Whether you’re planning a greenfield project or extending an existing production plant, the arrangement of equipment within a layout is an important consideration.
A plant manufacturer can contribute worthwhile input if they are involved in the planning of the room layout as early as possible, and ideally, even before the building has been constructed. For example, a layout approach which utilises transfer by gravity requires a placement of vessel on different floor levels which may impact the building design. However, it is often the case that systems must be integrated into existing buildings, which can result in certain challenges. Clean rooms are typically as big as necessary and as small as possible, in part because higher classifications and equipment fitted with HEPA filters in the HVAC is expensive. Cleanroom walls often cannot be moved because the various cleanroom zones are closely connected to adjacent corridors and rooms. The arrangement of the cleanroom zones should therefore consider the sequence of the product processes, for example: media preparation -> pre-cultures -> cultivation -> purification.
In order to find a solution that is as space saving as possible yet still easy to maintain and operate, it often takes several designs and studies to cover all needs and fulfil requirements. Many technical and customer-specific dependencies have to be evaluated which influence the arrangement of the equipment. It takes planning, know-how and experience to ensure that a concept works also in reality. Because what looks good on a Piping & Instrumentation Diagram seldom fits into the corner provided for it. In order to change the filter cartridges, for example, it must be possible to lift the filter housings. To do this, it is necessary to leave the equivalent of the filter’s height above it, so a filter cannot be placed directly below the cleanroom ceiling. Similarly, one should consider enough space for removal and replacement of an agitator shaft.
Sometimes, despite all efforts, circumstances necessitate a compromise. Consider a situation where a room is only 4 meters high, but the volumes of the vessel require a platform for operators. In this case, since the steel of the platform itself has a certain space requirement, this will inevitably result in a restriction of the standing height either below or above the platform.
In addition, man-material movement pathways as well as escape routes must also be taken into account. Depending on the country, special EHS and safety regulations may apply, which must be considered carefully. Or space must be taken into account for manoeuvring larger trolleys.
Also to be considered sooner rather than later is the bringing-in of equipment, in particular for existing buildings. It is rarely possible to open an entire exterior wall or provide cut-outs in ceiling/roof, which means that the system must be brought into the designated area via existing doors, corridors, etc. For this, the dimensions of the smallest opening should be considered, as well as the width of the corridors, which could be a determining factor in whether the equipment can go around corners. Typically, the largest element which cannot be dismantled is the vessel. Nevertheless, the fewer parts one has to disassemble for transport, the better. This reduces risk and saves both time and effort on-site.
This blog post highlights a few considerations when planning a layout; there are many other requirements which must be considered. A close cooperation between customer and plant manufacturer will result in an equipment arrangement to best suit the layout, process, operational and regulatory requirements, safety, maintenance, movement aspects and of course, a visually impressive suite from your viewing corridor!