Electropolishing for the Pharmaceutical Industry
A Good Fit for the Industry
The pharmaceutical industry has long realized the advantages and benefits gained when using the electropolishing process. Electropolishing is effective in removing particulate and contaminants on the product contact surfaces. Normally, to achieve the low Ra values specified in the industry, the vessels and components are mechanically polished and buffed. The polishing leaves compounds and other foreign matter embedded in the pores of the metal. The electropolishing removes the top layer of metal along with the contaminants exposing the base metal. The oxygen rich, passive surface that remains is very resistant to corrosion and is ideal for the conditions present when mixing pharmaceuticals. In addition, the electropolished finish reduces product adhesion and eliminates build-up which can slow down production.
A Variety of Parts Electropolished
Over the years, Able has become experts in electropolishing custom valve assemblies for the pharmaceutical industry. One of our long time customers is a mechanical polishing house that modifies and mechanically polishes valves for a major valve manufacturer. The valves we electropolish range from single diaphragm valves to clusters and blocks with multiple valves and are typically made from 316 SS, AL6XN and Hastelloy. Since the wetted surfaces of the valves are received with a buffed finish, it is important to have good control with regards to the material removal. If too much material is removed, the buffed surface will be compromised and the defects in the sub-layer will become exposed. To accomplish this on custom valves, Able has in-house tooling capabilities on all three shifts. As a result, we are able to process parts with expedited service shipping orders the next business day.
Another Able customer is a manufacturer of high purity process skids and modules for the pharmaceutical industry. These custom systems contain many components including, vessels, piping, fittings, manifolds, pumps and valves that require electropolishing and passivating. Since the systems are used to mix and store high purity liquids, it is critical that the components are treated properly prior to making contact with these materials. The electropolishing creates a smooth, clean surface that stimulates better flow by reducing adhesion and eventual build-up. This improved flow will improve production rates and reduce downtime for cleaning.
One of our more unique applications for the pharmaceutical industry comes from a customer who manufacturers a drug dispensing device. This critical device is an inhaler used by asthma patients. Within the device is a 316 SS plate that rotates and controls the dosage the patient receives. For many years, Able has electropolished this stamped plate to remove the micro burrs around the holes, improve surface finish and achieve a clean and passive part. Through years of prototyping and testing, the electropolishing proved beneficial in allowing the plate to rotate freely and minimizing the powdered drug from adhering.
Able electropolishes in accordance with ASTM B912 and ASME BPE specifications.