2010

Closed System Technology Drives the Trend Toward Safer Dispensing of High-Purity Chemicals

From Fragrances to Fertilizers

altOne industry in which a closed system can provide significant cost savings is in fragrance manufacturing. A typical fragrance factory might house a thousand or more raw ingredients stored in individual containers in huge warehouses. Whenever a new batch of product needs to be produced, plant personnel have to pull the right drums out of storage and place them onto a staging skid.

The skid is then moved into the mixing room where a specific amount of ingredient from each drum is extracted and weighed. The ingredients are then blended in a mixing vat. When finished, workers must move all these raw ingredient containers back to the warehouse. This transporting and dispensing of each container consumes a significant amount of time and effort.

A more effective approach would be to install a line to every container as part of an integrated closed dispensing system. The containers would be connected via a quick-disconnect system to keep it closed, and a programmable controller would be used to remember every single recipe. The result would be a process similar to the one you encounter when purchasing a can of paint at your local hardware store.

When you buy a can of paint, you view a paint selection guide that includes maybe a thousand color choices. You then pick out a card and identify the color that you want. The salesperson brings it over to the mixing area and enters the color code number, which corresponds to the specific paint recipe preprogrammed into a computer. The machine then dispenses X amount of blue, X amount of red, and X amount of yellow into a white base. The paint is then mixed and your product is ready to go.

The labor savings and throughput improvements with this automated, closed system approach are significant, which are not only critical in fragrance production, but in virtually every other industry as well.

Another pressing concern in many industries is the cost and logistics involved with cleaning and preparing drums for reuse. Case in point is the fertilizer manufacturing industry. Many of these manufacturers produce very aggressive pesticides and herbicides. Historically, they’ve been required to invest in their own fleet of very expensive stainless steel containers and diptubes. Because of the high cost, they can’t afford to make them disposable.

Once their end user customers have emptied the drums, they then must be shipped back to the manufacturer for cleaning and refilling. The freight expense involved with this process is huge, not to mention the labor and logistics involved with handling and managing a dedicated fleet of drums. Plus, the cost to have these drums and dip-tubes cleaned and reconditioned can be as high as $2 per gallon, or $110 per drum.

When you compare this reusable approach with the cost of a disposable dip-tube, which can be as low as a few dollars, the cost-savings potential is clear. Therefore, the solution in this case is to move away from the dedicated drum approach and toward a single-use system. Single-use containment packaging eliminates extensive investment in the fleet of drums and removes the costly and complex logistical support requirements.

Until end users begin to rethink their chemical-dispensing philosophy, or come under a clear mandate from regulatory authorities, open systems will continue to be employed. Still, with the everincreasing desire to minimize chemical exposure, closed system delivery with an integrated dip-tube design offers efficiency and safety benefits that clearly establish it as a best practices approach.

This article was written by Thomas A. Braun, Business Manager-Chemical/ Packaging, Colder Products Company, St. Paul, MN. For more information, visit http://info.hotims.com/28058-318.

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