Industrial Utility Efficiency

Standardization of Automation Components Pays Off at New Biotest AG Plasma Fractionation Plant

Blood plasma is an indispensable resource in the production of life-saving medicines. It is also in high demand on global markets. To make more efficient use of this valuable commodity, Biotest AG developed a new large-scale production plant in Dreieich, Germany, for plasma fractionation capable of obtaining five instead of the previous three products from a single liter of blood plasma. As part of its strategy, Biotest AG worked with Festo to standardize automation components used at the plant, resulting in simplified installation and maintenance.

Biotest AG plant in Dreieich, Germany

The new Biotest AG plant in Dreieich, Germany is designed to fractionate 1.4 million liters of blood plasma. The plant, which incorporates 6,000 valves and 250 standardized control cabinets from Festo, is expected to be commissioned by 2021.


Ensuring Best Possible Use of Raw Materials

Blood plasma contains more than 120 valuable proteins. These include clotting factors, blood substitutes and immunoglobulins, which can strengthen the immune system of patients after an organ transplant, for example.

In order to be able to make the best possible use of this valuable raw material, companies like Biotest AG are investing in research and innovative manufacturing methods. The investment is paying off as the number of medical products that can be obtained from a liter of blood plasma has increased from three to five.

The efforts also contribute to a lasting increase in productivity, as more than 50% of the production costs are incurred in buying plasma. More efficient methods ensure optimal processing of the various products obtained from blood plasma. In Biotest’s new production plant, 6,000 valves and 250 standardized control cabinets from Festo simplified the construction of the plant, as well as the subsequent maintenance including a long-term reduction in associated maintenance costs.

Biotest AG plant

Shown is the interior of the new Biotest AG plant designed for highly efficient production of products obtained from blood plasma.

Festo control cabinet

Biotest AG standardized its new plant with Festo control valves and control cabinets.


Increasing Product Yield and Purity

Standardization in the construction of the new Biotest plant offers benefits for both the company and plant engineers.

Engineers can purchase predefined components quickly and easily and gain access to favorable terms given the defined component pool, while for Biotest the overall cost for spare parts supply is reduced. Other benefits include a reduced training requirement for maintenance and service staff and shorter downtimes, as well as reduced maintenance workload in the event of a fault. It also means lower documentation and supply management costs.

“When it came to the construction of the new building with the modern large-scale plant for blood plasma fractionation, there were two main aspects to consider,” said Matthias Mahle, Head of Technical Project Management BNL at Biotest. “The first was expansion of capacity beyond the performance limits of the existing plants, and the other was efficiency. As a pharmaceutical company working in blood plasma processing, we are competing in a globally consolidating market. We are strengthening our market position by obtaining more products from the same amount of plasma.”

Biotest can manufacture a greater number of products, as well as increase the yield and its purity. Whereas the capacity limit used to be 800,000 liters, the new plant will be able to fractionate up to 1.4 million liters of blood plasma.

“With the existing systems, some of which date back to 1995, we were able to obtain three different products from the plasma. The new plant will be able to manufacture up to five products,” Mahle said. “A high level of efficiency in production is essential, as the raw material – blood plasma – accounts for more than 50% of the production costs.”


Defining Standards for Automation Groups Early On

Planning of the new plant got underway in 2013, and it is expected to be fully commissioned by 2021. Although most of the plant is already installed, a lengthy process of validation and qualification must be completed before production actually starts. Following basic engineering, Festo was involved in the detailed engineering process very early on.

For Werner Gödel, Head of the EMSR Technology Department, Biotest, standards needed to be defined for certain automation product groups in order to achieve the greatest possible, long-term plant efficiency.

“One of the key questions was the level of standardization that could be achieved in order to reduce the maintenance workload, for example. The use of standard valve cabinets was an important step in this regard. Limiting the number of standards reduces maintenance workload down the road,” said Gödel.

Jürgen Weber, formerly Segment Manager Pharma Germany, Festo, and now responsible for Process Industries, Southern Germany, played an active role in the definition phase for the new plant.

Issues were discussed right down to the last detail, even whether stainless steel or nickel-plated brass fittings should be used. Once Festo was defined as the standard, all seven suppliers were able to access the relevant products and pool components, such as the standardized valve cabinets, using a project-based order catalogue and order via the electronic platform.


Long-term Benefits of Close Project Coordination

For Gödel, the close coordination with Weber from Festo and Biotest’s own maintenance department in the early planning phase was particularly important.

“At the end of the day, our maintenance staff are the people who have to work with the products. They were clear in their preference for Festo. The plus points were the ease of use, good support and long service life,” said Gödel. “We also spoke to the plant engineers in advance and gathered opinions when looking for pool components. There was a resounding yes in favor of Festo components.”


Advantages of Pneumatics in Process Automation

By Christopher Haug, Festo

Pneumatic automation technology is perfect for process industries: it is robust, inexpensive and very reliable. Compressed air can be transported and stored easily and, in contrast to electricity, is simple to control. Higher thrust and tensile forces and torque values can be achieved by boosting the pressure.

With an average service life of more than one million operating cycles, pneumatic actuators will outlive any process valve. Even in the harsh environments often found in process industries, with large temperature fluctuations and high levels of dirt and humidity.

Humidity, extreme heat or cold cannot stop corrosion-protected pneumatic components – they are unaffected by temperatures between minus four and 176 °F, while special low-temperature variants can even operate down to minus 40 °F and high-temperature variants up to 248 °F. All stainless-steel component variants are extremely resistant to corrosion.

Fit It and Forget It

Pneumatics is an uncomplicated technology, making it easy to install, since it requires no monitoring or sensing functions apart from end-position sensing and monitoring of the compressed air supply. Totally true to the motto, “fit and forget”.

Pneumatic drives have proved to be vibration-resistant and long-lasting. In contrast to electric drives, they consist of only a few components and are thus less susceptible to breakdowns. What is more, pneumatic drives are able to withstand continuous load and require no maintenance throughout their working life. There is no need for oil changes or lubrication top-ups.

Saving Cost and Energy

Thanks to the lower costs, it is even worthwhile to automate manually operated valves retrospectively. Particularly in comparison with electric drive technology, the broad-based use of decentral automation concepts with valve terminals results in considerable cost advantages: savings of more than 50 % are possible in some cases.

Another factor is energy consumption. Pneumatic drives require electricity only for control functions and to generate compressed air, while their actual motion is created by compressed air. While with electric drives part of the energy with which they are supplied is converted into heat and lost in gear units, pneumatic actuators operate directly on a shut-off device. They only require a piston and a drive shaft to convert the “linear” energy of compressed air into a swivel motion.

As pneumatic drives are overload-tolerant and allow higher drive forces to be achieved simply by increasing the supply pressure, it is often possible to use smaller drives with lower weight than would be possible with electric drives. Provided that the tubing connections are leak-free and components are correctly dimensioned, the result is energy-efficient solutions. Pneumatic systems from Festo can deliver high forces of up to 11,240 pound-force (50,000 N) and torque of up to 7,376 foot pound-force (10,000 N.m)

Addressing Safety Needs

Pneumatic drives have three emergency functions in the event of a power failure – open, close and stop – and allow low operating pressures. They are ideal for use in areas with a potentially explosive atmosphere, in particular when explosion-proof valves, such as NAMUR valves with appropriate coils, are used and the valves or valve terminals are located outside the explosion-hazard zone.

In these cases, the pneumatic drives in the explosion-hazard zone are supplied with compressed air via tubing, while the electrical control components can be installed in a non-hazardous zone. Pneumatic drives are ATEX-approved as standard up to zone 1.

Providing Overload Tolerance

Deposits or baked-on residues of foreign material can lead to considerably higher breakaway forces of pneumatic drives. This happens particularly when valves are actuated irregularly or not for long periods, as is the case, for example, in sewage treatment plants. The overload tolerance of pneumatic drives is a great advantage, as with pneumatics it is not a problem to increase the operating pressure and thus obtain higher forces. They will not suffer damage even if overloaded to the point where they come to a standstill and have large reserves of force for cases where high breakaway torques are required.

Ensuring Project Success

Experts at Festo can help with the calculation of compressed air consumption and the optimum dimensioning of compressed air supply networks. They can also provide assistance during the tendering phase if required. Working with a single source and with just one part number also ensures a simple ordering process, allowing projects to be completed more quickly.

About the Author

Christopher Haug is Manager International Trade Press, Festo.


About the Author

Ralf Baumann is a freelance writer who writes for Festo on a regular basis.

About Festo

Festo is a leading manufacturer of pneumatic and electromechanical systems, components, and controls for process and industrial automation. For more than 40 years, Festo Corporation has continuously elevated the state of manufacturing with innovations and optimized motion control solutions that deliver higher performing, more profitable automated manufacturing and processing equipment. For more information, visit

All photos courtesy of Festo.

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