Does safety always go hand in hand with high costs and strict paramaters? Not necessarily, as a new method using continuous mixing technology shows. ACTEGA Terra is implementing it at its Lehrte site. The method enables even critical substances to be processed safely and uncomplicatedly. On top of that, it is conducive to entrepreneurial flexibility, for the compact installation can be assembled and disassembled easily. In general, the method makes chemical manufacture free of batch production, independent of the number of shifts, and if necessary: mobile.
RISK MANAGEMENT DOES NOT ALWAYS REQUIRE HIGH INVESTMENTS. INNOVATIVE METHODS CAN IMPROVE SAFETY WITHOUT GREAT EXPENSE. AN EXAMPLE: ACTEGA.
Continuous Process Technology
Those who want to print magazines, photo books, and playing cards need high-gloss coatings that dry in no time. This is possible with ACTEGA Terra’s TerraGloss UV coatings. They harden in fractions of a second under UV light thanks to a raw material that the company has recently started processing itself.
To do so, ACTEGA Terra utilizes an innovative method that has hardly been used in the chemical industry to date: continuous mixing technology with the help of a so-called reaction mixing pump. The method has many advantages, including relatively low investment costs and decreased energy consumption.
In addition, it enhances safety. “With the reaction mixing pump even critical substances can be processed safely,” says project manager Dr. Daniel Kopetzki. He oversees the new process technology in the company’s research and development team. BYK, too, has begun using the method for processing especially reactive substances – with success.
The reaction mixing pump is at the center of the new method. It is small, compact, and extremely variable. Thus, it makes chemical manufacture more flexible. There are two main reasons for this. First, the pump is suitable for different reaction types depending on the choice of chemical groups. Second, it is so simple to set up that it is easy to dismantle and reassemble at another location.
Production Around the Clock
Vital for safety: the reactions run automatically in a hermetically sealed container in which the required substances are fed directly from the storage tanks. So employees have no contact with the chemicals whatsoever. Unlike conventional batch production in special mixing vessels, with the method manual intervention is not even needed for process and quality control. Hence the reaction mixing pump can produce around the clock regardless of the number of shifts, including on weekends.
Another considerable advantage of continuous process technology vis-à-vis traditional batch production: “The quality of the product is not subject to any fluctuations provided that raw material supply and filling are automatic,” concludes Dr. Kopetzki. “Our customers can rely on this.”
There is only one drawback. The method cannot be used with lengthy reaction times. “It is designed for particularly fast reactions lasting a maximum of 30 minutes,” says Dr. Kopetzki.
ACTEGA Terra is currently making use of this production facility to process 25 tons of a raw material into a product that is used in UV-cured coatings every year. And the capacity is by no means exhausted. The facility can produce up to 100 tons.
With the help of a second facility in the lab, the company is testing further usage possibilities. “The innovative method can also be used for many products made by our sister company in the U.S.,” says the project manager. For ACTEGA North America also manufactures UV-cured coatings for the graphic arts industry. Dr. Kopetzki estimates that the method can be used for at least a fourth of all products, not just for ACTEGA, but for ALTANA as a whole.
Before he started working for ACTEGA Terra, Dr. Daniel Kopetzki did research at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin, where he completed his doctorate.
“The more varied the customer’s requirements are, the more multifaceted the production methods have to be,” the project manager asserts. And safety is the top priority.