How to Succeed With a Toll Industrial Chemical Blender
KT Brickman, Feb 3, 2022 9:54:00 AM
Manufacturers often rely on toll processors to support production and keep business running smoothly, even in the face of challenges.
Issues like capacity, specialty capabilities or equipment, specialized personnel or labor shortages, and even supply chain disruptions can all be minimized by strategically collaborating with a toll blending service.
Along with particle size reduction and blending of milled solids, toll blending companies that also mix liquids and produce dispersions serve a vital role in manufacturing across nearly every industry.
Pharmaceuticals, food and beverage, inks and pigments, and industrial chemicals can all require the services of experts in blending, mixing, and dispersions.
So, what should you look for in a tolling partner that can support your liquid mixing needs? Is it all about finding a custom processor with the equipment needed for your process, or should you consider other factors?
First, a Few Definitions: Blending Vs Mixing
It’s important to know you’re speaking the same language when working with a toll processor, so here are the words we use to describe, on a very high level, some of the processes used.
In day-to-day use, most people use the two terms interchangeably. That’s pretty normal. At CPS, we usually refer to blending when we talk about powdered, milled, or micronized solid raw materials. When we apply forces to combine two or more dry, solid ingredients to distribute them uniformly in an intermediate or final product, that’s blending. It’s typically a gentler, lower-energy process than mixing.
When we refer to mixing, we’re talking about the involvement of liquids and a more aggressive, energy-intensive process that results in a new product. For example, dry ingredients in a cake recipe may be blended together before the liquid is introduced. The wet and dry ingredients are then mixed to make the batter. Sometimes in mixing, conditions need to be controlled to cause desirable chemical reactions between ingredients.
Another way to think of a mix is a dispersion. This is when solid particles are mixed until they remain suspended (not dissolved) in a liquid. When done correctly and under the right conditions, dispersed solids should stay in suspension and not separate.
Mixing Equipment: Capabilities & Capacity
Businesses new to working with a toll blender often focus on capabilities, and for good reason: the need for a specific capability or piece of equipment most likely sent them looking for custom processing services in the first place. You could be looking for a specific mixing tank volume for a large batch to meet a spike in demand, or a much smaller tank for running a process trial.
Yes, it’s essential to make sure that the toll blender you work with has the equipment to meet your needs — but it’s just as smart to look beyond your immediate requirements, so you know that when the next need comes up, you can trust your tolling partner to help you handle it, and you don’t need to start a fresh search.
Be sure your toll blender has access to a wide range of tank sizes (ours range between 6 liters and 2500 liters) to address any batch size, and a diverse array of potential mixer and blade configurations. Considerations can include:
- Motor size and power capacity
- Selection of blade sizes and shapes
- Blade materials, including metals, ceramics, and polymers
- Access to an NFPA Class I environment (for handling flammable liquids)
- GMP certification for food and pharmaceuticals
- In-house analytical and laboratory testing
- R&D capabilities
Expertise + Collaboration: A Recipe for Success
Successful liquid blending and dispersion are all about controlling the variables. That means a deep understanding of your materials and their individual characteristics, how they’ll interact with equipment and with each other, and how those interactions can be controlled and manipulated.
Think back to that cake recipe: factors like order of ingredients, mixer speed and power, blad shape and material, temperature, and timing can all affect the final product. So look for an industrial chemical blender that fields a team of material scientists and technical experts to help ensure your projects are set up for success from the start.
Just as important, prepare to do your part to set up a successful project, too. How? It starts with information. Without a safety data sheet (SDS) for every material, your project can’t start. But it’s important to understand that the SDS is the baseline, not the best practice.
The more information you can provide, the better your technical team can identify potential efficiencies. Plan to provide in-depth information, including:
- An SDS for every ingredient
- More in-depth material information if you have it
- Equipment used: tank size, mixer type, blade size, shape, and materials
- Equipment settings
- Time on equipment
- Ambient conditions
- Temperature concerns
- Final packaging format (pails, barrels, totes, or bottled and packaged)
If you can share the product’s end use with your team, and whether the blend or dispersion is an intermediate product (such as a particle surface treatment) or final product, you really are helping them help you. Why? Because when they identify efficiencies that save time, energy inputs, and costs, a toll processor will share that savings with you.
Think about it: so many characteristics can influence a liquid blending or dispersion process: viscosity, temperature sensitivity, density, surface tension, particle size and shape, and much more. An experienced toll processor may have significant experience and be able to make recommendations for surfactant or dispersant additives that could improve your process, result, and project costs.
In addition, it can pay to explore whether your toll blending company can provide other services, either upstream or downstream from the blending process. Upstream, be sure to look into particle size reduction, like jet milling and wet milling for your solid ingredients. Downstream, ask about custom liquid bottle filling and logistics.
Get Started on Your Liquid Blend or Dispersion
The science of blending can help you unlock the incredible potential of your materials and help you achieve products that perform exactly as intended. When you download Blending for Pharmaceuticals: A Guide for Selecting Your Trusted Toll Processor, you’ll get great info on how to assess a custom processor’s capabilities to find the right fit for your GMP blending needs. Just click the link below to get your own copy.