The same is true in India, where the generics industry has been rocked by a few high profile concerns about quality in recent years.
For small to medium scale, chemical makers now have a lot of choice without having to choose bespoke systems. Ehrfeld’s plate-based modular system can be used to demonstrate that a process can run continuously in the lab.
”’ Intensichem is working on hydrogenation, continuous melt technology – completely eliminating the solvent for some processes – and oxidation.
A smaller plant footprint also means the most appropriate materials can be chosen, for example a corrosion-resistant superalloy such as Hastelloy might otherwise have been prohibitively costly.
The drivers are varied: the push for sustainability, improved safety requirements and changing supply chain models are all taking manufacturers in the same direction: towards flow, or continuous, processing.
‘The reality is that chemical manufacturing is a variable business.’ Processes will involve multiple reaction steps, and where different products are being produced at different times of the year, manufacturers can’t afford a different reactor for every job.
Getting the industry interested in adoption means it must have the right skills available.
Chemtrix, which provides training as well as designing and manufacturing flow reactors, finds that the majority of the installations are just 1–3 key steps out of the whole process. Her instinct is to identify bottlenecks rather than improving only the reaction, otherwise she finds the problem may just be shunted elsewhere downstream.
The inherent industry conservatism also means there are very few case studies, with companies reluctant to let suppliers reveal details of the work they are doing.