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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. 

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