Burkert's AS-I Communication, Bus Equipped Element Diaphragm Valves chosen for Automated Production Line by World leader in Pharmaceuticals.

The AS-i communication bus facilities, remote visualisation capability and easy clean, stainless steel construction of Bürkert's Element range of diaphragm valves has resulted in their specification by Unither, a world leader in the manufacture of formulations for the pharmaceutical industry, as part of a major modernisation of the company's plant at Gannat, France.

With five production sites, a research and development centre, and commercial offices in Paris, UNITHER is currently the world leader in the manufacture of pharmaceutical formulations used by European pharmaceutical laboratories and producers of generic drugs (in particular, eye drops, physiological saline solutions and anti-asthma drugs in sterile soluble unit doses). It has a turnover of 151 million euros with a workforce of 850 people.

The Gannat site, employs around 150 people. It is a specialised production site for the manufacture of soluble tablets, dry formulations and anal suppositories. Recently, Unither decided to modernise its production equipment at the plant, with the aims of increasing production efficiency, improving safety and meeting the strictest pharmaceutical standards. In addition, Unither also wanted to develop and install an AS-i communication bus, to make its production as flexible as possible.

With all these objectives in mind, the operators of the Gannat site approached Bürkert, specifically because of the company's know-how and experience of pharmaceutical processes. In addition, Bürkert was the only manufacturer of components and solutions capable of responding to all of Unither's needs in terms of valves and instrumentation, as well as BBS pipework accessories such as viewing windows and filters. This was evidenced by Bürkert's design and manufacture of special valve blocks for the ELEMENT diaphragm valves, which reduced, as far as possible, the retention volumes where bacteriological growth could occur.

The new installation is equipped with a number of intelligent ELEMENT diaphragm valves. These offer a high degree of modularity with embedded diagnostic tools, guaranteeing maximum reliability and safety. Limit switch devices with AS-i communication are installed on each pneumatic valve.
The installation consists of a tank bottom drain valve type 2105, a draw-off valve type 2014, 2-way manual and automatic valve types 3233 and 2103, as well as the multi-port ELEMENT valve block, type 2034. The tank bottom drain valve is designed for regulation of ultra-pure, sterile, aggressive or abrasive fluids. It guarantees total draining of the tank and offers optimum possibilities for refilling.

Among the advantages offered by this new installation are the stainless steel design of all valve types and the AS-i type 8691 device with high intensity, multi-colour position indicator for visualisation of valve state from a distance - a facility which particularly impressed the operators of the Gannat site.

The ELEMENT range of diaphragm valves was perfect for the Gannat project as it has been designed by Bürkert to provide maximum reliability and safety for the most exacting users. The valves offer the advantages of being very easy to use, via simplified adjustment, excellent diagnostics and visualisation, ergonomics, safety of use, adaptability, and ease of electrical and pneumatic connections. In addition, start-up times are reduced by simple automatic regulation of the travel limits (auto-tune function); and reliability is also secured by an integrated filter on the pneumatic supply.

Additional major features include a small valve footprint, and a design where the lifespan of the actuator and control heads is increased through use of a self ventilated system (fresh air design). Also, crucially, the ELEMENT valves are easy to clean and also easy to maintain.

The ELEMENT 2-way diaphragm valves, type 2103; the "zero deadleg" draw-off valves and the tank bottom drain valves, type 2105, used at Unither, are supplied in nominal diameters from 8 to 150 mm.

The FDA and USP class VI approved membrane they are supplied with is made from EPDM, PTFE/EPDM or advanced PTFE/EPDM. The valves can withstand a pressure of 10 bar and a fluid temperature between -10° C and +150° C.

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