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Should You Consider a Mobile Mill System?

May 4, 2009

By Martin Thomson

Compact air classifi er mill minimizes premium fl oor space while maximizing throughput capabilities.


Regardless of which industry you may be in, with resources stretched and a potential downturn in customer demand, anything that will improve the flexibility of a production facility is welcome. Many traditional mill systems are dedicated to a single process line. However, a mobile, integrated milling system that can be relocated easily, and is able to be interchanged quickly between products, can provide a cost-effective solution.

Mobile systems can range from very simple portable units to quite complex integrated processing systems. The systems have similar inherent advantages and often tend to be more space efficient than traditional methods. The fact that the system is easier to move and re-site opens up a host of potential opportunities for the user. This could range from re-siting the mill system to accommodating a peak in demand on another line, to simply transferring to a dedicated cleaning area, which, in turn, reduces the onboard CIP requirement.

In addition to the obvious process advantages identified above, there can also be project control benefits, including: clearer definition of “scope of supply” and system end points; minimal potential interface issues with other suppliers’ equipment; improved control over manufacturing schedule and quality, with all integration and testing done on the supplier’s factory floor prior to dispatch; full system CEmarking prior to dispatch; and quicker, more complete FATs.

The following case studies illustrate two practical examples of how a mobile mill system can overcome specific production process issues.

Case Study 1: The Multiproduct Contained Mill System

This mobile universal mill system improves fl exibility of a production facility and is easily relocated between production areas.

The requirement for this mill system was to provide a contained size reduction process that is flexible enough to handle multiple pharmaceutical products, yet mobile enough to be re-sited within several cleanroom locations.

The key to meeting these challenges was to design for the most arduous material and then build in variability within the process settings to accommodate lesser demands. Of course, all this had to be packaged into a design that could allow quick and simple repositioning of the whole unit.

The result was a nitrogen-inerted impact mill system within a glove box with the following processing criteria: milling of various pharmaceutical powders down to a typical d50 of 30 μm; handling toxic powders with OELs of sub 10 μg/m³; and elimination of the risk of milling explosive materials with an MIE< 3 mJ.

Given the ergonomic complexity of the system within a glove box, a full-scale mock-up was built and demonstrated to the end-user prior to the manufacturing stage. Not only did this ensure a workable design, it served to familiarize the operators with the system at an early stage.

Case Study 2: Rapid Response Air Classifier Mill System

A full-scale mock-up of mobile universal mill system ensured a workable design before manufacture.

Experiencing a spike in demand and recognizing the high value for powder paints in smaller capacities, a leading manufacturer in the powder paint and coatings industry needed a new small-batch production system that could accommodate quick product changeover requirements. Following the manufacturer’s specified criteria, an integral compact-designed air classifier mill was proposed to fit within the specified footprint and meet throughput capacities, while efficiently producing powder paints.

TA mobile mill system allows for quick and simple re-site of the whole unit to several cleanroom locations or production areas.

The resulting air classifier mill is a completely self-contained package. The whole system—including infeed, controls, and filtration—is mounted on a mobile frame, while providing userfriendly sequential controls and easy-clean features, all at a competitive price. The compact design minimized premium floor space, while maximizing throughput capabilities and reducing manual interaction and associated labor. Upon installation, the air classifier mill exceeded expectations by paying for itself immediately. When asked about their ROI, the project site engineer said, “Not only has the mill experienced zero downtime in the 18 months since installation, it has decreased production time from two weeks to 48 hours.”

Conclusion

In the right application, a mobile designed mill system can offer the following advantages: highly mobile, flexible process capabilities that give users maximum return for minimum outlay; a clearer definition of scope of supply with less potential for grey areas between vendors; better control over schedule and quality due to full integration at the main supplier’s factory; easier, quicker, and cheaper FATs; the ability to give full CE approval at suppliers, thus eliminating the need for postinstallation inspection; and less on-site time required for installation.

In today’s tough trading environment, customers demand choice and options. A mobile, skidmounted system helps take the “fixed” out of “asset”.

Martin Thomson is sales director at Kemutec Powder Technologies (Bristol, PA). The company offers a range of powder processing equipment including air classifier mills, universal mills, cone mills, prebreakers, mixers, and valves and discharge aids. For more information, visit www.kemutec.com.