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.