A Guide to Choosing the Right Pump for Biopharma & Pharmaceutical Manufacturing

 

Choosing the right pump type for Biopharmaceutical and Pharmaceutical manufacturing can be a daunting task. There are many factors to consider, and some design elements may eliminate a pump that would otherwise seem like the right choice. To provide a high-level overview of the pump types available, the table below breaks down the most common pump types and describes some important factors to understand.  

Pump Type Description Recommended Applications Cost Single- Use? 
Quaternary Diaphragm Modeled after the human heart, quaternary diaphragm pumps move liquid through a series of chambers using gentle rotation and constant flow Designed specifically to move sensitive biological products, these pumps are widely used in biopharma applications. They avoid many of the issues caused by other common pump types, such as shear, heat buildup and inconsistent flow $$ Yes 
Peristaltic Also known as hose pumps, fluid is moved through a hose by pressure and release as a rotor turns A prevalent pump type, peristaltic pumps are found in most industries where fluid transfer is required. Hose compatibility and flow rates are the main concern when using peristaltic pumps $$$ Yes 
Centrifugal Centrifugal pumps function by transferring rotational energy generated by at least one rotor, also called an impeller Capable of moving all sorts of liquids, centrifugal pumps are found in a wide range of industries. They are better suited to low viscosity liquids and can have sealing, shear and heating issues $$ No 
Lobe A lobe pump creates fluid motion through two rotating elements, called lobes. As the lobes rotate, fluid is pushed around them as a function of changing available volume Lobe pumps are widely used to move sensitive fluids, especially highly viscous materials or products containing solids. There is some tendency towards slippage, leakage or risk of external contamination $$$ No 
Piston Piston pumps are positive displacement pumps. The up and down motion of the piston creates pressure differentials that move fluid forward These pumps are used frequently with medium pressure applications moving lower viscosity liquids. Piston pumps can have pulsation issues as well as creating potentially damaging shear $$$$ No 

 

When considering cost, estimated price levels are based on the total cost of ownership, and a few factors have been considered. These include initial cost, maintenance frequency and level of complexity, replacement parts and equipment longevity.  

Evaluating whether a single-use or multi-use pump is most appropriate for the application largely depends on the facility setup. All pumps listed above as single-use also have multi-use versions available on the market. Quattroflow’s quaternary diaphragm pumps are exceptional in that their single-use pumps can be converted in place to a multi-use configuration.  

Additional factors, not listed above, should also be taken into careful consideration. For example, are the product or products, especially temperature or pH sensitive? Will a higher shear rate damage the biologics? Are there specific speed, pressure, or flow requirements for the facility? What are the viscosity and specific gravity of the fluids, and how might that affect pump operation? Although complicated, selecting the right pump can have an extremely beneficial impact on operations, costs and efficiency. 

Practical Advantages to Diaphragm Pumps for Biologics

 

There are several vital components of biologics manufacturing that require the use of pumps. In each of these steps there are technology opportunities to either improve or hinder operational efficacy, efficiency, and quality control. While one type of pump may work for one process, it may not be the optimal choice for every process and may negatively affect different areas uniquely. A single pump, capable of handling various factors, is the ideal choice for facility simplicity and cost optimization.   

The general theme of these requirements fit into just a few categories:  

  • Flow: ideally, a pump should create low to no pulsation and be able to accommodate a variety of flow ranges with accuracy and control  
  • Pressure: pumps used for biologics manufacturing need to adapt to a range of pressures  
  • Product integrity: sensitive materials are easily damaged by pumps that generate shear, heat, or contribute contaminants to the product stream. This is not specific to any one process but is key to overall product integrity.  

When looking at chromatography columns, the primary concern is often maintaining high, constant flow rates. These columns are typically glass, steel, or plastic tubes filled with substances through which the biologic flows to capture or purify the product. The filter media is often quite expensive, and the right pump is key to maintaining the balance required for optimal function.  

Tangential flow filtration (TFF) also requires constant, controllable flow rates. This process functions by moving fluid alongside (tangentially, as the name implies) a filter media. TFF allows filtration to take place without the same fouling associated with normal-flow, or “dead-end” filtration by flowing across a membrane rather than through it. It also means that TFF can function continuously, even with relatively high solids load, if the flow remains steady.  

Another type of separation, virus filtration, uses a membrane to filter out particles of a particular size. Because the membrane can become fouled with solids, it is critical that the pump used in this process can manage changes, especially increases, in pressure. As with chromatography columns and TFF, virus filtration depends on reliable, controlled flow rates.  

A relatively new aspect of biologics production, inline blending, is another place where pump performance can impact manufacturing processes. Liquid ingredients, blended by simple combination within a single manifold, are mixed as they are transferred. This is also known as inline mixing or continuous blending and is becoming the new best practice for rapid, continuous production facilities. Because the components are combined in line, this process requires excellent flow control in the blend manifold and in the metering of products entering the stream.  

Lobe pumps and peristaltic pumps, often used in pharmaceutical and biologics manufacturing, prove problematic when their limitations are compared to the requirements presented by the processes above. The risks include slip, shear, heat addition, contamination via mechanical seals, degraded pump material and flow issues associated with solids handling or process restarts with lobe pumps. While peristaltic pump technology has improved, they still cause pulsing flow and have limited flow capacity and flow control. There’s also a risk of peristaltic pump tubing dissolving and affecting product purity, though these risks can sometimes be mitigated with proper tube material selection for each application.  

Quattroflow Quaternary Diaphragm Pump
Quattroflow Quaternary Diaphragm Pump

Another pump type that sees wide adoption for all biologics processes is the quaternary diaphragm pump by Quattroflow. First invented in the late 1980s, the quaternary diaphragm pump was designed to address the specific issues associated with chromatography and TFF. Inspired by the human heart, these pumps gently move fluid through four chambers using subtle rotation and positive displacement. They have excellent, steady, controlled flow and are adaptable to different pressure ranges without creating shear or adding heat. Although they are suited for lower viscosity products (under 1,000 centipoise) with particles smaller than 0.1 mm in diameter, quaternary diaphragm pumps are highly versatile. They can be used in a variety of biologic applications.  

When choosing pumps for biologics, all these processes and concerns must be considered. The right pump will save money upfront, reduce maintenance costs, and minimize product damage during manufacturing. 

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

What Single-use Pump is Best for Biologics Production?

 

Manufacturing biologics is a delicate process that requires precise design and optimized equipment to run efficiently and effectively. Choosing the wrong equipment for the application can put product quality at risk, resulting in frequent and expensive maintenance, and can even cause product contamination which can ruin the entire batch. Knowing which single-use pump specifically, is the best for biologics, is key to avoiding these costly issues. First, it’s essential to understand whether a single-use or multi-use pump is best for the application. Narrowing down to a specific pump is a matter of analyzing the options and weighing the pros and cons of each. 

For all biologic production processes, single-use equipment is becoming the standard best-practice. This is due primarily to the cost savings they offer. Specifically, the advantages of single-use equipment include: 

  • Decreased cleaning and maintenance expenses: single-use equipment inherently requires no cleaning, all parts which come in contact with the biologic products are easy to replace between batches.
  • Shortened downtime during production line changeover: most single-use equipment, and single-use pumps specifically, are designed to be switched over rapidly, in as little as 30 seconds.

  • Reduced risk for batch or product contamination, increased production, and facility flexibility: single-use pumps are switched over between batches. The opportunity for contaminants to be introduced into the process is dramatically decreased, ensuring enhanced quality integrity even in a multi-product manufacturing operation.
     
  • Lowered initial capital, overhead, and operating costs: single-use pumps typically cost less than traditional, stainless steel equipment. 

These factors combine to provide a competitive advantage for all manufacturing operations, and especially for contract development and manufacturing organizations (CDMOs) or multi-product facilities.  

The question, then, is which single-use pump is best for biologics manufacturing? To maintain product integrity, pumps must offer constant, low-slip, low-shear, low-pulsing flow. If the pumps do not meet these requirements, severe damage can be done to the biologics being handled as well as filter membranes or other media. 

Traditionally, the main pump types are peristaltic (hose) pumps, lobe pumps, centrifugal pumps, and piston pumps. There are issues associated with each type. Neither lobe pumps nor piston pumps are currently offered in a single-use variety, so they’re quickly eliminated. Peristaltic pumps often do not meet the pressure requirements of biologic production facilities and are known to cause contamination and flow issues due to material degradation and release. Centrifugal pumps are available in single-use varieties, but the maintenance of this type of equipment can be complicated and costly. Additionally, centrifugal pumps demonstrate poor flow control and can cause high-shear conditions and damaging heat build-up.

An alternate pump type has been introduced to the market that stands above the rest, meeting all pump performance requirements while still being single-useQuattroflow, a part of Pump Solutions Group (PSG) developed a single-use quaternary diaphragm pump specifically, for pharmaceutical and biotech applications. Modeled after the human heart, the four diaphragms move in sequence, keeping the biologic product always in motion at the specified rate. There are no rotating parts to cause friction, and the pumps are built to maintain flow integrity even under challenging conditions. 

For all biologic applications, the single-use quaternary diaphragm pump has become the go-to solution and the gold standard for Chromatography, Virus Filtration, and Tangential Flow Filtration (TFF). Uncompromising flow and operational quality, paired with the cost advantages associated with single-use equipment, show that innovative improvements to biologic production processes are possible and that the “traditional” solutions are not always the best. 

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