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Reduce Common Process Challenges – Biopharmaceutical Hose & Hose Assembly Maintenance

Hoses are a crucial part of most biopharmaceutical and many other manufacturing processes. Moving fluids and products from one stage to another often involves transfer through a system reliant on pumps and pump hoses. As with all equipment involved in the manufacturing process, understanding when to change and to maintain hoses can decrease the risk of hose failure and help control costs.

In general, the best maintenance practice is either predictive or preventative. Predictive maintenance strategies are custom schedules that are developed based on equipment risk profiles and tailored maintenance needs. These are often designed based on failure analysis but can sometimes be provided by the hose supplier or manufacturer, depending on the application. Preventative maintenance involves sticking to pre-determined schedules, typically set by the equipment manufacturer. Both predictive and preventive plans can maximize productivity and reliability while maintaining safety standards, reducing cost, and decreasing contamination risks to both the product directly and the facility in general.

Maintenance isn’t always the controlling factor affecting hose life, however. Careful consideration needs to be taken when choosing the correct hose and adjusting maintenance schedules based on other contributing elements.

For example, single-use hoses may need to be changed out more frequently as the batch or product types alternate. Since these hoses are designed to be sterile upon installation and discarded after use, their maintenance schedule can be significantly different than other hoses. In biopharma applications, single-use hoses are quickly becoming the norm for a variety of liquid transfer processes. A supplier like Liquidyne can work with the manufacturing facility to source, select, and pre-cut single-use hoses to minimize downtime during a changeover.

For all hoses, single or multi-use, maintenance frequency also depends on choosing the correct hose for the application in the first place and performing the right pump and hose set up.

In biopharma manufacturing, chemical and material compatibility are crucial, as some materials may leach or react chemically with certain substances. PTFE hose liners react with fluorine, chlorine trifloride, and molten alkali metals. This hose type should not be used in processes involving these materials. Additionally, when PTFE lined hoses are used to transport chlorine or bromine, diffusion becomes a concern. Once the chemicals have diffused through the hose, they combine with moisture in the atmosphere and cause severe corrosion. Corroflon hoses are a better choice for these kinds of applications. The technicalities around hose compatibility can be intimidating. When in doubt, the best course of action is consulting with the supplier or manufacturer directly for a recommendation.

Physical setup is also essential to hose life. Hoses should be cut and fit correctly for the application. End fittings must be appropriately connected to mating parts, and hoses should not be set up in a way that causes kinking, torsion, external corrosion, or frequent abrasion. Although each of these set up errors might not cause a failure immediately, they compromise the hose’s integrity over time and result in more frequent maintenance and replacement.

During use, hoses should also be handled with as much care as possible. Stretching or crushing a hose can damage the hose’s overall lifespan, even for a short period. If it is necessary to insert an object into the hose, for cleaning or other purposes, it is essential that the inserted object does not have any sharp edges or burs that could damage the interior surface. For cyclical applications where gasses and fluids are passed through the hose during temperature and/or pressure changes, more frequent maintenance and change will be required, regardless of the hose material. All hose types fail quickly under these circumstances, and manufacturers should plan maintenance schedules accordingly.

If hoses are chosen, set up, and used correctly, manufacturers typically provide a maintenance plan based on expected wear and tear. For Aflex Hose, they recommend a visual inspection once per month. These inspections should check for visible leaks, bubbles caused by internal leaks on rubber-lined hoses, and any change in physical characteristics that could indicate hose damage or imminent failure. Every six months, Aflex Hose recommends a more robust inspection. However, they offer this inspection to Aflex customers, and a supplier like Liquidyne can help coordinate with the manufacturer on both predictive and preventative maintenance best practices.

Properly selected and adequately maintained hoses will enable efficient, effective, safe, and contamination-free transfer of materials for biopharma and other manufacturing from start to finish. The rules for hose maintenance aren’t very different than general maintenance best practices: choose the right tool for the application, ensure proper use and installation, follow the manufacturer’s suggestion for inspection and replacement. For any additional concerns, Liquidyne is available to consult and design custom solutions for specific applications, from choosing the correct hose to providing a reliable supply chain for all future hose and hose assembly needs.

Learn more about how Liquidyne Process Technologies can help support your process manufacturing needs by contacting us today!

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