The History of Continuous Processing: Why Has the Biopharmaceutical Industry Been So Late to Adopt?

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Continuous and semicontinuous manufacturing systems have been used for many years in numerous sectors — including the automotive, food and beverage, oil refining, chemicals, pulp and paper, electronics, metal smelting, steel making, and waste-water treatment industries. Most of these industries are capital intensive and switched to flow manufacturing to increase productivity and flexibility; reduce cycle times, inventory, waste, and costs; and achieve enhanced product quality. Despite the capital intensive nature of drug manufacturing, the biopharmaceutical industry has lagged behind these other sectors in implementing continuous, or even semicontinuous processing.

Drivers for Continuous Processing In Nonpharma Sectors
The reasons for the switch from batch to continuous (or semicontinuous or line-flow) manufacturing in various industries differ, but there are some commonalities. The production of pig iron in blast furnaces is one of the oldest examples of a continuous process. The paper industry moved to continuous manufacturing with the introduction of the Fourdrinier machine, which was patented in 1799. Rather than produce individual sheets of paper, this machine makes a continuous web of paper that is formed, pressed, dried, and reeled up in a roll.

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