The following article dives into several prominent trends in the world of cannabis distillation including GMP compliance, reduced maintenance, full automation and more. It highlights extrakLAB’s latest distillation technology in the fracTron and clearSTILL.
Distillation is not a new technology by any means, but advances in the industrial hemp and cannabis industry are appearing in strides. From essential oils, to spirits, to cannabis concentrates, the distillation process is critical to create a pure, refined product. So, what developments have been made in hemp oil processing equipment, and how do those developments affect the hemp and cannabis industry?
Distillation Trends That Help Your Business
To create a pure CBD distillate that is up to the current standard of quality and safety, high quality distillation equipment and the latest technology must be implemented. This is where extrakLAB continues to shine as one of the leading producers of cannabis and hemp processing equipment in the industry today.
The latest trends include:
- GMP compliance
- Reduced maintenance
- Integrated continuous solvent recovery and distillation
What is the Distillation Process?
The process of distillation in the simplest of terms is the separation of two substances based on their different boiling points. A typical distillation machine will consist of some form of heated evaporator, and a chilled condenser to collect the desired product after evaporation.
As is shown in the adjacent figure, this process uses CBD oil that is dissolved in ethanol from an ethanol extraction or from supercritical CO2 extraction.
Before the process of distillation begins, we’ll highlight the equally important steps prior to short path distillation.
Step 1. Winterization
In order to remove waxes, the oil and ethanol are chilled down to typically less than -20℃. The waxes precipitate as a solid because they are no longer soluble.
Step 2. Filtration
Filtration of the waxes and separation from the cold ethanol oil is the next step. This can be quickly and easily accomplished with a DrainDroyd. The DrainDroyd
is a simple, high throughput filter system that separates waxes from the oil.
Step 3. Solvent Removal
Solvent removal is necessary to recover, or remove solvent from CBD oil after ethanol extraction or winterization. A rotary evaporator, commonly referred to as a “rotovap,” is a common way to accomplish recovery of solvents. The equipment uses a rotating round bottom flask, vacuum pump, heating bath, chilled condensation surface and collecting flask. The vacuum pump is necessary to reduce the boiling point of solvents like ethanol. The ethanol boiling point is roughly 78.2℃¹ compared to a relative boiling point of 160-180℃ for CBD. So, the first step is to remove the solvent before short path molecular distillation.
Distillation of CBD
Now let’s dive into the distillation process. In order to get a golden clear distillate, residual plant matter, terpenes, some organic compounds need to be separated from the CBD or THC. A short path wiped film distillation machine is the preferred way to get this done.
While standard short path equipment is capable of large quantity solvent removal, creating a product that is both potent and safe for customers is reliant on removing as many undesirable compounds from the mixture as possible. These residuals could contain materials that could either reduce potency, or be unsafe for consumers. So, what’s next?
Get To Know the Trendy fracTron and clearSTILL
extraktLAB’s commitment to create the most advanced technology in the hemp and cannabis extraction industries leads to the latest in distillation equipment: the fracTron, and the clearSTILL. Both of these thin film evaporators have raised the bar in efficiency, processing and GMP compliance that leave competitors behind the curve.
fracTron: 3-Stage Falling Film Distillation
The fracTron incorporates the latest trends in falling film evaporators including GMP compliance, automated methods, reduced handling of oils, and seamless, continuous integration with clearSTILL.. The falling film evaporator is well equipped to remove solvents from liquid mixtures at a very high throughput by evaporating the more volatile materials.
The fracTron is a Fast Machine
The capability of three independent fractional separations contained in one process allows for a 40 gallon/hour throughput with a continuous process flow. This significantly reduces labor costs and completely removes solvents without the need for secondary processing.
The fracTron is Continuous
Because of the ingenuity of the fracTron’s triple pass system, residual solvent removal is more efficient than ever. With a typical single stage falling film evaporator, a single temperature setpoint is set within the distillation column and the operator has to load batch after batch manually. This batch process is similar to a rotovap. The fracTron enables temperatures to be adjusted within each stage independently to provide three pass solvent removal in one continuous step. This makes the difficult process of removing final remaining solvents much more effective than single stage thin film evaporators.
The fracTron reduces Maintenance
The fracTron is enabled with many advanced maintenance reducing features. The number one feature is the automated cleaning methods and also integration with our clean in place system.
clearSTILL: Two-Stage Short Path Wiped Film Distillation
extraktLAB’s clearSTILL is the most advanced wiped film evaporator on the market. The equipment eliminates the headache of single pass distillation and can be fed directly from the fracTron. By completing two independent distillation passes within a single contained cycle, the clearSTILL is capable of doubling throughput and halving labor costs all while creating a clear gold CBD or THC distillate.
clearSTILL is Continuous
Though other wiped film distillation methods have been used within the industry, the vast majority are using single stage wiped film distillation equipment. This creates a bottleneck in the production process that forces producers to transfer hemp or cannabis oil from one pass to the next. Not only does this increase downtime, it also opens the opportunity for product waste and contamination.
The clearSTILL is capable of a throughput capacity of 4-6L per hour and raises the potency of winterized oil from a typical 50-65% to 65-90% in the final distillate. This upgrade in production value and overall quality in distilled hemp products is sure to make an impact in any business in the cannabis extraction industry.
clearSTILL has Reduced Maintenance
One of the key advantages of clearSTILL is that it uses vacuum pumps that are oil-less. This means that maintenance of the roughing vacuum pumps is much less compared to other systems on the market.
Common Features on Both the clearSTILL and the fracTron
A distilled marijuana or hemp plant product should reflect the dedication of a company to the quality of their equipment. Like all extraktLAB’s co2 extraction and distillation equipment, the fracTron and clearSTILL are designed with GMP compliance in mind with stainless steel construction that meet global market requirements.
Batch Record Quality
extraktLAB offers an add on GMP package that will give your quality staff a complete set of physical data needed for compliance. There are also several features built into the unit itself that will greatly aid in automating batch records including: 21CFRpart11², GAMP5³, Annex 11 compliance, paper receipts, barcode input of metadata, tracking of methods run, tracking of maintenance and calibration data, and much more.
Programmable methods that aid in pressure, flow rate, alarms and temperatures are critical in final product quality are available in the fracTron, clearSTILL and all extraktLAB machinery.
The fracTron and ClearSTILL Both Run Automated Methods
The fracTron’s three stills are capable of independent control during a single process, including temperature. In order to accomplish this, the operator loads a desired method that specifies the temperature, pressure, flow rate and time. With a single touch, a different method can be loaded. Further, as we will see below, solvent removal and distillation can be linked together to provide a continuous process.
How to Automate Solvent Removal and Distillation
Connecting solvent evaporation and wiped film distillation Into a single continuous process is a snap as is shown in the figure below. Normally, an operator would do three separate passes to remove the ethanol, then cook the oil in a stirred reactor to decarb or remove terpenes, then distill the oil with several passes.This process is fraught with delays, inventory, lost labor, lost materials and is simply inefficient.
Automation of solvent recovery and distillation is probably one of the greatest targets of opportunity to help with efficiency gains. As is shown above, only an insulated connection pipe and ultrasonic level sensors that are incorporated on the unit are needed to make this a reality. Each unit is programmed to enable continuous operation.
When it comes to trending topics in the world of cannabis distillation, extraktLAB has led the way in innovation. If you’re ready to join the rest of the winners in the industry, contact us at 651-600-0036 for the best possible efficiency, production value and product quality in the business.