Working alongside the Universities of Birmingham, Leeds and Edinburgh, CPI has created an open-access facility to enhance SME and larger corporate partners’ liquid product development. Formulated products typically comprise a large number of component ingredients, and while industry developments have provided the ability to create more optimised and controlled manufacturing processes, implementation remains challenging owing to cost restraints.

CPI’s fully digitally-enabled test bed will address this issue, offering partners a time-saving, cost-effective research tool by de-risking innovation through rapid learning and analysis of new, complex liquid processes and technologies prior to capital investment. Users will be able to learn quickly and efficiently across scales, ultimately enabling manufacturing processes that deliver product attributes that are scalable, sustainable and economical. It will allow companies to understand and control the dynamics of scale-up and scale-down within batch formulation processes and serve as a test bed for novel sensors and process analytical tools.

Consisting of a series of scaled vessels, from one litre to 1,000 litres, with a sample flow loop to allow in-line and at-line monitoring of process parameters, the facility’s configuration is highly flexible and can be adjusted to specific project needs. Cutting-edge instrumentation produces data for understanding and predicting product behaviour in-processing, with a control system for the rig and metrology capable of monitoring and controlling product quality attributes. This includes a data acquisition system for process, lab and spectral (PAT) data, and capability to implement process models for the real-time prediction of process parameters.

The equipment will be housed at the University of Birmingham between April and December this year. It will then be moved to CPI to complement their existing formulation capabilities at Sedgefield, and be operational from March 2020 onwards.

Each of the three partner universities provided world-class research expertise in their particular fields for the project. The University of Birmingham’s Professor Peter Fryer led on commissioning and process characterisation, working with industry-relevant model formulations developed and provided by Professor Wilson Poon’s group at The University of Edinburgh. The University of Leeds provided state-of-the-art knowledge in the areas of sensors, process analytics and design of experiments. It also focused on developing the required data fusion and control elements of the project, with this element led by Professor Elaine Martin.

Graeme Cruickshank, Director of Formulation at CPI, said: ​We are delighted to have worked on this novel infrastructure, which will provide SME and larger corporate partners with greater scope to carry out development of next generation products.

One of the real benefits of this facility is that it not only provides partners with the opportunity to better understand liquid formulations, it allows them to scale up and scale down their work.

It is a real cost-effective, time-saving tool that will ensure the UK’s formulated products manufacturing sector remains at the vanguard of innovation.”