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A pragmatic approach to powder processing in Chemical Engineering

Modern powder-testing methods can offer valuable insights into bulk material behavior and lead to efficient powder-processing solutions.

Process simulation is a powerful tool for engineers in the chemical process industries (CPI) and one that plays an important role in commercializing new manufacturing routes and supporting process optimization. While it might be costly to construct a robust process model, once such a model is in place, it will deliver value throughout the lifetime of the process. For powder processors, however, comprehensive simulation is not yet an industrially practical option, largely because the mathematical modelling of powder behavior cannot yet be reliably achieved. Establishing a successful manufacturing solution by applying experimentation and process simulation in combination is therefore not viable, so alternative methods must be considered.

Traditionally, companies that handle and manufacture powders have relied heavily on processing experience, supported by basic forms of powder testing. However, this approach is more difficult to sustain within the lean-manufacturing environments that now prevail across all industrial sectors. Developing a knowledge base to extend powder processing expertise is seen as increasingly important, whether in the development of continuous processes for pharmaceutical products or in advancing the application of additive manufacturing (AM).

The article ‘A Pragmatic Approach to Powder Processing’ in Chemical Engineering provides a review of the challenges associated with powder processing and characterization, and demonstrates how modern powder-testing methods provide increased insight to support efficient process development and optimization. An example case, describing work carried out by a leading global powder processor, illustrates the potential benefits of adopting a pragmatic approach to powder handling that is based on measuring and applying powder properties that are directly relevant to a specific process.

Read more in the latest issue of Chemical Engineering.