Air compressors for the Pharmaceutical Industry
It’s hard to imagine the modern world without the pharmaceutical industry. From mild painkillers to life-saving drugs, the development of modern medicines transformed how we approach illness. Where once a tiny scratch could lead to a fatal infection, we now routinely take medicines that help prevent illness, cure the illnesses we do get, and help both extend and improve the quality of our lives.
But that is only possible when the pharmaceutical industry can operate reliably and safely. And air compressors make that possible, keeping pharmaceutical manufacturers going.
They do that by meeting — and exceeding — some of the most exacting regulatory standards in the world that help to protect the purity, and quality, of the drugs they help to manufacture.
How compressed air powers the pharmaceutical sector
Air compressors are a common feature in every form of industry and manufacture, being used in more than two-thirds of businesses. So, it’s no surprise that they are common in the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector, too.
And they are attractive for drug manufacturers for much the same reason as they are elsewhere. Compressed air is an efficient and cost-effective way of powering machinery. A good compressed air installation will have very little power loss, and can drive equipment, offering more power than electrical options.
It is versatile, meaning a single compressor can support multiple and varied uses. And that offers benefits when it comes to support and maintenance. A single, well-maintained air compressor can drive dozens of uses, saving the need to service dozens of different pieces of equipment.
And they are cost-effective. When regularly serviced, there is nothing stopping a compressor offering high-quality air over decades of operation.
Air compressor applications in pharmaceutical manufacture
Due its versatility, and the potential to generate exceptionally high-purity compressed air and nitrogen, compressors can be found in almost every part of the pharmaceutical industry.
Compressed air can power a range of equipment with high-energy efficiency. That means it will often be driving conveyors or handling packaging in much the same as it does in many other manufacturing sectors.
Moving and mixing drug components
Medicines come in a range of delivery methods, whether it’s pills and tablets, or creams and liquid medicines, they all have to be made with precision. Compressed air is frequently used to move ingredients through processes, especially powders and tablets. It can also be used to ensure precision in formulation and mixing, so active ingredients are consistently distributed.
Cooling and hardening
Compressed air can be used to accelerate natural pharmaceutical processes, these may include cooling pills at specific stages, or just drying and hardening.
Cleaning and clean rooms
Medicines need to be produced and manufactured in exceptionally clean environments. Compressed air is often used to blow away residues and excesses to ensure they do not become contaminants themselves. It can also be used to maintain air purity in cleanroom environments and as part of their entry and exit protocols.
The benefits of compressed air
As well as the benefits that compressed air can offer any manufacturing process, like cost-efficiency, versatility, and easy maintenance, it offers some specific benefits both for pharmaceutical manufacturing applications and for wider science applications.
One of the biggest is that a well-maintained compressor can produce incredibly pure air. When used to replace processes that might otherwise need a physical tool, like moving drug components, mixing, or cutting, it means there are fewer surfaces that can cause contamination. And because it reduces moving parts, it reduces the risks that human interaction introduces, from additional contaminants to worker accidents.
And, in every case, the precision that the compressed air system can offer, means that it can offer a consistency to processes that helps guarantee the quality of the end product too.
Challenges and Solutions
Pharmaceutical production is one of the most heavily regulated industries. And rightly so, whenever you reach for a medicine, whatever the reason, you need to have confidence in that drug.
This presents two key challenges for an air compressor. The first is that it has to be precisely calibrated. If used to mix drugs, for example, the compressor has to be trusted to distribute components accurately, so the drug has the required dosage, and consistently, to ensure that every tablet or capsule has the same dosage.
But it also needs to do this without introducing contaminants. Air actually contains a lot of contaminants, from naturally occurring pollen, dust, and spores, to man-made particulates, and even seemingly harmless water vapour. And the compressor itself shouldn’t introduce any contaminants, like oil, from its internal machinery.
To avoid this, pharmaceutical and science uses will often opt for using oil-free air compressors. These are precision-engineered, so they can operate efficiently without oil for lubrication, and it guarantees oil-free compressed air or nitrogen — a level known as class zero air.
Any other contaminants can be eliminated from ambient air by using filtration, while air driers can remove any water within the air. The result is pure air without moisture that is safe to use within drug manufacture.
Keeping your compressor compliant
Control Gear has a wealth of experience when it comes to supporting the pharmaceutical and science industry in and around South Wales. We offer a full range of fluid power services, including compressed air solutions, making us a total industrial solution. So, we don’t just understand compressors, we understand your business and your needs.
We are one of the longest-established Atlas Copco distributors in the UK and can design and install compressed air systems featuring any of the range of their award-winning compressors.
And if you already have a system in place, whatever the brand, we can provide servicing options that meet your needs, including a full-service 24/7 call-out option that will mean you can always get support when you need.
And we’ll always fully inspect your equipment, providing a full report, so you know that you are meeting the exacting standards of pharmaceutical manufacture and production demands.