Saturday 2 July 2022

What Role Do Flow Meters Play in Pharmaceuticals?


The modern flow meter used in industries today may look a lot different from its predecessors, but the basics of the design date back to the 1700s. In their simplest application, flow meters allow scientists and engineers in various sectors to quantify large-scale fluid movement. 


By Emily Newton


Hygienic flow meters play a vital role in the pharmaceutical industry, and advancements are happening every day that are paving the way for future progress.


Flow Meter Uses in Pharmaceuticals


There are many uses for hygienic flow meters in the pharmaceutical industry, including:


     Raw materials handling: There are situations where pharmaceutical companies may need to bring in large quantities of raw materials in liquid from various vendors. Flow metering makes measuring possible as they move into the production facility or the next step for chemical synthesis.


     Production: Materials may need to be kept in liquid form throughout the process, depending on the parameters of the production method. Flow metering can also be applied during the chemical synthesis stage.


     Additional steps: Flow metering can also be used during various processing, fermentation, extraction or purification steps during production.


Types of Flow Meters


Understanding the role flow meters play in the pharmaceutical industry begins with learning about the different types of flow meters the industry might employ.


Turbine or Inferential Flow Meters

Turbine flow meters, also known as inferential flow meters, use a bladed turbine rotor to measure the speed and velocity of a fluid. They're commonly used in pharmaceutical and biotech applications. Turbine flow meters are easily customizable and can be programmed to recognize variables like viscosity, temperature resistance and fluid density.


Turbine flow meters are beneficial and easily recognizable, but they do have some limitations. They're only safe to use with noncorrosive gases and liquids. Corrosive fluids can damage the turbines and impact the flow meter's accuracy. Changes in fluidity and bubbles in the fluids can affect measurement accuracy. A filter may be needed to catch particulates that could impact reading accuracy, and it may not function properly for particularly viscous fluids.


Coriolis or Mass Flow Meters


Coriolis flow meters, also called mass flow meters, work by measuring the inertia caused by the liquid or gas flowing through a tube. This inertia causes the tube to twist, which can be measured and cataloged. Traditionally, these flow meters use one of two different setups.


Bent-tube flow meters are better suited when precise and consistent measurements are necessary. Straight-tube flow meters are ideal for situations that require the highest level of cleaning and sanitation. Upwards of 50% of waterborne illnesses are caused by viral pathogens, and in a pharmaceutical setting, this type of disease becomes even more dangerous.


Coriolis flow meters are essential to the pharmaceutical industry, especially where caustic chemicals are concerned. The all-metal surface has no parts that might be susceptible to corrosion, and there aren’t any crevices where components or chemicals could get stuck during the transfer process.


Thermal Mass Flow Meters


Thermal mass flow meters are the tool of choice for measuring gas quantities. They combine other forms of flow meter technology, such as what can be found in ultrasound and Coriolis meters. Probes in the gas stream register the substance's temperature, while a second probe contains a heating unit that increases the nearby temperature. The differences in gas flow between the two temperature zones allow the system to measure the movement of the gases being transmitted.


Unlike turbines, thermal mass flow meters have a very small footprint within the gas flow, so they don't cause any interference. Thermal mass flow meters are ideal for situations such as nitrogen blanketing and purging or tablet and pill coating on the manufacturing floor.


Benefits of Hygienic Flow Meters in Pharmaceutical Work


There are several benefits to employing hygienic flow meters in pharmaceutical work:


     Improved product consistency: Interruptions or fluctuations in the flow of liquid or gas components can interfere with product consistency and quality control. A high-quality flow meter can prevent these problems before they ever occur.


     Accurate monitoring: Operations in the pharmaceutical industry often track gases like oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide. Flow meters can provide accurate monitoring and information that could indicate a leak if one occurs.


     Waste reduction: Variation in gas or liquid flow could lead to waste, which can be costly in the long run. Flow meters with high sensitivity can detect variations quickly and may even make remote adjustments to fix problems before they impact inventory.


     Lower measurement costs: Calibrations and maintenance can be costly but necessary. Sensitive flow meters can often double as calibration tools in various circumstances.


Flow Meters and Their Impact on the Pharmaceutical Industry


The pharmaceutical industry utilizes various fluids and gases in manufacturing. Flow meters offer a great variety of applications within this sector, from monitoring pressures to measuring the volume and viscosity of the products flowing through them. They will continue to play a vital role as time goes on and the field continues to advance.

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