Ask an Expert: Cannabis-infused Products
Wednesday, November 25, 2020
What are the factors cannabis manufacturers should consider when they're looking to purchase a mixer? How do size/capacity and the ability to scale up play into this?
Viscosity, density, shear requirement, operating temperature and vacuum/pressure and target batch size or daily production capacity are all basic information that must be discussed in detail with the mixer vendor. Consider too the method and order of raw material additions and how the finished product would be discharged. If there are multiple mixing stages, can those be performed in a single machine to eliminate transfer steps? Forward-thinking manufacturers select a scalable mixer that is slightly bigger than the current needs to allow for growth. Rental/trial programs are a great way to road test a particular mixer before making a purchase commitment. It allows manufacturers to determine realistic batch times and identify any potential bottlenecks relating to mixing, temperature control, product transfer, cleaning, etc.
What's the importance of shear in a mixing process? How does shear affect different mixing applications (beverage vs. confectionery vs. baked good)?
Shear is important for homogenization, solubilization, emulsification, powder wet-out and deagglomeration. The optimal shear level varies from one formulation to another. Fine dispersions and emulsions typically require high shear to achieve the desired stability, texture, color, density, uniformity, potency, and other metrics. On the other hand, not all products require intense shear; mixing too aggressively could overheat or irreversibly damage certain formulations. For this reason, it is necessary to select the mixing action that is appropriate for the viscosity range and shear level requirements of a particular application. Variable speed capability is also often a must.
How can mixing equipment help manufacturers overcome the difficulty of developing cannabis emulsions? Does it vary by application?
Using the proper mixing equipment is as important as nailing the perfect formula and sourcing the best quality ingredients. Without it, a process could inevitably suffer from low yield, frequent reworks, prolonged cycle times, batch-to-batch inconsistencies, wasted raw materials or product contamination.
Are there particular mixer models that Ross' customers in the cannabis space gravitate toward?
Laboratory High Shear Mixers are the most sought after due to their versatility and cost-efficiency. These plug-and-play mixers allow end users to prepare superior emulsions in standard beakers and containers up to 4 gallons at a time. They are very well suited for development work and small or pilot-scale production of low-viscosity emulsions and dispersions.
For thicker applications that require heating/cooling and deaeration during the batching process, Dual-Shaft Mixers are popular machines. These include an anchor agitator with scrapers that facilitate a continuous exchange of materials from the vessel surfaces towards the center of the batch.
Lastly, Ribbon Blenders are widely used for dry applications such as powdered supplements, tablet or capsule preparations, baking mixes, beverage powders, sweeteners, coffee, tea, herbs, spices and flours. A Ribbon Blender with spray bar enables uniform addition of minor liquid components into bulk solids.
What have Ross representatives learned about cannabis since it began working with these customers? Have they found there's a learning curve for clients just entering the cannabis space?
Investing in a scalable laboratory mixer is a game-changer. Clients new to the cannabis space are pleasantly surprised that they can acquire a scalable laboratory High Shear Mixer quickly and affordably. It's an entry-level machine that helps small labs and businesses create various formulations with a clear path to scale-up when the time comes.