Setting standards

Article of 28 June 2019 

Automated blood plasma fractionation

Blood plasma plays an important role in medicine. As a component of many vital medications, it is in demand worldwide – but it has to be collected and processed in large-scale plants. Standardised automation technology ensures long-term plant efficiency.

A patient undergoes an organ transplant. After the operation, medication made from blood plasma is given to strengthen the weakened immune system. This is just one example of how the raw material saves lives every day in emergency and intensive-care medicine. In total, plasma contains more than 120 important proteins that support blood coagulation, while also supplying organs with oxygen and strengthening the immune system.

Blood plasma processing: a complex process

Demand on the global market is very high. In Germany alone, 4.6 million blood products were needed last year. Collecting and preparing the blood plasma, however, is very time-consuming.

Initially, it is collected in blood donation centres, where between 200 and 800 millilitres can be obtained per donation. The fractionation takes place following this. Blood plasma is separated into its individual components, for which several steps are required involving complex physical and chemical processes.

Parts of a large plant belonging to Biotest AG, a company specialising in the development, production and sale of plasma proteins and biotherapeutic drugs.
Parts of a large plant belonging to Biotest AG, a company specialising in the development, production and sale of plasma proteins and biotherapeutic drugs.

Efficient plants thanks to standardised automation

As a rule, production takes place in very large plants designed for several hundred thousand litres of plasma. For efficient fractionation, it is important to reduce plant downtime to a minimum.

This is achieved through the standardisation of components and the uniform design of control cabinets. Time and expense spent on repair in the event of an error is significantly reduced. New components and spare parts can be obtained quickly and easily from a defined pool. In addition, the need for training decreases as the maintenance and servicing personnel have to familiarise themselves with fewer different plant components. The expenditure for engineering and documentation is also significantly smaller. Ideally, the standards will have been defined in the planning phase of the plant.

A total of 250 standardised control cabinets and 6,000 valves from Festo are installed in the large Biotest plant. Festo was actively involved right from the definition phase of the plant.
A total of 250 standardised control cabinets and 6,000 valves from Festo are installed in the large Biotest plant. Festo was actively involved right from the definition phase of the plant.