What’s the Top Pump for Biologic Manufacturing?

 

Choosing a pump for biologics or pharmaceutical manufacturing can be a daunting process. There are close to 50 different, overlapping technology options that meet at least some of the needs for any given application. Narrowing down the field and picking the best pump involves understanding the risks involved with handling sensitive materials and the equipment options available. 

Top Biopharmaceutical Pumps - Quattroflow

Is the application concerned with high purity and sterility? Does it require high or low flow volume? Is the material sensitive to materials compatibility issues? What about heat and shear sensitivity? For most biologic manufacturing these questions can vary slightly but they tend to share the same requirement: pumps must operate with minimal impact on the material they are moving.

Additionally, it’s essential to understand whether single-use or multi-use equipment is necessary for facility flexibility and cost savings. Single-use technologies can reduce significant financial and operational risks associated with biologics manufacturing. And, while single-use pumps reduce downtime and increase batch consistency, the best pump may need to handle both single-use and multi-use configurations. 

With all these factors in mind, what pump types are on the market, and what are the main concerns associated with each? 

Peristaltic (Hose) Pumps: fluid is moved through a tube, via compression and release, by a rotor. Known to have limitations around flow and pressure, these pumps may also release contaminants into the product stream as the hose breaks down over time. While they are appropriate for some applications they are not necessarily the best choice for biologics. 

 Lobe Pumps: fluid is moved through the space created between two lobes as they rotate. With no single-use option available, these pumps can be costly to set up and maintain. Additionally, they tend to experience slippage and leakage as well as increasing the risk of external contamination and heat damage. Depending on the application these pumps can do significant harm to the manufacturing process and should be used only after careful consideration. 

 Centrifugal Pumps: fluid is moved by an impeller rotating. Because they are not positive displacement there is a risk of losing flow control if there’s a change to discharge conditions. Centrifugal pumps may also require expensive and time-consuming maintenance to replace the single-use components involved. They can also cause heat buildup and other issues that lead to biologic product damage or contamination. As a result, they are not commonly used in pharmaceutical processes at this time. 

 Piston Pumps: fluid is moved by piston generated suction and pressure. There are no widely available single-use choices for piston pumps at this time. This is because they are generally mechanically complex, which can lead to higher maintenance costs and manufacturing quality concerns due to equipment malfunction. They are also not a top choice for biologic production. 

 Quaternary Diaphragm Pumps: fluid is moved by four-pistons working together to enable a heartbeat-like, gentle flow. Brought to the market by Quattroflow, these pumps represent a significant improvement to pump technology. Single-use quaternary diaphragm pumps are sterile, efficient, and simple to maintain. They are available in a variety of sizes, accommodating high or low flow and pressure situations without risking damage to sensitive biologics. For facilities that require stainless steel equipment, multi-use pumps are available or single-use pumps can easily be converted over. 

 Quaternary diaphragm pumps are the clear best pump choice in biologic manufacturing. While there are advantages to each pump type there are also costly downsides. The quaternary diaphragm pumps are designed to have little to no impact on pumped materials while having a significant, beneficial impact on operating costs. This is truly a best-case scenario for most biologic manufacturing facilities. 

Pump Technology for Biopharma, Pushing Towards Innovation

 

Innovation is critical for improving processes and reducing costs in all industries. In pharmaceutical manufacturing, sensitive and sophisticated equipment is necessary to maintain the quality and consistency of biologics. While most pump technology is well established, there have been some recent advancements that are worth noting in the overall approach to pumping equipment and individual improvements to peristaltic, positive displacement, magnetic drive, and diaphragm pump technologies.  

One of the most significant advancements may be the trend towards single-use technologies. With considerations towards efficiency, reliability, cost savings, facility flexibility, and operational improvements, single-use technologies have been adopted by the vast majority of manufacturing facilities for at least one product line. Single-use pumps decrease cleaning and maintenance expenses, shorten the down-time required during production line changeover and significantly decrease the contamination risks associated with multi-batch or multi-use facilities. This provides a substantial competitive advantage for all biologics manufacturing, especially for contract developing and manufacturing organizations (CDMOs) and multi-product operations.  

Most pumps are also getting an Internet of Things (IoT) upgrade. More pumps with sensors and data feedback are on the market today than ever before. One particular company is designing smart pump skids with sensors and automation. These can be customized for each application.  

Peristaltic pump manufacturers are working to improve the design and adapt to the single-use trend. These pumps, which historically have had issues with pressure, flow, and tube degradation, are being upgraded to handle a broader range of pressures and sensitive products. New tube materials are also being developed to limit the contamination and operational issues associated with tubing disintegrating into the production stream.  

External circumferential piston (ECP) pumps are a new variety of positive displacement pumps. They are different from lobe pumps in that they have three rotors rather than two. This makes them more reliable, less prone to pulsing issues, and able to handle prolonged site shutdown without costly maintenance. ECP pumps are not available for single-use applications and may struggle with broader adoption as a result.  

Magnetic drive pumps have been on the market for some time but have only recently become a viable option for biologic production. The main issue with the use of these pumps has been related to heat build-up and flow control. Modern sealless magnetic drive pumps are designed to have fewer leak risks, and their re-engineered components show improved reliability and fewer flow disruptions. Single-use options have also been introduced to the market.  

Quaternary diaphragm pumps, developed and produced by Quattroflow, may be the biggest innovation in recent pump technology. These pumps are perfectly engineered for single-use or multi-use applications. The unique design is modeled after the human heart. The fluid is moved through chambers in sequence by four diaphragms. This keeps the biologic product always in motion at the ideal flow rate with no risk of leakage, friction, or heat build-up. Quaternary diaphragm pumps are available in a wide range of sizes and accommodate high or low flow and pressure environments without harming delicate biologic products.  

It is rare that new technology, in direct competition with established solutions, is introduced and widely accepted. The industry’s response to the quaternary diaphragm pump, however, has been almost universally positive. Many engineers insist that there is no competition for the quaternary diaphragm pump on the market for modern biologics and biopharma manufacturing. As Quattroflow continues to release new models and improve its original concept, these pumps will likely become the gold standard. 

Learn more about how Liquidyne Process Technologies and how Quattroflow Pumps can help support your biologics manufacturing by contacting us today!