5 important qualities to look for in pharmaceutical process equipment

Consumers trust that pharmaceuticals are safe to consume, so it's critical that manufacturers ensure there's no risk of contamination.

Consumers trust that pharmaceuticals are safe to consume, so it's critical that manufacturers ensure there's no risk of contamination.

Condensers are key components for pharmaceutical production. Increased regulations and oversight of pharmaceutical manufacturers over the past few decades have created a need for specifically designed for their intended purpose.

Shell and tube heat exchangers used for pharmaceutical condensers should be easily cleaned, compatible with the appropriate heat transfer fluids, resistant to contamination and corrosion and reliable. Here's what you need to know about choosing a heat exchanger that works for your pharmaceutical operation:

1. Easily cleaned

Pharmaceutical products must be as pure as possible, and one step in achieving maximum purity is using clean equipment. Left-behind residue from one batch or product type can taint the next round of product.

Any amount of product left behind that could feasibly be removed through normal cleaning methods should not be present in equipment before production begins, according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration's Current Good Manufacturing Practices.

An operator works with stainless steel pharmaceutical equipment.Pharmaceutical process equipment should be thoroughly cleaned to reduce the risk of contamination.

Instruments that test for cleanliness today are highly accurate, able to detect even tiny amounts of residue. As such, it's not always feasible to clean equipment to the point where absolutely no amount of previous product is detected. However, it's always best to clean as thoroughly as possible.

Choosing equipment that's easily cleaned is a good step toward ensuring product batches are as pure as possible. Certain configurations of shell and tube heat exchangers are more easily cleaned than others. For example, straight tube exchangers are often easier to clean than U-tube style exchangers because there are no bends to maneuver around.

Drainability can affect how easily cleaned a shell and tube heat exchanger is. If it's hard to get the last ounces of liquid out of an exchanger, it's harder to rid the equipment of all traces of the fluids. Exchangers that are 100 percent drainable, such as those offered by Enerquip, are best for this purpose. By being able to completely empty the equipment of all fluids, the cleaning process is more effective and the next batch won't be affected by left-behind traces.

2. Silicone heat transfer fluid compatible

Your equipment needs to be compatible with the substances that will pass through it – both on the tubeside and the shellside. The heat transfer fluid used plays a large role in how effective the heating or cooling process is, as well as how well the equipment will hold up in time.

Fluids that aren't effective for heat transfer will require a longer process time and more energy to run. Additionally, fluids that can be corrosive can cause equipment to wear out faster. Some fluids are flammable, creating potential risks in the work environment if products or equipment are mishandled.

Silicone is becoming a more popular heat transfer fluid for a number of reasons. It is known for their thermal stability, an important quality of heat transfer fluid. Silicone fluids are ideal for temperatures above 350 degrees Fahrenheit, according to an article from The Dow Chemical Company originally published in Process Heating Magazine. While silicone is effective at high temperatures, it also has good pumpability at low temperatures, making it a versatile heat transfer fluid.

They also are long-lasting and aren't likely to cause chemical abrasion, even when exposed to high temperatures. For these reasons, more than 375,000 tons are expected to be generated by 2024, according to a press release from Global Market Insights.

Silicone has a low risk of flammability, making it an attractive fluid for many manufacturers, Chemical Processing pointed out.

3. Leak-free

No manufacturer or equipment operator wants to have leaks. But for pharmaceutical processing equipment, leaks are particularly unwanted. Leaks open up the possibility of contamination, and mixing shell-side fluids with tube-side fluids could lead to corrosion or other chemical reactions that weaken the equipment's integrity.

One way to reduce the chances of leaks is to have a fully welded tubesheet. Another method to minimize the risk of leaks – or at least the negative impacts of them – is to design an external leak path to prevent any possible leakage from interacting with the fluid on the opposite side of the exchanger.

Shell and tube heat exchangers constructed with double tube sheets are often designed to drain any leakage away from the exchanger and into a collection vessel to minimize the chances of cross-contamination. At the same time, the operator is alerted to the problem so he or she can address it promptly.

4. Resistant to contamination and corrosion

Equipment used to create any product should not pose any risk of contamination. However, avoiding contamination means different things for different industries, processes and products.

To minimize the risk of contamination as much as possible, equipment used for pharmaceutical production should be pharma-grade. Enerquip's high purity exchangers are ideal for this industry. Our knowledgeable heat exchanger experts have ample experience fabricating shell and tube heat exchangers for pharmaceutical purposes, and are even used by companies like Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pfizer and Unilever.

Being resistant to corrosion is a major part of having a low chance of contamination. Corrosion can be caused by chemical or physical processes, and the residue that emerges through this process can be reactive or can put the purity of the product at risk. Stainless steel and stainless steel alloys are highly resistant to corrosion, making them smart choices for pharmaceutical construction. Additionally, Enerquip stays away from carbon steel altogether to ensure the quality of their metals; exposure to carbon steel in any form can contaminate stainless steel equipment.

5. Highly dependable

All manufacturers, regardless of industry, strive to reduce or eliminate downtime. Every minute of downtime has a real impact on the company's bottom line.

Choosing reliable equipment is one of the most effective ways to reduce downtime. The less frequently equipment requires maintenance or spare parts, the more often it's contributing to your facility's production.

Enerquip prides itself on fabricating equipment that is long-lasting and can be counted on. To learn more about choosing the right pharmaceutical process equipment for your facility, reach out to the knowledgeable heat exchanger experts at Enerquip.

Posted in Regulatory Compliance

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