Pharma Powders Fed to Packaging By Automated Conveyors

Epic Pharma recently shifted from manual methods to automated flexible screw conveyors moving difficult-to-handle cholestyramine powder to packaging machines to gain a more efficient process, as well as a cleaner and safer plant environment.

Epic Pharma develops and manufactures a range of generic pharmaceuticals for the treatment of pain, lipid disorders, hypertension and infection, and provides contract manufacturing services to some of the largest US pharmaceutical companies. 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, epic Pharma fed the resin to pouch filling machines by raising 220 lb (100 kg) drums approximately 6 ft (1.8 m) 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.

The 14 cu ft (396 l) 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. “The flexible screw conveyors have brought a “more efficient process as well as a cleaner and safer plant environment,” says Frank Mellone, senior director Packaging.

Each 4.5 in. (114 mm) diameter polymer conveyor tube encloses a flexible stainless steel screw that is driven by a 3 hp (2.2 Kw) electric motor. As the screw rotates, it propels material through the smooth, crevice-free tube and self-centers, 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 10 ft (3 m) at a 45-degree incline, discharging through FDA approved flexible downspouting into each pouch filler’s intake hopper. Each conveyor starts/stops in response to a signal from the pouch filler’s hopper, maintaining a more 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. The pharmaceutical-grade conveyors and hoppers have stainless steel product contact surfaces, are validated and GMP compliant.

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