Application Note

Natural Alternatives Remedies Production Ailment Through Desiccant Technology

Source: Munters Corporation - DH Division

Click Here To Download:
Application Note: Nutraceutical Manufacturing And Storage

Natural Alternatives International, Inc. (NAI), a leading formulator, contract manufacturer and marketer of nutritional supplements, needed to address a high humidity challenge in its production processes. The company found a remedy by utilizing Munters dehumidification equipment to reduce moisture levels at its plant in Vista, Calif.

Manufacturers of nutritional supplements must constantly strive for a dry environment for specific products so that powders used to make tablets and capsules are dry and compressible. Powder that is too moist will stick to equipment, form clumps that affect the efficacy of the product, and won't flow well through the production line.

Because the Vista facility is located 12 miles from the Pacific Ocean, humidity levels outside the building often reach 70 to 85 percent year-round, raising moisture levels inside and disrupting the sensitive Encapsulation and Tableting manufacturing operations.

"When humidity levels are too high, the powder gets sticky and tacky, it does not form a good capsule or tablet and it can't be dosed mechanically," said Terry Doane, facility manager for NAI.

Doane sought an effective solution.

Identifying a Treatment

At NAI's Vista facility, production begins in the blending room. Raw materials are added to a blender in sequence and rotated according to a prescribed mixing time. Formulations are then analyzed by batch, ensuring the potency and purity of every supplement that is manufactured. The blended material is then moved to the encapsulation and tabletting suites, where it is compressed into solid dosage forms of either chewable wafers or tablets or producing two piece capsules to the customers specifications.

Doane first tackled the humidity issue by installing three 15-ton packaged air handling units in the facility's blending, encapsulation and tabletting areas. The packaged units consisted of heat pumps and air conditioning to condition the plant. He later supplemented the air handling units with several small individual dehumidifier units.

"The three heat pumps and portable dehumidifiers in our tablet and two-piece capsule filling areas didn't lower the humidity enough to improve operations significantly," said Doane. "We still experienced humidity levels anywhere from 50 to 65 percent in our production areas depending on the conditions outside our facility."

Seeking another solution, Doane conducted research and discovered a new option -- the Humidity Control Unit (HCU) manufactured by Munters' Dehumidification (DH) Division. Munters DH Division manufactures state-of-the-art air-conditioning and dehumidification systems for environments that benefit from humidity levels below 50%.

Doane contacted Munters to discuss the humidity issues at Vista. Aaron Deutsch, Munters local representative, and owner of Drymaxx Air Solutions, LLC helped Doane design a dehumidification system that included a Munters HCU desiccant dehumidifier. The unit would be installed on the plant's rooftop and deliver conditioned air via ductwork into the facility's existing three heat pumps.

A Dose of HCU

The HCU is a desiccant dehumidification system that provides operators with the ability to control humidity independently of temperature. The HCU is designed to treat 100 percent makeup air and works in conjunction with an existing A/C system.

"It controls humidity on an as-needed basis, when the humidity or temperature levels exceed a set point," said Deutsch.

The HCU removes humidity using a combination of DX cooling and a desiccant rotor. The desiccant rotor is regenerated using recycled heat from cooling components, providing dry air to the A/C system at a low operating cost. The end result is a unit that controls humidity with a coefficient of performance (COP) that is up to 65 percent higher than a typical air conditioning system. The HCU unit is Energy star Rated and a viable option to meet LEED Certification for facilities that require large amounts of outside air.

Healthy Humidity Levels Achieved

A 6,000-cfm HCU was installed on the roof of the production facility in April 2007 and connected to the three A/C package units. In this new design, the A/C units control temperature in the production room and the HCU controls humidity levels. The Munters HCU feeds the three heat pumps which then feed the encapsulation and tabletting suites.

The result is optimized production at the Vista, Calif., facility. Without the powder sticking, the machines operate at a much higher efficiency.

"We now have consistent dry air in our plant," said Doane. "Before we had 50 to 65 percent relative humidity and now, during peak summer conditions, we are experiencing levels between 40 and 45 percent, an acceptable level for production."

Doane is confident they have cured the moisture problem. "We are very satisfied with our investment," he said. "Our initial evaluation is that the HCU has resolved our humidity concerns."

Click Here To Download:
Application Note: Nutraceutical Manufacturing And Storage

SOURCE: Munters Corporation - DH Division