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The development of in silico process models for roll compaction

Final Report Summary - IPROCOM (The development of in silico process models for roll compaction)

IPROCOM - The Development of in silico Process Models for Roll Compaction ( )
A Marie Curie Initial Training Network funded by the European Commission
under the FP7-PEOPLE-2012-ITN Programme (GA No. 316555)

Compacted particulate materials are widely used in chemical reactors as the catalysts pellets in fine chemical industries, they are sintered to produce mechanical components (such as gears in the car) or ceramic parts. They can also be used by consumers in the form of pharmaceutical tablets, detergent tablets, and fertilizer pellets. IPROCOM deals with the manufacturing processes of these particulate products, and aims to develop computer models that can predict process performance of various formulations, basing on a thorough understanding the entire manufacturing process. The challenges that IPROCOM project aims to address are i) how to link the manufacturing performance of a given formulation with the material properties of constituent particles; ii) the lack of science-based predictive models for product developments in manufacturing industries; and (iii) the lack of robust intelligent models for process and product design and optimisation. The context for the work involves experimental investigation to enhance our understanding of the manufacturing process, numerical modelling of the entire manufacturing process, and data-based predictive modelling of the manufacturing process.

For high value-added products (such as pharmaceuticals and catalysts), it is impossible at the early stage of product development to perform conventional trial-and-error experiments using production scale systems as it requires a large amount of feed powders (>100 kg) which is expensive and costly (>10,000 Euros per kg). Various laboratory- and pilot- scale systems are generally used. How to scale the process from laboratory, to pilot then to the production scale is a hurdle. There is no computer-aided design tool available for these products, which significantly hamper the application of this manufacturing process for high value added products. Due to the complicated nature of the manufacturing process, powders experience different stress states and hence their mechanical response varies from process stage to process stage. Different numerical methods (modeling techniques) can be used to model the behavior of powders, so we have systematically evaluated the strength and limitations of each of these techniques and matched (synergised) the strength of different techniques with the dominated mechanical response of powders during the manufacturing process, which was obtained from thorough process understanding.

From the IPROCOM projects, significant output and implications are
a) Our studies revealed the importance of process control in roll compaction, which has been taken into account by manufacturers who redesigned the control system. This has led to a significant improvement in the process performance.
b) Our collaborative work resulted a combined DEM (discrete element method)-FEM (finite element method) approach for modelling roll compaction, which for the first time revealed the underlying mechanisms for ribbon density variation. The techniques can be used to accurately predict the roll compaction process.
c) A combined DEM-PBM (population balance models) approach was developed for ribbon milling and the robustness of this approach was demonstrated experimentally for both impact-dominant and abrasion-dominant ribbon milling. This provided a useful tool for mechanistic analysis of ribbon milling.
d) Computational intelligence models were developed and their applications in the areas related to IPROCOM topics were demonstrated. These models are generic in nature and have great potential for wide applications. Their potential for feature selection and integration of various sources and nature of data was demonstrated.

IPROCOM projects also provided a thorough understanding of the manufacturing process and also developed some useful tools as described above, these can help companies to design their formulation and manufacturing process better and more efficiently, reducing the product development costs, hence reduce the market price making these product more accessible to our nations. For example, pharmaceutical companies can develop a new medicine quicker and cheaper, by reducing the drug development time and costs.

IPROCOM have trained 15 well qualified research, 5 of them have already landed a job in global pharmaceutical companies, one to work in an instrument company and one in powder metallurgy company, 4 in Academia. What they gained from IPROCOM will have some impact to their career and the field they are working on. We are continuing our collaboration and take the work forward to explore the continuous manufacturing processes, through consolidating IPROCOM work.