Vacuum Conveying for Pharma Applications

Contained material transfer of raw materials and finished goods for a variety of pharmaceutical operations via vacuum conveying

The Coperion K-Tron line of pneumatic conveying equipment and the Coperion line of components are specifically designed with cleanability as well as product and operator safety in mind. The P-Series line of pneumatic conveyors are designed to convey delicate materials such as tablet granulations, active pharmaceutical ingredients, a wide variety of excipients and even finished tablets. The P-Series of vacuum conveyors are designed with ease of disassembly in mind. They are available as standalone units as well as integrated packages for the automated refill of Coperion K-Tron pharmaceutical design feeders. Complete systems packages are also available for conveying pickup options from supersacks, drums, boxes, IBCs and FIBCs.

Typical products include: Various excipients and APIs, final blends and/or granulations prior to tabletting, finished tablets, and empty capsules.

Features and Benefits

  • Extensive material handling expertise for handling and transfer of even the most difficult flowing pharmaceutical powders.
  • Systems designs for both dense phase and dilute phase vacuum transfer, as well as complete integration for refill of LIW continuous feeders.
  • Each pneumatic solution is custom developed according to the process application, and based upon Coperion K-Tron’s extensive experience in providing material handling solutions.
  • The Coperion K-Tron line of pneumatic conveying equipment and components are engineered to include a variety of easy clean features as well as COP and WIP designs.
  • Material handling systems are available for a wide variety of process needs including pickup and delivery of potent compounds.
  • Specialty designs can include the integration of glove box or isolator technology at the powder pick up point, the addition of specialized docking stations with split butterfly valves for both product pickup and discharge from the vacuum receiver, and/or the use of specialty bag in/bag out secondary HEPA filtration preceding the vacuum source
  • Custom design features to the P-Series line of pneumatic receivers are available, including specialty swing out filter head designs to allow for easy access and removal of the filters.

Application Examples

Dense phase conveying

Pneumatic conveying by vacuum is quickly becoming one of the most popular means of transport for a variety of pharmaceutical products. The use of either dense phase or dilute phase vacuum transfer can be applied to tableting operations such as the loading of blenders, sifters, mills, capsule fillers, and even tablet and capsule handling without damage to the finished product. The application sheet linked below defines both the dense and dilute phase methods of conveying and shows examples of these methods in the pharmaceutical industry.

Download the application sheet for more information:

Conical screen mills (also referred to as cone mills) are gentle size reduction mills which are often used to precondition the material prior to its entry into a process, either by delumping or coarse size reduction. Vacuum conveying is often used to move material through the conical screen mill, help improve the overall throughput of the process, contain dust or prevent exposure, and also to assist in the improvement of end product quality. The application sheet linked below outlines the use of vacuum transfer systems for conveying and the system design requirements of such a process.

Download the application sheet for more information:

Rotary cage or deck screeners are often placed in line between the product source (i.e. bag dump station, IBC, and/or bulk bag unloader) and further processing downstream. The function of the sieves can be two-fold: 1) to properly size the product by removing oversize material, and 2) to remove any foreign material (e.g. bag ties, flex material, etc.) prior to entrance to the process. The removal of foreign material from the process stream is called “Check Sieving”. The application sheet linked below examines the use of pneumatic conveying systems for inline screening and check sieving and describes the process requirements.

Download the application sheet for more information:

Coperion K-Tron indirect and direct loading of pharmaceutical blenders
Direct loading of blenders and inline sieving

Pneumatic conveying by vacuum is a popular method of transfer for the loading of blenders in the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical industries. One of the distinct advantages of vacuum systems is the inward suction created by the vacuum source and the resulting reduction of any outward leakage of dust which may occur in pressure conveying systems. Vacuum loading of blenders typically falls into two categories, indirect via pneumatic sequencing systems or direct loading where the blender becomes the primary vacuum receiver. The application sheet linked below outlines both methods of vacuum transfer.

Download the application sheet for more information:

Comprehensive Product Range

Material Handling

Pneumatic conveying and material handling components designed to the highest sanitary standards

The P-Series of pneumatic conveying receivers include a variety of features and design options including all stainless steel construction, pulsed filter cleaning assemblies complete with pharma design PTFE laminated filter elements, and integrated retractable spray ball assemblies for internal cleaning. Options are also available which include modified swing heads and automated lift assemblies for ease of access. 

Process Equipment

Plants and Systems

Complete integrated systems design for the difficult flowing and high potency pharmaceutical powders

The Coperion K-Tron systems designs are available for both dense phase and dilute phase vacuum transfer of a wide variety of applications including capsule filler, tablet press, blender and coater loading. In addition, systems can be provided with inline screening and sieving, and integrated LIW feeder refill for continuous operations. Simple “up-and-in” conveying systems are also available, with a variety of containment and cleaning options in design. Our global systems engineering group can advise the optimal solution for ease of cleaning, access and operator safety.

Plants & Systems
Coperion service technician


Superior Global Service

Our global service personnel possess extensive material handling and process design knowledge for these special hygienic applications and are available 24/7 to assist you with your process needs.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What should I consider when conveying toxic and explosive powders?

When moving powder from process to process in the pharmaceutical and fine chemical industries, several crucial factors must be addressed to ensure an acceptable solution. The method of moving powders in an enclosed stream of air or nitrogen below ambient pressure is commonly known as vacuum conveying and the technology for this form of transport has evolved to meet the arduous demands of these markets. Typically there are seven key goals which the end user, in conjunction with the equipment supplier, should consider when addressing the use of vacuum conveying. The article "Seven key parameters to consider when conveying toxic and explosive powders" addresses these seven key parameters which must be considered when conveying toxic and explosive powders.

How can we pneumatically convey our cohesive pharmaceutical powders more effectively?

Pharmaceutical powders often include very poor flowing excipients and API’s (Active pharmaceutical ingredients) which can present challenges not only in material handling but also in areas such as product and process containment, options in design for cleaning and product changeover. Pneumatic conveying operations can often be incorporated directly into the secondary process in an effort to ensure a closed and leak-free operation, without any exposure of operator or product. These additional processes include, but are not limited to: direct blender loading, inline conical screen milling or sieving, tablet press loading, granulator loading/unloading, fluid bed dryer unloading, tablet/capsule conveying, refill of screw feeders for loading of continuous processes such as granulation, mixing, milling/micronization, and extrusion, transfer direct to feeders for batch weighing or dispensing of several components in a blend. A number of key criteria should be evaluated when discussing your application with the pneumatic system vendor and choosing the proper pneumatic conveying technology including the following:

  1. Properly define the material characteristics: Proper evaluation of  a pneumatic conveying system for a cohesive, slightly sticky material requires you to define your material's characteristics, such as bulk density, flowability, particle size distribution, moisture content, abrasiveness, and temperature. These characteristics will all affect not only the proper technology to be used, (e.g. dense phase vacuum versus dilute phase vacuum), but will also affect overall system geometries and design, such as angles on receiver and pickup hoppers and additional flow aid requirements.
  2. Define the overall conveying requirements: These definitions will include a general description of your application and purpose, the system's location and environment classification, the conveying rate, the horizontal conveying distance, the vertical conveying distance, conveying line direction changes (bends), a material source description, and a material destination description. It will also include details on the material explosive properties (which may require an inert conveying gas medium) as well as the toxicity of the powder, which will define the levels of containment required not only during the material transfer but also at both the product pickup and discharge points.
  3. If possible, perform bench material testing: If the material can be sent for testing, be sure to send a small representative material sample to a well-equipped pneumatic conveying system supplier for bench testing. If the material is too toxic for testing, then sending a placebo with similar flow and material characteristics is also acceptable. The supplier will issue a test report to confirm and complete the material characteristics testing. This test report, along with the conveying requirements provided in the second step, will help determine the best theoretical pneumatic conveying system configuration.

Each of the criteria described above will enable the most efficient choice for pneumatic transfer. For example, in the case of designing a system for a slightly cohesive material, the optimal pneumatic conveying system configuration may consist of the following:

  • A dilute-phase pneumatic conveying system, which is the most likely system type as it is the most forgiving, given the application.
  • A motive gas supply with a positive-displacement blower package or a Venturi for low rate and small space applications.
  • A line charger consisting of a blow-through rotary airlock with a nonstick coating and shear protection.
  • A conveying line that is properly supported and sized with flexible rubber hose and flexible rubber hose bends.
  • A motive gas and material separation filter, which has a small pleated cartridge filter media with a nonstick coating and is easy to take apart and clean.

In all cases of material handling, it is important to discuss in detail all of the items above with an equipment system supplier who is well versed in the properties of a wide variety of pharmaceutical powders. This will ensure not only the most efficient means of transfer, but also the safest means of transfer for both operator and final product.


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Coperion K-Tron pharmaceutical loss-in-weight feeder

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