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


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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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:

Continue reading

thin film distillation

Molecular Distillation Offers Many Benefits Using InChem’s Systems

Molecular distillation refers to a special type of short path distillation that is used to purify and concentrate a variety of chemicals ranging from complex and thermally sensitive compounds like polyunsaturated fatty acids and natural oils, to high performance silanes and isocyanate functional pre-polymers.

In a traditional ‘kettle’ distillation the entire product volume is subjected to heat and vacuum for extended periods of time.  This extended ‘cook’ time can cause many compounds to thermally degrade or develop undesirable color characteristics.

Continue reading

Chemical Blending

Custom Chemical Manufacturing – What to Expect From the Best Manufacturers

Every chemical manufacturing facility has its core strengths and capabilities.  When new product lines with different requirements come along, it can be difficult to quickly adjust those capabilities in order to meet the demands of your customers.  Enhancing the capabilities of your plant can be costly, and time consuming.  It can also strain various business functions like your technical, production, HSE, and quality departments.

Continue reading

Exploring the Benefits of Contract Manufacturing

Contract manufacturing control board

Every year companies spend billions of dollars in research and development of new products to serve specific purposes. As is the nature of research, there is usually no guarantee that the outcomes of such research will eventually justify the expenditure. If you do not have the right people, the right processes and the right equipment in place, then all that money could end up going down the drain with nothing to show for it. Contract chemical manufacturing provides the best solution to this problem.

Continue reading

Where Should You Go for Toll Manufacturing Services

toll manufacturing plant
Toll manufacturing can be a useful tool that you can use to ensure that your supply chain operates efficiently.  Toll manufacturing doesn’t just provide a way to manufacture your products, it can also help control costs. 

Toll manufacturers use your processes to manufacture your products.  So you can be sure that your customers will never see a decrease in quality.  You need to find the right people for the job.

InChem is one of the leading providers of toll manufacturing in the US, serving customers from many different chemical industries. Knowing some of the features that distinguish the best toll manufacturing services is essential to finding the right manufacturing partner for you.  What do you need to look for when searching for the right toll manufacturing service provider?

  • Look for a company that is committed to continuous improvement in all aspects of their business.
  • Look for a company that understands its areas of expertise.  Not all toll manufacturers are capable of safely handling compounds like sodium hydrosulfide, elemental sulfur, formaldehyde, organic peroxides or isocyanates.  A responsible toll manufacturer will be able to tell you up front whether or not they have the equipment, personnel, and safety procedures necessary to handle your materials safely.
  • Look for a company that understands the importance of protecting your valuable intellectual property.  Many companies can be uncomfortable when it comes time to engage in a technology transfer with a toll manufacturer.  You should look for a toll manufacturer that understands the importance of maintaining strict control over how your intellectual property is handled. 

Contact InChem to learn more using our online contact form or calling 1-800-331-7721.