Facility to enhance manufacture of formulated liquid products

Posted on 27 Nov 2017 by Jonny Williamson

The Centre for Process Innovation, a part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, announced it is working with leading academics to assist the UK formulation industry in the manufacture of formulated liquid products.

A car being spray painted using a liquid finishing product - image courtesy of DFC
The Centre for Process Innovation is working with leading academics to assist the UK formulation industry in the manufacture of liquid products. – image courtesy of DFC

Once the development work is complete, this new facility will be housed at CPI’s National Formulation Centre in Sedgefield, UK and will be available to SMEs and larger corporates active in the UK’s formulation industry on an open-access basis.

Graeme Cruickshank, director of the National Formulation Centre at CPI, said: “Investing in this novel type of infrastructure will ensure that the UK’s formulated products manufacturing is at the forefront of innovation.”

“Furthermore, the new capability being developed is core to the CPI offering of enabling formulators to learn small, learn fast & learn thoroughly, and is proof that bringing together the formulation Eco-structure partners within industry, academia and supply chains will have long lasting impact across this key industry sector.”

To deliver the required product benefits to the consumer, formulated products typically comprise a large number of component ingredients: not only ‘actives’ to deliver benefits, but also many other components required to deliver desired texture and shelf life.

Shampoo, face cream, printing inks, paints, catalyst wash coats and yoghurt are examples of formulated liquid products that are “soft matter”, neither classical liquids nor hard solids, requiring carefully controlled addition and mixing during manufacture.

Developments in the industry knowledge of product physics and process engineering has evolved over the years, meaning the ability now exists to create more optimised and controlled manufacturing processes.

Implementing this, however, is problematic as for many companies their capital assets are at full capacity and current pressures on research budgets mean the required capital investment for a test facility cannot be justified, as investment tends to be focussed primarily in product, rather than process, innovation.

The new capability being developed by the project partners will address these issues as it provides a learning test bed to enable users to learn quickly and efficiently across scales, ultimately enabling manufacturing processes that deliver product attributes which are scale-able, sustainable and economical.

It will allow companies to understand and control the dynamics of scale-up and scale-down of batch formulation processes.

Furthermore, it will serve as a test bed for novel sensors and process analytical tools, de-risking innovation for end-users as they can develop, validate and utilise new sensor technologies and process analytics capabilities before implementing on their own production lines, leading to the wider adoption of these cutting-edge tools across industry.

The new facility comprises flexible, multi-scale processing hardware and inline measurement sensors to allow real-time monitoring of the manufacturing process, and will therefore allow researchers to make process decisions based on access to new data streams and associated non-obvious empirical insights, as well as structure-property understanding relating to manufacturability.