InChem’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.