4 Reasons to Build a Pilot Plant When Scaling Production
There’s a lot of money at stake when scaling a new process. Even if you’ve developed reaction data and theoretical models describing every facet of the process, bringing a lab scale process directly to a commercial plant puts you and your investors at risk.
Calibrating for adjustments to raw materials and process equipment is a necessary step to safely and efficiently bringing your product to market.
In this blog, we’ll explain the importance of a pilot plant and how a it can be used to address the major challenges of scaling a process technology and highlight additional advantages a pilot plant provides long after your commercial process has been proven.
Top 4 Advantages of a Pilot Plant
A pilot plant provides important process data collection
Pilot Plants come with plenty of instrumentation and sampling points to help you collect accurate process data throughout your process. You can use this data to refine and accurately predict the following information for a future production-scale process system:
- Recycle stream effects
- Product purity
- Process waste
- Refined yield estimates
A pilot plant allows you to test commercial-grade materials and equipment
You’ll probably have sticker shock when pricing raw materials for commercial use. Now that you’re out of the lab, you’ll find that high purity raw materials are not so affordable when purchasing in mass. You’ll likely need to make adjustments to the quality of your materials, which can have major effects on your process. Additionally, Commercial grade equipment behaves differently and, in most cases, requires different materials of construction than your lab equipment.
Fully testing how these changes will affect your process is critical to the success of your process scale-up project. By testing these changes on a pilot scale, you can avoid costly miscalculations on a production scale, while still enjoying a reasonable level of production.
A pilot plant produces useable product
In a hurry to get your product to market? You might be surprised to learn that a pilot plant can provide you with adequate quantities of useable product. You can use the product from your pilot plant to determine process viability and ROI for investors, share samples with consumers to build a customer base, or start selling your product outright.
How you choose to use the product from your pilot plant is up to you. The point is having a pilot plant gives you flexible options for bringing your product to market quickly and safely.
A pilot plant is a viable long-term solution for small-quantity products
While many pilot plants are retired after the commercial process comes to fruition, some manufacturers use their pilot plants long-term to produce specialty formulations. You can also re-assign your pilot plant to test formula changes on your existing formula or new product lines as your business continues to grow.
How Much Does a Pilot Plant Cost?
Now that you understand how a pilot plant can help you avoid the commercial and technical pitfalls of scaling your process, you’re probably wondering how much a pilot plant will cost. The answer depends on a combination of capital cost factors and the in-house capabilities of the pilot plant manufacturer you pick to manage your project.
For a comprehensive explanation of how the cost of a pilot plant is determined, check out EPIC’s Pilot Plant Cost Factors Guide or call EPIC at 314-714-1580 to speak with a process engineer about your project.