evaporators Provide Wide Range Of Distillation Capabilities

thin film distillationInChem’s Rock Hill, S. C., facility has multiple wiped-film evaporation units as part of its wide range of reactors and other chemical manufacturing equipment. The 0.15m2 and 2m2 wiped film evaporators, commonly known as thin film evaporators, are some of the most technologically advanced pieces of equipment on-site and are useful in a variety of chemical applications.

Many chemical manufacturers produce or source materials that require high levels of purity that cannot be met through traditional distillation techniques, or are temperature sensitive and are not stable at high temperatures for long periods of time.  Many compounds, including natural oils, flavors/fragrances, monomers, silanes, and lubricants are likely to degrade if they are exposed to high heat for a long time.

Other compounds may be prone to developing color after exposure to elevated temperatures for a significant amount of time. While the color may not impact the performance of a product, it can make the product look undesirable. In situations where a compound is thermally sensitive or prone to building color, thin film distillation may be an appropriate manufacturing solution.

Wiped film evaporators allow manufacturers to distill or separate products at lower temperatures due to the equipment’s ability to subject the product to very low pressures. Additionally, use of a wiped film evaporator results in much shorter residence times inside the unit when compared to a traditional kettle distillation.

By adjusting the three primary variables associated with thin film distillation:  temperature, pressure, and feed rate, InChem’s technical and operations teams are able to “hone-in” on the process parameters that ensure a consistent, high-quality product.  It also allows us to optimize how quickly the process can run in order to help reduce costs for our clients.  As with all InChem processes, InChem stands by our commitment to offer complete transparency about our manufacturing activities with a client.  This ensures that any steps taken to improve the efficiency of a process help to lower the cost to the customer.

The 0.15m2 unit, also located in Rock Hill, S.C., is InChem’s pilot scale-unit and is frequently used to trial materials in order to determine the appropriate process parameters for scale-up.  It is constructed of 316 stainless steel, and consists of two thin-film evaporators.  The first evaporator has an external condenser and can reach vacuum levels as low as 5 mbar.  The second evaporator has an internal condenser and can reach vacuum levels as low as 0.05 mbar.  The second evaporator is also commonly referred to as a molecular distillation unit due to its ability to pull extremely low vacuums.  The jacket is heated with hot oil and can reach temperatures of 300oC.  All of the major process parameters are tracked and saved to a data historian.  Process data saved to the historian is reviewed by InChem’s technical team during pilot and scale-up operations to improve process efficiency and product quality.  Our pilot unit is appropriate for run volumes between 15-gallons and a few drums.

Following a successful pilot trial, InChem’s technical team will compile all data generated during a trial and analyze it in order to create the post-production report.  This report, among other things, will give a summary of the work that was completed, the analytical results for each process parameter tested during the trial, and recommendations for how to proceed with commercialization in InChem’s other equipment systems.  This final report will be reviewed with the customer and a copy will be given to them for their records.

The 2m2 unit is sized for producing commercial volumes of material.  Like the pilot unit, the commercial unit is constructed of 316ss and can reach temperatures of 300oC.  It has an internal condenser and can reach vacuum levels of 0.5 mbar.  The 2m2unit can handle volumes as low as 10 drums, up to a full tank truck.  Data is sent to the historian where InChem’s technical team is able to review the data in order to track and improve the quality of the product, or the cycle time.

As with any advanced manufacturing technology there are limitations to what the unit can do.  Wiped film evaporation is not suitable for most products that involve removing a solvent to yield a solid finished product.  They are also not suitable for products with high viscosities at operating temperature.  In most situations, InChem prefers to avoid processing material that is above 12,000 CPS at the temperature it is charged into the unit in order to avoid damaging the rotor or wiper blades.

During all stages of production at InChem, customers can rely on our commitment to complete transparency with their product.  Batch sheets, lab results, and post-production reports are all available to customers.  We also welcome customers to join us on site, especially for trials.  Visiting customers will be given a private workspace with phone and internet access.  They will also have complete access to InChem’s technical teams.

To learn more about how InChem can meet your short-path distillation needs, use our online contact form or call 1-800-331-7721.

Jack Bostock Named Chief Commercial Officer Of Chemvalon Business of InChem Group

Jack BostockJack Bostock has accepted the position as Chief Commercial Officer, leading the Chemvalon business which is part of the InChem Group, of Rock Hill, S.C. Bostock will also become part of the InChem operating committee.

Formed in 2015, Chemvalon is a boutique executive consulting business that involves providing service in a customized manner for current and future clients, focused in both the private equity community and specialty chemicals categories.

“The Chemvalon platform allows for business synergy and leverage with the current core business of InChem,” said Jon McCracken, InChem Chief Operating Officer. “This is a very innovative and unique value proposition.

“Combining the consulting expertise of Chemvalon with InChem’s core competencies of toll and contract manufacturing, supporting specialty chemical businesses allows for overall improved efficiencies,” McCracken added. “This creates tremendous value to our prospects and future customers.”

“Jack is a strong professional leader with a proven track record,” McCracken said. “He has expertise in market segmentation, new business commercialization, creating value internally and externally while providing focus that extends business performance and improves EBITA margins.”

Bostock began his career in research and development and has been engaged in the coatings and specialty chemicals markets for over 30 years in executive leaderships roles at both Valspar and RPM International, Inc.

He will work closely with the executive management team of the InChem group, specifically with its Chemvalon business model, determining innovative ways to combine InChem products and services as a clear market differentiator.

InChem Holdings, Inc., formed in 1992, has facilities and operations in Rock Hill, S.C. The company provides a wide range of custom, contract and toll specialty chemical manufacturing and blending services for major chemical and other manufacturing companies worldwide. InChem is committed to the highest standards of health and safety, quality control and environmental stewardship. Learn more at www.InChemCorp.com and www.Chemvalon.com .

New Pilot Plant Can Provide Small Batches For Wide Range Of Chemical Process Needs

pilot-plant-InChem

A new pilot plant has begun operating at InChem Corporation, a toll manufacturing company located in Rock Hill, S.C.  This new installation can provide small batches for chemical process development, process optimization, or limited quantities of product for internal evaluations or customer sampling.  The facility has a modular design which allows equipment to be configured for a variety of operational situations.

Located in a dedicated building, the pilot plant has more than ample space for configuration of ancillary equipment, staging of raw materials, and privacy for our clients.  Operations in the pilot plant are carried out and supervised by the InChem technical staff.

Pilot Plant Equipment

Two 316 stainless steel reactors are the heart of the pilot plant.  The area is a Class 1, Division 2 location where flammable solvents can be safely handled.  All process equipment can be rendered inert with nitrogen, which is hard-piped into the facility.

The smaller, 5 gallon reactor is fitted with an electrically driven helical or ribbon agitator which can process high viscosity products.  This agitator can be fitted with Teflon wiper blades.   It is capable of operating pressures up to 200 psi to full vacuum.  The minimum operating volume for the 5 gallon is about 2 gallons.

The larger, 30 gallon reactor has a spiral, propeller agitator which is electrically driven and works best with lower viscosity liquids.  The agitator seal on the 30 gallon reactor can operate up to 40 psi to full vacuum.  Minimum working volume in this vessel is roughly 10 gallons.  The vessel is mounted on load cells.  A sightglass can be attached to the bottom discharge valve of the reactor to facilitate phase separation of aqueous and organic layers.

The reactors are heated using a hot oil system which is dedicated to the pilot plant.  The 50,000 BTU Chromalox unit can provide jacket temperatures to 270o C.   Other equipment in the facility includes two oil sealed, vacuum pumps which can provide controllable operating pressures in the reactors below 50 mbar.  The pilot plant has a dedicated chiller providing chilled water for the condenser, jacketed receiver, and cold trap prior to the vacuum pumps.  Compressed air and nitrogen are hard-piped into the facility such that there are no supply limitations for these utilities.

Sensors collect data from a variety of locations throughout the pilot plant.  These include vessel internal temperature, pressure, agitator speed, condenser inlet and outlet temperatures.  Operating parameters for the utilities include hot oil supply temperature and flow, oil return temperature, chilled water temperature, and pressure at the inlet of the vacuum pumps.  All data is stored and analyzed using Wonderware Historian.

Pilot Plant Features Modular Configuration For Flexibility

The modular configuration of the pilot plant allows for convenient incorporation of ancillary equipment to meet customer requirements. InChem can provide filters or a small belt flaker.  Other equipment could be incorporated into the pilot plant with cooperation of the client such as high shear mixer, centrifuge, or an external circulation loop for in-line testing.

The operation at InChem is suitable for a variety of process chemistries.  These include:  esterification, transesterification, epoxidation, isocyanate reactions, silicone chemistry, and acrylic emulsion or solution polymerizations.

Projects in the pilot plant go through a rigorous evaluation process before the batch is run.  Clients are heavily involved in the process. Safe handling of raw materials and products, compatibility of 316 stainless steel with the prescribed chemicals, estimated cycle time, and sequencing or critical process events, and required analytical tests are considered.  After the initial considerations, a detailed operating procedure is developed by InChem for review by the client.  This procedure (the InChem jargon for the procedure is a “batch sheet”) then serves as the basis for a PHA (process hazard analysis).  After the PHA a final procedure is written and “signed off” by InChem and the client.  With the final batch sheet, the process in the pilot plant can be started.  With the completed batch sheet and PHA, about 80 percent of the work necessary to scale-up the process into larger equipment at InChem has been completed.

QC-Analytical Laboratory Supports Pilot Plant Operations

InChem has an on-site QC/analytical laboratory to support pilot plant operations.  The lab is staffed by degreed chemists and operates 24 hours a day.  The lab routinely runs a variety of tests. Instrumental capabilities include gas chromatography (GC), high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC), infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), and UV-vis spectroscopy.  Routine wet chemical methods include: viscosity, density, acid number, amine number, isocyanate content, and epoxy equivalent weight.  Other methods may be introduced in the lab based on customer methods.  InChem has relationships with external partners for more specialized testing such as elemental analysis by ICP, NMR and DSC.

At the end of a batch or campaign, a report is prepared by the InChem technical staff which includes a summary of the process, properties of the product in comparison to the desired properties, safety concerns or issues, areas for improvement, and considerations for moving the product to larger scale equipment.  The report, batch sheet, and analytical data are all property of the client.

Pilot Plant Clients Are Encouraged To Participate

Clients are encouraged to participate in all planning sessions for pilot plant operations.  InChem especially encourages our partners to be on-site during pilot plant runs.  This allows for good cooperation during the process and efficient decision-making as the process is running.  A private office is available to our clients while in Rock Hill.

Contact InChem to discuss your needs or arrange an on-site appointment.

View our pilot plant video here.

 

 

Vacuum Distillation Using Wiped Film Evaporators and Short Path Evaporators

Molecular and wiped film distillation employ the basic principles of thin film distillation. Thin film distillation involves the heating of a raw material on a heated tube’s internal surface until the boiling component begins to evaporate. The vapors are then condensed on the low-temperature tubes of a condenser. A basic wiped film distillation evaporator adds an agitated thin film to create a bow wave that increase heat transfer and evaporation efficiency.

Conventional wiped film evaporators place the condenser outside of the heated evaporator surface while short path evaporators place the condenser inside of the evaporator body. This variation in design detail creates distinct differences in short path distillation applications.

Short path evaporators can operate as low as 0.001 mbar, as opposed to conventional wiped film evaporators, which can only be used down to 1 mbar. This reduces the operating temperature in a short path evaporator, thus limiting the heat history and preventing thermal decomposition of products.

Short path distillation is therefore an excellent option for processing thermally sensitive products. Reduced residence time and very low evaporation temperatures subject the product being distilled to minimal thermal stress. For this reason short path distillation (a.k.a. molecular distillation) is widely used in the distillation of high molecular organic compounds, especially in the pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, essential oils, chemical and food industries.

To learn more about how InChem can meet your short-path distillation needs, use our online contact form or call 1-800-331-7721.

Advantages of Advanced Molecular Distillation

thin film distillationMolecular distillation is a distillation process done under high vacuum. The very short distance the vapor travels before condensing ensures minimal to no loss due to surface hold-up of the vapor and is an immediate release from vapor to condenser surface.  This distillation process is classified as short path distillation and is also referred to as molecular distillation due to the minimal vapor/liquid interface. The technique and equipment are typically used to purify substances with low volatility and/or temperature sensitivity.

Molecular distillation is a time-tested method. First developed before the start of the Second World War, it was used to distill natural products which were highly sensitive to heat, such as vitamins. The process was invented in the United States by Dr. Kenneth Hickman.

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What are Chemical Manufacturing Companies and How Do They Work?

contract chemical manufacturingThe chemical industry consists of diverse chemical manufacturing companies, including contract chemical manufacturers that convert industrial chemicals into finished product or other materials for end usefor other companies. They play a central role to the modern global economy as they help convert many chemicals and raw materials including oil, air, water, minerals, and metals into thousands of different and extremely useful products used by other industries. Chemical manufacturing also has some overlap with plastic manufacturing as different chemical companies also produce plastic alongside the main chemicals that they handle.

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Thin Film Evaporation And Distillation Processes – What They Are And How They Work

thin film distillation

Thin film distillation system at InChem

Manufacturers use thin film evaporation to purify temperature-sensitive products. In this process, separation is created by a turbulent liquid film at the heat transfer surface of the evaporator. Known as “thin film distillation”, it occurs in specialized equipment that generates the film using intense mixing at the surface of the evaporator cylinders.

Where fraction is not required, thin film distillation is typically preferred for its high evaporation rate and shorter residence time resulting in less heat history. The process is also referred to as wiped film distillation. Along with a short residence time, this process offers low pressure drop configuration to enable the reliable and continuous processing of heat-sensitive, fouling or viscous materials without causing degradation.

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How to Select the Right Contract Manufacturer

Contract Chemical ManufacturerThe chemical manufacturing process can be costly and time-consuming if you do everything yourself. You have to think about buying, leasing, and maintaining equipment.   You also have to hire the right people for the job. For these reasons, companies turn to contract manufacturers to outsource critical chemical production activities.

When it comes to contract chemical manufacturing, you may choose to get in touch with skilled manufacturers like InChem who can more efficiently and quickly produce a product. Here are some tips for choosing the right contract manufacturer:

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