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How Air Casters Benefit Continuous Manufacturing in Chromatography

The goal of continuous manufacturing in pharmaceutical production is to consistently reduce human error, enable more flexible drug tracking and tracing, and optimise production efficiency. Now, this trend has extended to chromatography, and for good reason. The FDA, the US equivalent of the EMA, has identified chromatography as the last component of the pharma manufacturing industry that needs perfecting in order to bring the real potential of continuous manufacturing full circle. With true continuous manufacturing practices, biomanufacturing can produce drugs and other bioproducts much faster, more reliably, and at lower cost. Johnson & Johnson, for example, switched to continuous manufacturing for its HIV medicine Prezista (darunavir) and reduced production time from about two weeks to just three days (1).

Chromatography equipment, however, cannot operate continuously without regularly cleaning, repacking, and frequent movement of columns. As experience has shown, traditional solutions, such as wheeled casters and tuggers do not lend themselves to continuous manufacturing processes. A better alternative is the integration of air caster technology, which increases the likelihood of seamless chromatography, improves potential for achieving EMA-approved cleanroom compliance, and fosters ergonomic goals to meet the needs of employee safety.

What Are Air Casters?

Originally developed for use in the aerospace industry, air casters are inflatable, doughnut-shaped bags that create a thin film of air capable of floating multi-ton loads. Once the bags have inflated, excess air escapes underneath and creates lift. This film of air, no thicker than a business card, reduces friction coefficient to around 1% so that air casters require only about one-tenth the force to move as wheeled casters.

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John Massenburg is President and Chief Executive Officer of AeroGo, Inc., Seattle, Washington, US. AeroGo manufactures heavy load equipment utilising hovercraft technology for moving heavy, awkward, or delicate loads.
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