Chemical, Conveyors, Powder handling

Automated conveyors feed pharma powders

When a pharmaceutical company needed to automate its packaging operations, it turned to Flexicon screw conveyors.

When a pharmaceutical company needed to automate its packaging operations, it turned to Flexicon screw conveyors.

Epic Pharma develops and manufactures a range of generic pharmaceuticals for the treatment of pain, lipid disorders, hypertension, and infection. It also provides contract manufacturing services to some of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world.

As part of this service, the company packages cholestyramine resin, a fine, dusty yellow powder that is hygroscopic and can be difficult to convey.

Originally, the company fed the resin to pouch filling machines by raising 100kg drums approximately 1.8m above the plant floor, requiring operators to manually scoop the material into each filler’s infeed hopper.

With three to four drums emptied per shift, the process proved awkward and prone to dusting and product spillage, a problem that was rectified by installing four automated flexible screw conveyors from Flexicon Corporation.  

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The 396L capacity floor hopper of each conveyor fits within the limited space of the packaging suites and allows operators to dump the drums at floor level with less product spillage, dust, and risk of injury. 

Frank Mellone, senior director packaging and distribution, said the flexible screw conveyors have brought a more efficient process as well as a cleaner and safer plant environment.

Each 114mm diameter polymer conveyor tube encloses a flexible stainless-steel screw that is driven by a 2.2Kw electric motor. As the screw rotates, it propels material through the smooth, crevice-free tube and self-centres, providing sufficient clearance between the screw and the tube wall to prevent product damage. The motor is positioned beyond the discharge point, preventing material contact with bearings or seals.

The conveyors elevate the powder 3m at a 45-degree incline, discharging through FDA approved flexible downspouting into each pouch filler’s intake hopper. Each conveyor starts or stops in response to a signal from the pouch filler’s hopper, maintaining a consistent amount of product in the hopper.

“Each flexible screw conveyor is cleaned after five batches, which involves quickly disassembling the flexible screw and tube and washing each with water and an approved detergent,” Mellone said.

The pharmaceutical-grade conveyors and hoppers have stainless steel product contact surfaces, are validated and comply with FDA Good Manufacturing Practices. 

Mahboob Rahman, VP manufacturing and engineering, said, “The conveyor systems function problem-free, being engineered with the correct length, diameter and convey angle, and with a hopper design that enables smooth flow.” 

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