New WAC exchange resins, food-compatible filling unit inducted for German site expansion
LANXESS has inaugurated a new production line at its largest site worldwide in the city of Leverkusen for the production of the Lewatit premium brand of weak acid cation exchange resins, as well as for bringing a cutting-edge food-compatible filling and packing system into operation.
COLOGNE, GERMANY, Oct. 6, 2014 -- On Friday, Sept. 26, LANXESS, a specialty chemicals company based in Germany, inaugurated a new production line at its largest site worldwide in the city of Leverkusen for the production of the Lewatit premium brand of weak acid cation (WAC) exchange resins, as well as for bringing a cutting-edge food-compatible filling and packing system into operation. Around 10 million euros ($12.5 million) has been invested in the expansion, which began in April 2013. The additional volumes will be available to the global market with immediate effect.
Highly Automated Production
The discontinuous (i.e. batch) production process begins with the creation of polymer beads through emulsion polymerization. A mixture of the two polymer components -- the monomer and the crosslinker -- is placed in an inert solvent in a beading tank to form a finely distributed emulsion. Adhering precisely to the reaction parameters is essential for creating a high-quality product. "To maintain a high degree of reproducibility and consistency in quality at this stage, the procedures involved are largely automated," said technical plant manager Uwe Tegtmeier.
Sophisticated safety technology ensures that the highly exothermic (heat-generating) reaction takes place safely. If this technology fails, there is also a non-electric safety system in reserve that can stop a reaction fully automatically if it becomes too powerful. "In this respect, we insist not merely on double redundancy but on a triply-redundant safety system, so that everything is always under full control," said Tegtmeier.
Once the monomer has been processed and the reaction comes to an end, the beads are filtered from the liquid reaction medium and assigned the relevant functional groups. Because of their negative charge, these groups are capable of binding positively-charged ions (cations). In the case of WAC exchange resins, they are organic acid residues known as carboxyl groups. This is how an ion exchange resin is produced from an almost entirely unreactive polymer.
Food-Compatible Filling System
To complement the site's existing filling plant, the recent capacity expansion also included the construction of a new building for filling products destined for food applications. The centerpiece is the "white zone" of the new plant, which was designed according to the "black and white" principle. This principle was originally developed and used in the mining industry and serves to keep clean (white) and contaminated (black) work areas separate. The white zone is supplied with filtered air and is under positive pressure to prevent impurities in the surrounding environment from entering. The specially-trained personnel who work there also wear protective clothing.
Inside this hall, which covers some 300 square meters, products are fed from several silos into big bags and drums on stainless steel pallets so that they can immediately be weighed, labeled and transported. A rail-bound transportation system is used instead of conventional forklifts. Packaging material can be delivered via three truck ramps. Before being transported to the adjoining storage and dispatch building, the containers are transferred fully automatically onto wooden pallets and sealed in weatherproof film. There is an additional buffer storage area next to the workroom.
Customized Drinking Water Treatment
WEC exchange resins are predominantly used in cartridges for household water filters and in installed domestic water systems, which are becoming increasingly popular. They remove calcium and magnesium ions, which can cause main waters to become hard, and in some cases ions that are harmful to human health, such as lead and copper, releasing other safe ions in the water instead. This improves both the quality and taste of drinking water. Recently, using particular ions to enrich drinking water has also been gaining importance. In some regions of Italy, for example, special ion exchangers charged with calcium or magnesium ions have been used to treat water that is very low in minerals.
LANXESS is a global manufacturer of ion exchange resins. Premium products from the Lewatit range are used to treat solutions in the food and beverage industry, chemical catalysis, power plant industry, and pharmaceutical biofermentation, for example. In addition to ion exchange resins, LANXESS also produces the Lewabrane brand of membrane filter elements for reverse osmosis (RO). This allows LANXESS to offer products and services relating to both ion exchange and RO from a single source.
LANXESS is a specialty chemicals company with sales of 8.3 billion euros ($10.4 billion) in 2013 and about 16,900 employees in 31 countries. The company is currently represented at 52 production sites worldwide. The core business of the company is the development, manufacturing and marketing of plastics, rubber, intermediates and specialty chemicals. LANXESS is a member of the leading sustainability indices Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI World and DJSI Europe) and FTSE4Good as well as CDP's Climate Disclosure Leadership Index (CDLI). For more information, visit www.lanxess.com.