Remote monitor makes API drying a breeze

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Process control

A remote controlled camera system that provides continuous
monitoring of a key processing machine has achieved a hike in
operating efficacy at active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) and
fine chemicals company Macfarlan Smith.

Macfarlan Smith said it made the gains by installing a process colour camera system, developed by UK company Visilume, at its manufacturing plant in Edinburgh.

The Visulex camera system has been installed in a Zone 1 hazardous area and clean room environment where access to the sight-ports is restricted. The compact system enables synchronised monitoring and control of a pharmaceutical filter dryer from a single remote location.

"Prior to installing the camera, checking the contents of the dryer and controlling the drying process meant leaving the main plant and suiting up in clean room clothing, which would take at least fifteen minutes,"​ said the company.

The Visulex camera is mounted over a sight port on the dryer vessel and is connected to a programmable logic controller (PLC) in a safe area, 130 metres away. The operator accesses the PLC via a control system, in which an image of the filter dryer content is embedded on the screen along side the dryer controls.

Using this single screen the operator can remotely control the camera zoom and focus to monitor when solids first appear then regulate the agitator in order to smooth the mix during mother liquid removal.

The process sound simple, but the results are dramatic, according to Macfarlan Smith.

Ross Martin, a process engineer at the API company, noted that it results in more efficient production control, "because the system saves time on suiting up staff to view the filter dryer and enables one man to monitor and control the dryer, as well as supervise other processes from a single location."

The availability of continuous surveillance during the filtration operation also means that there is far more confidence in the process, he said. For example, it is much easier to check that the cake is smooth during the mother liquor removal and before the wash is applied. This helps to ensure product quality, said Martin.

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