Of the many types of equipment you’re likely to see in a pharmaceutical production unit, pharmaceutical process vessels are fairly common. Pharmaceutical process vessels are containers or tanks equipped with the accessories and controls required to complete parts of the process in the pharma assembly line. They are used when the production process includes a liquid component, with manufacture and storage being their primary functions.
With the high sanitary and controlled environmental requirements mandated for pharmaceutical production, naturally, not giving enough thought to your process vessels will just not do. Each stage of the pharmaceutical manufacturing process usually has specific requirements in terms of temperature, pressure, time and related operating conditions. If you’re committed to producing a high-quality final product, procuring and using the appropriate process vessel is of utmost importance so that you can control the operating conditions.
Pharmaceutical process vessels are used for a number of purposes ranging from mixing, blending and separation, to purification and cooling among many others. They may be connected to the previous and/or next step in the process, and often, they are designed and produced specifically to meet the manufacturer’s process requirements. Most commonly used, cylindrical pressure vessels have a whole host of applications, be it as mixing vessels, vacuum tanks or distillation towers.
Such vessels are used across food and beverage, dairy, distillery and cosmetic industries, but specifically in the pharma industry, they are used in the parental department or oral liquid dosage to hold injectables, chemical compounds, APIs, Purified Water and Distilled Water.
Features of pharmaceutical pressure vessels and pharmaceutical mixing vessels:
Pharmaceutical process vessels vary in terms of size, material composition, physical properties, components and accessories, depending on the process for which they are designed. Let’s take a look at the features you should explore when assessing your options for mixing or pressure vessels in the pharmaceutical industry.
Most commonly, the product contact part of the vessel is made of Stainless Steel 316L, while the external body is composed of Stainless Steel 304. While stainless steel is the best and most popular option, monel, hastelloy, inconel, alloy 20 or AL6XN may also be used.
- Heat transfer, insulation and sheathing capabilities
In order to maintain the required temperature for a chemical or biological process, jacketed process vessels are used. Different jacketed vessels exist for different applications, and in the case that vessels have heat transfer jackets, insulation and sheathing should be done, too, to minimize external environmental influences on the product.
- Conventional jackets cover the vessel partly or in its entirety, with an annular space found between the external vessel wall and the inner jacket wall. This concentric type jacket is the most popular choice.
- Mechanical dimpled jackets have sheets of metal uniformly embossed with an equidistant dimpled pattern.
- Half pipe coil jackets possess metallic concentric circles or coils welded to the outside of the tank or container, and are effective in inducing rapid temperature changes in the contents of the vessel.
In medical drug production, be it in pharmaceutical pressure vessels or pharmaceutical mixing vessels, allowing corrosion or rusting of equipment is a big no-no. So lined process vessels are not uncommon in the industry.
- Accessories for pharmaceutical process vessels
While it’s tempting to imagine a group of witches manually stirring their cauldron, thankfully pharmaceutical production is a lot more sophisticated. Pharmaceutical vessels for mixing, cooling, heating and purifying all come with accessories to precisely monitor and control the process and consequently, the product and its characteristics.
Here are some of the accessories which will help you create that precise formulation you need:
- To begin with, there are load cells, which are used to calculate the vessel’s weight and as a result, the weight of the volume of liquid it contains.
- Level sensors – which may be contact-based or contactless – are helpful in measuring the level of the liquid in your pharmaceutical mixing vessels to prevent overflow and to ensure the quantities being used are perfectly accurate.
- Finally, temperature sensors – you can get digital and analog ones – ensure your chemical processes are proceeding at the exact temperatures they require.
Types of pharma process vessels, as per function
These possess jackets, temperature control features, mechanical parts like mixers and agitators, and pneumatic fittings.
These vessels temporarily store products between two processes. For instance, Purified Water or Distilled Water may be stored in tanks before they are distributed through the whole plant, or a pharmaceutical product may be held in a container until lab testing shows satisfactory results.
- Pressure control
Pharmaceutical pressure vessels, unlike others, can tolerate pressures higher than atmospheric pressure. Any tank or container which can operate at pressures higher than 15 psi counts as a pressure vessel. It is very important to note the rating value of a pressure vessel in the pharmaceutical industry because over-pressurizing it can lead to damage and explosions, threatening the machines and the people working with them.
Components of pharmaceutical pressure vessels
Their main components of a pressure vessel in the pharmaceutical industry are the shell, head and supports, all customised as per the vessel’s specific application.
Given your priorities, here are the factors to consider:
This refers to the typically cylindrical wall of the vessel which is made of metal sheets of adequate thickness and appropriate material to enable it to maintain the required pressure and temperature, and resist rusting and corrosion.
The head, or the end of the pressure vessel, can be designed in a number of sizes and shapes. From flat, flat-sloping and toriconical to torispherical and elliptical, you’re spoiled for choice with different designs being specifically applicable to your particular needs.
Supporting hardware for pressure vessels includes legs, mounted equidistantly underneath the vessel and most commonly used as they are simple, cost-effective and provide access to the bottom of the vessel. Sidewall supports, pad-mounted vessels, skirt-supported containers and even portable ones all offer different functionality in terms of access, mobility, protection, drainage and support.
Autoclaves: what are they?
When a pharma professional speaks of an autoclave, they are referring to airtight devices that heat contents under pressure. Think a pressure cooker in an Indian household or an instant pot used to steam vegetables or cook rice. Of course more sterile, and with higher temperature and pressure tolerance.
So any process in pharmaceutical production that requires extremely high temperatures and pressures in a sterile environment could use an autoclave. These are used not just in industry, but also in laboratory settings to heat water above 100°C by preventing steam from escaping.
Extremely few organisms can survive at the high temperatures an autoclave can achieve. 15 minutes in an autoclave means saying goodbye to microorganisms and hello to a sterile product. So to achieve high purity, you absolutely must include this multi-purpose container in your pharmaceutical equipment list.
As we’ve established, pharmaceutical process vessels come in different shapes, sizes, features and functionalities – all of which affect the outcome of your process. You don’t want to compromise on the quality of your desired product! Equip your facility with the best-in-class pharmaceutical mixing vessels and pharmaceutical pressure vessels specific to your requirements, and you’re on track to set up a world-class pharmaceutical process.