Equipment flexibility is becoming ever more important, not least for maintenance. Sean Ottewell reports
In the face of tougher health and safety legislation, and the drive to improve efficiency, chemical companies are looking for quicker and simpler ways to carry out their maintenance strategies. One response from equipment suppliers is to modularise their products, making both their assembly and disassembly for cleaning a much simpler task.
Alfa-Laval, for example, has launched a modular high-speed separator platform. Based on the Lego principle, and comprising a number of building blocks, the new separators in this range will replace the largest self-cleaning separators in Alfa Laval's portfolio. They are designed to serve a wide variety of applications as well as chemical, including biopharma, proteins, vegetable oil and biodiesel.
The company says the new modular design brings numerous benefits to the users. First of all, it will make it possible to deliver an application-specific product in a shorter time. It will also be easier for users to upgrade and even rebuild the separator in the future, instead of investing in a completely new separator (Fig.1). Replacing just one block creates a completely new machine.
The modular design also paves the way for faster technology development, since the established interface between blocks makes it possible to develop one or a number of the building blocks to create new machines with new functions. Improved serviceability is another welcome benefit.
The technical features of the different blocks were determined following comprehensive feasibility studies. These included interviewing customers who were asked to specify their demands for the new range in terms of separation capacity and performance.
Alfa Laval says it is the first company to make hermetic inlets standard on all separators in a new range. Successfully used in the pharmaceutical industry, these inlets will now ensure substantial energy savings for other industrial users.
For example, changing from an open to a hermetic inlet can lower the energy consumption of the separator by as much as 40 per cent. The bottom-fed hermetic inlet ensures a completely air-free separation process, eliminating foaming and oxidation of the process liquid. The inlet also provides gentle acceleration of the process liquid up to full bowl speed. This minimises splitting of shear-sensitive particles, thus maximising separation performance.
While all blocks show improvements from previous separators, one module - the drive unit - comes in a completely new design. Named eDrive, the unit brings additional reductions in maintenance costs as well as energy savings. It also improves the robustness of the system since it has fewer parts, and it is easier to maintain.
The eDrive concept was patented by Alfa Laval and combines the latest mechanical and electronic features. Its embedded control system, 2Touch, ensures optimal energy efficiency, cooling and lubrication, which translates into less downtime and greater cost-savings for the users.
The built-in electronics enable a user to improve the productivity during the life-cycle of the equipment simply by upgrading the embedded programme.