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Technical Article

Spring is in Bloom! And so are Allergies...


Tired of the brisk chill of winter? Your wait is over! Spring is here!

Spring is a special time for many. As the ground thaws, April showers encourage May flowers, providing ideal gardening climates for horticulture enthusiasts. For industries related to agriculture, spring often represents the start of season for cultivating and growing.

However, spring has a different agenda for many people worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, 10 - 30 percent of the worldwide population is affected by allergic rhinitis – simply stated as, nasal allergies. While not directly diagnosed as an “allergy,” the study further assessed that sensitization to foreign proteins in the environment – also referred to as, nasal irritation – is present in up to 40 percent of the worldwide population.

So…spring also kicks off a miserable, three-month span of runny noses, itchy eyes and restricted airways for much of the world. Hooray!

However, our discomfort is a joyous holiday for pharmaceutical companies – and in order for us to pop those antihistamine pills we desperately long for, Vortex Iris Valves and Quick Clean Gates are necessary to produce and distribute these miracle drugs.

Iris Valve

Much like how camera shutters and the iris of the human eye are responsible for controlling the entry of light into a visual component, the Quantum Series Iris Valve is useful for gently controlling the discharge of powders, granules, pellets and capsules being diverted freely through gravity-flow applications. Such applications are particularly useful in the chemicals, food and dairy, pharmaceuticals, minerals and plastics industries. Research how other Vortex product lines are also impacting these industries.

The Iris Valve consists of a round, metal-cased valve body enclosing two concentric rings, which are connected by a flexible, nylon sleeve of material. One end of the sleeve is fixed inside the valve body, while the other is attached to a control ring exposed on the outside of a valve. In order for the sleeve to be opened and closed at the operator’s discretion, the Iris Valve is manipulated by an external, metal handle, which is installed directly on the side of the valve. As the handle is slid across a 180-degree arc, the sleeve is twisted or loosened accordingly, allowing the nylon sleeve to create either:

  • Fully closed gate: Tighten to the point of becoming a flat, solid barrier to halt the movement of materials.
  • Fully open gate: Loosen to the point of becoming a gaping, open channel in the valve, allowing material to flow freely at its highest speed.
  • Metered gate: Tighten or loosen the sleeve to a desired size of channel opening, allowing a customizable material flow rate.

Unlike conventional valves and slide gates, where a blade crosses a valve channel to obstruct the flowing of material, the Iris Valve’s nylon sleeve creates a circular channel that opens uniformly toward the round edges of the valve, and closes uniformly toward the center of the valve. Such a design creates a “cone” of material that flows directly into a receptacle, providing ease to more controlled container filling.

The Iris Valve serves in many different applications within a pharmaceutical process, but is primarily used for the dispensing of mixed chemical powders into smaller totes to then be processed as finished medications. Iris Valves have also been used in the transport of finished medication tablets, serving as a metered valve obstruction for dispensing medication from a large storage container into smaller containers for distribution to requesting pharmacies.

Most important about the Iris Valve’s design are the materials of which the valves are made. While all Vortex valves are customizable to best suit customer needs, Iris Valves for pharmaceutical applications are often constructed from 304 or 316L stainless steel and typically possess a urethane coating on the valve’s sleeve. The valves also frequently possess control rings made of 304 or 316L stainless steel, because other metals used, such as bronze, are more heavily subjected to inner-valve metal flaking due to the metal-on-metal contact between control ring and valve body. By using higher grade stainless steel, the sleeve of an Iris Valve is less susceptible to damages, and the risks of foreign material introductions and erratic valve actuations are greatly reduced.

Such fabrications also gain manufacturers approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), protecting consumers from contamination and toxic chemical ingestion.

Quick Clean Gate

Further ensuring the safety of our medications, the Quick Clean Gate is useful in the pharmaceuticals industry for its ease of maintenance. Unlike many sanitary gravity valves, the Quick Clean Orifice Gate features improved sealing, higher durability and demands fewer parts replacements.

With the Quick Clean Gate, special features allow maintenance to be an easy, 12-step process that takes less than two minutes. Constructed like the head of a guitar, the Gate’s six-peg latch assembly improves valve adjustability and enhances sealing, while also allowing immediate access to the valve’s internal mechanics. Vortex has redesigned the clamp nut for application in the Quick Clean Gate, allowing quick-and-easy rotation of the nut to either loosen for valve disassembly, or clamp the valve into a sealed state. Reinforced with fully adjustable press lock latches, the Quick Clean Gate can be disassembled and reassembled without using any tools.

The Quick Clean Gate’s blade and corresponding seals “self-clean” as the valve actuates. Any material remaining on the blade is forced toward the valve channel to join material flow, preventing material from packing on the valve’s internal seals. This significantly reduces the mechanical wear and tear, and frequency of repairs, on a Quick Clean Gate.

Through the use of hard polymer seals, the Quick Clean Gate inhibits material dust and fine powders from leaking throughout a manufacturing process or to atmosphere. These seals are protected from the material stream, affording Quick Clean Gates durability for long service lives.

Quick Clean Gates are also designed so that a valve’s “hidden areas” are correctly sealed, minimizing the risks of material spoilage and cross contamination from materials stuck in-line.

In fall 2002, Vortex was contacted by a company responsible for the mixing of pharmaceutical powders. In consultation, Vortex was challenged to create an FDA-approved slide gate solution which provided a positive shut off beneath the company’s dry mixer and could be taken apart quickly for cleaning and maintenance at the end of each product run.

The resulting Quick Clean Gate was specially designed to include electropolished flange and blade assemblies. Such a design eliminated the potential for bacteria and microorganisms growth, and allowed more efficient manufacturing operations for the required daily sanitation of equipment. Read more about how the Quick Clean Gate is especially beneficial for sanitation-sensitive industries, such as food, dairy, pharmaceutical and chemical.

Got to go! All of this allergy talk has us sneezing. Happy spring – the season where we keep our friends close, and the facial tissues closer!

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