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Facts At Your Fingertips

Blending
Department Editor: Scott Jenkins

B
lending is a fundamental TABLE 1. PROS AND CONS OF BLENDING APPROACHES
chemical unit operation, and Manual batch blending Automated batch blending Continuous inline blending
there are a handful of common Highest degree of flexibility Preferred method for batch- Highest throughput
ways to implement it. Blending appli- wise reactions
Pros Lowest up front capital Highest degree of repeatability Lowest in process inventory
cations can be either manual or auto-
Will work for almost any Faster cycle time Best repeatability and
mated, and can be carried out either product efficiency
as a batch or continuous process. Slowest cycle times Raw materials require bulk Raw materials require bulk
There are advantages and drawbacks storage storage
Cons
to each blending approach, and the Highest operating expense Large plant footprint Will not work for all products
information provided in this one-page More prone to human error Least flexible
reference can offer direction in select- due to the added instrumentation, require mix tanks or final product stor-
ing from among them. automated valves, programming and age. This allows for less in-process in-
Table 1 outlines the key pros and required bulk storage. Advantages ventory, reduced working capital and
cons for the different types of blend- include significantly reduced cycle plant footprint.
ing systems. times and manpower requirements, Continuous inline blending is also
thereby increasing throughput and the least flexible of these options
Batch blending reducing operating expense. Chang- when it comes to recipe changes.
Manual batch blending (Figure 1) is ing a blending formulation can be Making small adjustments to the
the most flexible option and has the straightforward if no new ingredients ratio of the ingredients is easy, but
lowest capital cost. It is possible to are required. Automated blending can major changes cannot be made
make a wide array of mixtures and offer a sweet spot between manual without hardware and software ad-
conduct a large number of reactions batch and continuous inline blending, justments. This being said, with a
in the same tank using this approach. in terms of costs and throughput. clear vision of the desired end result,
The main downsides are that manual it is possible for a single inline blend-
batch blending is relatively slow and Continuous blending ing system to be capable of making
labor-intensive. Additionally, because Continuous inline blending is almost many different mixtures of coloring,
operators weigh the raw materials, always a fully automated process. It fragrance or flavor as easily as se-
human error and variability are factors. has major advantages over the pre- lecting a new recipe.
To speed up the process and mitigate viously mentioned methods, but is
the risk of human error, automating a more restrictive with regard to the Questions to consider
blending system is an option. types of applications in which it can Each blending application has its
Automating a batch blending sys- be employed. If properly sized, con- own specific challenges to consider.
tem involves higher capital costs, tinuous blending equipment does not Is there a minimum amount of time
required for an additive to dissolve?
Is the viscosity of the material too
high for some methods? Is the heat
of dissolution or reaction negligible
or high enough that it must be care-
fully accounted for? Many factors
must be considered and balanced
for each individual application, and
in many cases, it may be useful to
consult an expert before settling on
a solution. Hopefully, this informa-
tion has your project headed in the
right direction. n

Editors note: Content for this Facts at your Fingertips


column was provided by Stephen Benbrook, process de-
velopment engineer at EPIC Modular Process Systems, Inc.
(4242 Meramec Bottom Rd., St. Louis, Mo.; Phone: 314-
272-4149; Website: www.epicmodularprocess.com; Email:
sbenbrook@epicsysinc.com).
Disclaimer: Although the information and recommen-
dations set forth herein are presented in good faith, EPIC
Systems, Inc. and its subsidiaries make no representations
or warranties as to the completeness or accuracy thereof.
No representations or warranties, either express or implied,
FIGURE 1. Manual batch blending offers the most flexibility, but also has the highest operating expense or merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose or of any
other nature are made hereunder.
28 CHEMICAL ENGINEERING WWW.CHEMENGONLINE.COM AUGUST 2017