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Case Study: Steer for the Fast Track

By: Don Condit
Posted: October 5, 2009, from the October 2009 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Rather than concentrate exclusively on development, we also look for novel opportunities on the equipment side—in production, for example, to help us improve quality, turnaround and lower costs. This subject isn’t as sexy as active ingredients or exotic delivery systems, but a production gain can have a direct impact on market-responsiveness and bottom-line profitability for our customers at retail.”

Leveraging Production Gains

One recent advance in equipment provides a vivid example of the potential value offered by a seemingly small change in equipment.

“We recognized that creating dispersions on our process lines—dispersing powders that are notoriously hard and time-consuming to disperse fully—represented a choke point in both production and our drive to create a silkier, more luxurious lotion,” says Stewart. The dispersion of powdered solids such as guar and xanthan gum into a liquid phase are particularly difficult because they resist wetting out. When mixed with a traditional turbine mixer or paddle agitator in a kettle, they float stubbornly for hours on the surface of the batch. Rather than break down and wet out, they often form agglomerates and “fish eyes,” which are very difficult to break apart.

Sensibility Soaps turned to Charles Ross & Son Company, a mixer manufacturer whose specialties include high-speed powder injection. The company provided a Solids/Liquid Injection Manifold (SLIM) system—an inline rotor/stator mixer specially modified to inject powder and liquid additions into a liquid stream.

“The SLIM injection system uses a powerful vacuum to draw powders into the mixer’s rotor/stator generator,” explains Ken Langhorn, technical director at Ross. “In the high-shear zone, the dry powder is simultaneously combined with the liquid stream and subjected to intense shear.” The result is instantaneous dispersion, eliminating the risk of forming agglomerates and fish eyes.