Biologics and personalized medicine are increasingly becoming more popular — causing the biomanufacturing industry to change. Instead of sticking to large-scale production processes, manufacturers are looking for new ways to be agile. To reduce product changeover times and improve efficiency, many are turning to single-use technologies, which use disposable bioprocessing equipment instead of stainless steel. Because they avoid time-consuming clean-in-place (CIP) and steam-in-place (SIP) processes between batches, single-use products lower labor, material, and utility costs and improve time to market.

ASCO™ Series 273 Pneumatic Pinch valves. (Credit: Emerson)

As these new technologies gain traction in the biomanufacturing field, it is important to choose the right fluid control and automation systems. Doing so can help manufacturers maximize the benefits of single-use products — ultimately increasing productivity in these applications.

The Key to Minimizing Downtime

One of the biggest challenges biomanufacturers face is downtime — something single-use technologies overcome. Generally made from platinum-cured silicone or biopharma-graded plastic, these products are disposed of after use. As a result, single-use products eliminate the need to clean between batches and have a very short changeover period compared to stainless-steel equipment.

A line changeover for a stainless-steel bioreactor, for example, can take up to 10 hours for the same product — and up to three weeks for a full product changeover. Compare that to a single-use bioreactor, which only requires a few hours between batches. Because of their quick changeovers, single-use products lead to significantly higher throughput and enable smaller, more efficient batches. They can also reduce a facility’s manufacturing footprint, lowering the costs for ventilation, heating, and other utilities (see the sidebar, “A Robust, Customized Control Cabinet.”)

It’s important to work with fluidic system suppliers that offer a full line of fluid automation products — released or in development — that benefit biomanufacturers making this leap from large-scale to single-use production processes. These suppliers combine their extensive product offering — which can include valve automation solutions, air preparation equipment, instrumentation, integrated solutions and more — with invaluable industry expertise to provide reliable service whenever and wherever it is needed.

Single-Use Pinch Valve Reduces Install Time and Costs

Emerson provides process automation solutions for application to OEMs and end users in pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical manufacturing. (Credit: Emerson)

From valve automation to advanced control systems, a variety of products can help get a single-use biomanufacturing operation up and running.

Single-use pneumatic pinch valves, for example, achieve process control automation in areas like bioreactor and fermentation tanks, chromatography, tangential flow filter (TFF) skids, and other drug-discovery lab applications. Look for valves with innovative designs, in which the pinch mechanism holds the soft tubing in place — minimizing any disturbances to process media and preventing tube damage over repeated use.

A supplier should also always keep user safety at the forefront of product designs. Pinch valves, for example, can include a position indicator option that indicates their ON/OFF status anytime during the batch process. Valves can also feature a manual override function that lets operators insert or remove tubing without actuating the valve. This enhanced valve design accelerates setup, lowers costs, and makes unscheduled maintenance easy — all of which are critical to maximizing uptime in single-use applications.

In addition, the ASCO™ pinch valve, for example, makes no contact with process media, features a high life cycle, and provides a reliable pinching force without the need for an electrical connection. It also resists corrosion caused by tube breakage or washdown.

Shopping for Process Control Automation

As the single-use market continues to expand globally, a single, global supplier can deliver a comprehensive fluid control solution. Emerson, for example, offers a wide range of systems and solutions that enhance product quality, improve reliability, and lower operating costs in the biomanufacturing sector.

In addition to pinch valves, it offers technology-driven fluid and motion control systems and solutions — all of which work together seamlessly, allowing manufacturers to focus on optimizing their biomanufacturing operations. These suppliers provide everything from design and implementation to startup and ongoing technical support to help single-use operations stay competitive in a global economy. Single-use operations can enable companies to achieve increased time to market, improved valve efficiency, controlled fluids, as well minimized downtime and optimized plan performance.

Speed time to market with high-performing valve manifolds. Valve manifolds with modular, flexible designs simplify installation, commissioning and system integration in single-use applications — lowering engineering costs and speeding time to market. These plug-and-play systems include high flow rates, I/O capabilities, compatibility with popular industry protocols, and a pressure shutoff function, which lets manufacturers replace individual valves without halting the production process — further reducing line downtime and maintenance in single-use applications.

Improve valve efficiency with next-generation electronics. Electronics platforms provide pneumatic valve manifolds with fieldbus and Ethernet connectivity, as well as a graphics display for configuration, commissioning, and diagnostics. They allow programmable logic controllers in single-use systems to more efficiently turn valves on and off. They also channel I/O data from sensors, lights, relays, valves, and other I/O devices via various industrial networks.

Control aggressive fluids with durable valves. Angle body valves handle aggressive fluids, such as steam, hot water, solvents, and light slurries, in CIP and SIP applications. Air- or water pressure-operated with a straight-through design, these valves come with a wide range of advanced accessories, including a signaling box, compact positioner for proportional control and stroke limiter for even greater precision.

A Robust, Customized Control Cabinet

In cleanrooms or environments subject to washdown, manufacturers need a quick, easy, and space-saving way to protect sensitive electrical and pneumatic components. Already assembled, tested, and ready to install, integrated enclosure solutions ensure corrosion and damage resistance in sensitive installations. These turnkey packages also withstand regular exposure to aggressive cleaning fluids. In addition to biomanufacturing applications, these enclosures are ideal for the life sciences, food and beverage, petrochemical, and packaging industries.

Minimize downtime with quality air-preparation equipment. Air-preparation devices treat the air quality and pressure in your plant’s pneumatic system. Modular Filter Regulator (FR) assemblies with body-to-body clamps facilitate assembly during installation and service, while optional end plates let manufacturers quickly remove the manifold assembly by loosening screws — keeping downtime to a minimum in single-use systems.

Optimize plant performance with advanced control systems. Distributed control systems (DCS) can improve manufacturing agility in single-use applications by helping meet demands in real-time. These easy-to-use automation systems often include a suite of services geared toward simplifying your operational complexity and lowering project risk. They also adapt to meet your specific biomanufacturing needs — scaling easily without adding complexity.

This article was written by Mukta Sharma, Product Marketing Manager, Fluid Control and Pneumatics at Emerson, St. Louis, MO. For more information, visit here .