Modular equipment and continuous process development for small-scale production plants


Norbert Kockmann
TU Dortmund, Biochemical and Chemical Engineering, Equipment Design, Dortmund, Germany


Modular plant components with defined interfaces and performance are key components of multipurpose, small-scale, continuously operated processes. A toolbox of chemical equipment consisting of plate reactors, capillary or coil tube reactors, continuous stirred tank reactors, as well as columns are presented with similar flow rates and process conditions on the same “platform” level. This platform concept allows for complete process development in the laboratory and consistent scale-up with rapid mixing, excellent heat transfer, narrow residence time distribution and efficient separation steps. The adjusted engineering approach enables short product cycle times with high product quality.


Small-scale, continuously operated processes are gradually evolving from research topic to a helpful tool in chemical process development and small-scale production. Modular plant components with defined interfaces and performance are the basis of such multipurpose plants. Modular construction toolbox systems (Figure 1) have been introduced for long time in civil and mechanical engineering leading to substantial simplifications and cost savings. Chemical companies have frequently used standardized designs such as batch reactors or separation columns (1) with technical and economic benefits (2). However, heat exchangers have already certain modularity according to TEMA standards ( with large variety of headers, jackets, or tube arrangements. This modularity and standardization is strongly required in fine chemicals and pharmaceutical production by regulatory requirements, since the plants have to mirror the current state of technology.

Process intensification as well as the trend toward short product cycle times, low production volumes with high quality lead to continuous-flow processes with miniaturized ...