Who Validates Your Process?
Recently we had a conversation with a client and they asked, “Did you validate the results?” My answer was, ‘No.’ However, the long answer is why would Sonic validate the results of your process for your customer? Just as you would not put a fox in charge of the hen house, at Sonic we don’t want to make the decision whether or not our custom designed equipment is best for your application.
Our process method at Sonic is to create lab samples at various pressures (see blog HERE). The samples are sent to our clients so they can perform testing to determine the best/lowest pressure at which their desired product characteristics are produced. There are a number of reasons for sending the samples to our clients for analysis.
- Our customers are experts at producing their products and know just what parameters are key to product quality and performance.
- Sonic is involved in hundreds of different applications within a year, therefore, it would not be feasible for us to develop the same expertise as our clients in any one application.
- Sonic wants our customers to make the decision of whether or not our custom designed equipment is best for their application.
- Sonic wants to be sure we are able to design a system that both Sonic and the customer agree can meet the product and processing goals.
In most cases, if the Sonolator homogenizer or TechBlend blending system works for an application it is obvious and the improvement in either or both product quality and process efficiencies is great. In fact, the improvement is often significant enough to justify the capital expense involved in purchasing the new custom designed equipment.
In an effort to make the equipment decision easier we open our lab for testing. Since the equipment we build is custom designed to a particular application we don’t try to fit a particular application into a standard model, but rather want to test the application to determine proof of concept and the best design. At Sonic the design is built to the application and preferences of the customer. Lab testing also gives us the opportunity to better understand the inputs and their pumping requirements. Custom mixing and blending skid designs allow Sonic to choose the best pump and other components for a particular input. For example, when designing for hand sanitizer production we often combine progressive cavity pumps with tri-plex plunger pumps.
The progressive cavity pump is able to handle the higher viscosity input while the tri-plex plunger pump handles water like viscosities up to approximately 4,000 cps.
It is not unusual for a client to come to us with a ‘blending’ application that ends up needing high pressure homogenization. For example, we were working on a wet wipe fluid and the client said it was a simple blend of three ingredients. When we ran a trial in our lab we found that a standard static mixer did not provide enough mixing. In fact, there was a small percentage of oil in the blend which needed to be emulsified and this required homogenization. So, the ‘blend’ was actually an oil into water emulsion that once mixed with the Sonolator homogenizer went together perfectly.
Three stream wet wipes production system
Another example was a resin blending application. This application had relatively high viscosities. When we metered the three resins through a standard static mixer the result resembled tooth paste with a stripe running through it. It was decided to try a helical static mixer instead of the normal ribbon style element. This produced excellent results. This client purchased two systems and is in the process of specifying a third. Their operations have been greatly streamlined using the in-line continuous processing of Sonic’s multiple-feed blending skids. Lab testing in both of the above cases proved critical in offering the correct system design.
Four stream resin blending production system
In summary, look to a supplier who can test your product on their equipment before committing to purchase. If it can’t be proven to your satisfaction, then capital spent is really a roll of the dice.
This may sound obvious, but if your supplier can’t provide verifiable results find another supplier. By all means, validate your process on the proposed equipment using your expertise! Don’t assume or rely on someone else has validated your process.