clearSTILL 400 Wiped Film Evaporator
The clearSTILL 400 dual-stage wiped film evaporator doubles throughput and labor efficiency over any single stage equipment using continuous, two-pass distillation technology in a single contained processing cycle. Used for heat sensitive or highly viscous fluids, engineered wipers create a thin film on the evaporator surface that enables thin film evaporation and short path condensation.
Dual Stage High Throughput System
Most traditional wiped film evaporators require each distillation pass to be performed in a single, separate cycle. Not only does this create a bottleneck in the production process, it also leaves the risks of contamination and product waste between transfers in your lab. For any serious distillate producer, this should not be an acceptable standard.
With two separate thin film evaporator stills capable of a clean, continuous process and a throughput rate of 4-6 L per hour recovery, the clearSTILL 400 is capable of eliminating waste and contamination, doubling output and halving labor costs compared to standard single stage systems.
The clearSTILL-200 is a small scale, cost efficient distillation solution based on our original clearSTILL technology. It is a manually operated, single stage wiped film distillation unit with a jacketed reservoir, integrated cold finger, roughing pump and turbo pump capable of up to 3L per hour throughput capacity. This system is a great solution for small scale distillation without breaking the bank.
Wiped Film Evaporator Working Principle
The clearSTILL 400, unlike most wiped film evaporators, has an impressive 4-6 liter/hour capacity - double the processing capability of standard single-pass, short path distillation systems found in a standard distillation lab. This level of technology in production efficiency can effectively halve labor costs all while creating a streamlined distillation recovery process.
The process applications of molecular distillation technologies is aided strongly by a vacuum system that conditions the vacuum space in the short path evaporator systems.
Thin Film Distillation Service Publications
Growing Trends in Hemp Oil Distillation
Annotated Glossary of Distillation Terminology
Guide for Distillation Clarity
Double Your Throughput Units and Labor Efficiency
clearSTILL’s advanced distillation technology can effectively double your output and halve labor costs. It’s time to complete the upgrade of your distillation equipment.
Wiped Film Data Integrity and Process Control Construction
Unlike standard distillation equipment systems, the clearSTILL 400 is complete and built with total process control in mind. User authentication and programmable methods allow for a full-coverage of the distillation process. This includes tracking of yields, optional WiFi enabled monitoring and short control, data visualization, and hardware control.
Thin Film Evaporator
This level of process overview gives the clearSTILL 400 capability of lot, calibration and maintenance tracking, and barcode reporting both electronically and through a paper trail. These capabilities are essential for advanced distillation technology compliant with current GMP requirements.
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Introduction to Wiped Film Distillation Equipment
A wipe film distillation equipment, also known as wiped film evaporator (WFE), is a distillation machine that makes CBD distillate. The wiped film evaporator is used for concentrating, distilling, dehydrating, and deodorization of products that are highly viscous and heat sensitive.
The equipment can handle a wide range of feed compositions ranging from 1% to 95% concentration. This machine uses pumps and heated vessels to evaporate CBD from the oils. The distillation equipment also has a built-in condenser that the evaporated CBD oil condenses and drips down into a reservoir.
The apparatus has a vacuum source and typically a series of vacuum conditioners designed to condense terpenes and solvents that do not condense on the condenser. This means residuals, waxes, fats, chlorophylls, and plant materials that do not boil are separated and caught in a cold trap.
Major components and functions
- Still - This is the main body of a thin/wiped film evaporator where distillation occurs. The “still” body is one of the system's most complex sections, including a motorized wiper mechanism, a feed connection, an inner or external condenser, and two discharge/vessels for distillate and residue. The still also has an outer jacket that is heated or cooled to create conditions for distillation.
- Distillate & Residue - Wiped film produces these two end products. The distillate is the targeted, purified compound that was selectively collected at boiling point, while the residue is any feed constituent that did not evaporate during distillation. It is considered a waste product or saved for another material application.
- Feed - The feed supply is composed of the prepared & purified crude oil to be distilled within the evaporator. Most machines have a pumping mechanism between the feed supply and still body to ensure a consistent flow rate.
- Vacuum system & cold trap - The vacuum system allows distillation to occur at a lower temperature. It's made up of one or more vacuum pumps and a secondary cold trap after the still. The cold trap will trap any light vapor that didn't condense in the internal or external condenser. This helps increase vacuum longevity.
clearSTILL Wiped Film Design and Specifications
How Does A Wiped Film Evaporation Work
Let’s take a closer look at the wiped film distillation process, how it works and why it’s considered a superior method with a vast range of benefits.
Wiped film distillation is a simple, straightforward, and effective process. This method can operate in either batches or continuous modes. Since it utilizes a constant feed, unlike the short path method, it is ideal for high throughput, high production, and maximizing labor efficiency.
For the first step of the wiped film evaporator process, crude oil is directed into a central distillation column using an automatic dosing pump. The feed rate can be adjusted and controlled according to the optimal throughput. As the crude oil is pumped into the column, it is distributed with highly engineered wipers to rotate through and wipe the oil. This results in a thin film suited for highly efficient heat transfer.
A long condenser is located in the middle of the wipers within the evaporator's body. This portion is cooled by a recirculating fluid, which condenses the vapor.
Afterward, terpenes are segmented out, and receiving vessels accumulate the high-temperature distillate and residue at the bottom.
The heated reservoir holds the winterized decarboxylated oil that feeds the still. The feed is pumped through the feed pump and enters the still under high vacuum pressure.
Throughout this process, the temperature of the feed container and wiped film evaporator body can be regulated with a recirculating heater. Also, the cold fingers and condenser are cooled by refrigerated circulators.
Depending upon the desired outcome, the operator may choose the residue or extract. There are varying methods that can be used to optimize the recovery of either.
Some compounds will not condense on the condenser, diffuse through the vacuum, and condense on the “cold finger” installed just before the vacuum. Therefore, you must carefully optimize the vacuum, feed rate, and temperatures to yield the desired component composition in the distillate.
Wiped Film Evaporators Cost, Features and Advantages
- Continuous operation eliminates contamination & reduces maintenance costs
- Continuous integration flow with fracTron 1000
- Dual still system allows for continuous passes
- No maintenance roughing pump eliminates need to tear down frequently
- High throughput increases overall production value
- Data logging for mass flow, vacuum allows method troubleshooting
- Manual bypass for turbo
- Dual turbo gives flexibility
Vacuum Level Requirement Degassing
For degassing, it is recommended that it operates at < 1 units torr, this can be achieved with the scroll vacuum pump that comes with the system.
Vacuum Level Requirement Distillation
For distillation, the preferences recommended to use a turbo vacuum pump as well as a scroll pump to reduce the temperature required to vaporize the compounds. Turbo pumps can achieve a vacuum level of <0.001torr.
Double Your Throughput and Labor Efficiency with Wiped Film Evaporators
clearSTILL’s advanced distillation technology can effectively double your output and halve labor costs. It’s time to upgrade your distillation equipment.
Difference Between Wiped Film Evaporation, Thin Film Evaporation, and Short path Distillation
Wiped film evaporation (WFE) is a form of thin film evaporator that creates a "thin film" of liquid along the evaporative surface using rotor driven spinning wiper blades and is typically used with highly viscous mixtures. There are other forms of thin film evaporators other than a WFE designed to separate compounds.
Falling film typically addresses thin film evaporators that can produce a free flowing film without any rotor, wiper blades, or other mechanical assistance. This generally applies to fluids with viscosities with 2 units cP or less.
Short path distillation utilizes a round bottom flask, heating mantle, and glass condenser situated on top of the round bottom.
Learn More About the clearSTILL 400 Evaporators Process
Download the product brochure to check detailed specifications and important information about the equipment and its technology.
Most Common Types of Distillation
To create high-quality hemp distillate, the CBD industry utilizes two primary distillation processes: short path distillation (SPD) and wiped film distillation (WFD):
The short path distillation method
Purifying a small quantity of a compound at a high temperature is possible using the short path distillation technique. This process is called a short path because the liquid mixture travels a short distance before being collected. As the distance traveled by the distillate is just a few centimeters, this method reduces wastage along the walls of the apparatus.
You can start with the hemp material and heat it until it vaporizes, where it enters a fractional tube, followed by a condensing tube, before entering the flask. The material is then separated into heads, tails, and primary. The ‘main’ is the higher concentration of the desired cannabinoids, while the rest are those other materials that were boiled off.
A fully automated short path distillation equipment allows for high quantity distillate production while maintaining purity, potency, and consistency ideal for distillate products in the CBD world.
Wiped film distillation method
Wiped film distillation uses the same concept of boiling off unwanted terpenes or solvents but in a different way. In this case, the distillation machine produces a film of oil on a hot surface with wiper blades. This allows liquids with a higher viscosity and boiling points to be distilled and reduces the time spent on a heat source before evaporation.
The machine allows the product to be heated evenly so the unwanted boils off at the same rate. As a result, the oil's components evaporate, travel to a nearby condenser, and condense back to liquid. This process repeatedly runs to ensure high-quality products.
The wiper is engineered to provide a thin film at the evaporator's surface and is also mixed at the surface. This improves the separation's mass transfer, productivity, scalability, and efficiency.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need to decarboxylate before distillation?
It is not required to decarboxylate before subjecting to falling film evaporation.
Will I be able to separate THC from CBD on my plants using this equipment?
No, the boiling points of THC and CBD are too close to separate one from the other without impurities present.
Does distillation replace chromatography?
No, distillation separates a mixture of liquid components by boiling point. Chromatography separates a mixture of liquid components by chemical interactions.
How do I clean the distillation equipment?
Using canola oil, the system is cleaned according to a predefined cleaning protocol.
Why do vacuum pumps require maintenance?
Vacuum pumps typically use an oil ring to produce a seal that creates vacuum. Volatiles in the winterized oil that don’t condense during degassing can follow the vapor flow path all the way to the vacuum pump, contaminating the pump lubricating oil, compromising its performance.
The clearSTILL vacuum pumps don’t require oil for operation, eliminating that maintenance.
What is a finger cleaner and how do you automate cleaning of the finger?
The “finger” of a wiped film evaporator is the condenser and must be cleaned due to cross contamination of the condenser from lot to lot. Many machines require cleaning the condenser between batches or lots. This requires that the condenser be cleaned between batches. An automated cleaner sprays a cleaning solvent over the condenser, cleaning it. The finger is heat flashed to dry.
What yield should we expect from the wiped film? What is the potency of the distillate?
Yield and potency are highly dependent on the aggressiveness of the operating conditions. For example:
- The boiling point of ethanol is 78oC. If the evaporator temperature is set at 100oC above the boiling point, it is expected that most of the ethanol will evaporate and condense and the ethanol yield will be high. However, the exceedingly high temperature can cause other components to also vaporize, decreasing the potency of the distillate product.
- If the temperature is set at the boiling point of ethanol, it is likely that some of the ethanol will evaporate, but not all. Thus, the yield of ethanol will be comparatively much lower than in the aforementioned case, but the distillate product will have fewer impurities.
The clearSTILL has been engineered to achieve a throughput of 4-6L/hr and increase the potency from 50-65% in winterized oil to 65-90% in the distillate depending on the standard operating procedure
What is entrainment and how do I prevent it?
- Entrainment comes from inadequate degassing. Highly volatile components (gasses, residual solvents, etc.) aggressively vaporize on the heated surface, causing liquids to contaminate the headspace and the condenser. Thus, oil components that have not been evaporated contaminate the distilled oil.
- Special entrainment separator wiper design is required to eliminate entrainment.
What is the surface area of the unit and how does that impact throughput?
- 0.6 m^2. Smaller the number, the slower the throughput. As the amount of temperature controlled surface area decreases, the unit functions at a lower throughput and efficiency, and with higher impurities. This stems from having increased control over highly viscous liquids and vapors at their saturation temperatures and pressures.
- Having evenly heated evaporative and condensing surfaces maximizes throughput and minimizes impurities by gently evaporating volatile components from a highly viscous mixture. The surface area for heat transfer is fully utilized by the use of wipers to evenly distribute the mixture on the heated surfaces. Controlling the wiping speed and feed inlet flow allows for precise control over residence time of evaporation and chemical potential between the evaporative and condensing surfaces.
What is the footprint, power, and heat load for the equipment?
- L 103″ x W 44″ x H 72″, 80 FLA at 230VAC, 50/60 hz, 3 phase
- Heat load of equipment is estimated at 3000 W-hr
What extraction method will give the cleanest distillate?
- Specially denatured ethanol is typically used for ethanol extraction due to the high cost of pure 200 proof ethanol.
- Denaturants are comprised of a wide variety of toxic and non food grade chemicals. Those denaturants are always detectable in the final distillate.
Input requires decarboxylated oil.
- Input for requires winterized crude oil.
- Input requires decarboxylated oil.
- First wiped film evaporation stage: degassing
- Degassing involves removal of volatiles and gas with heat while stirring. Typical ethanol removal is 80-90% using a rotovap or falling film evaporator, degassing using a wiped film evaporator achieves >98% ethanol removal which is required for wiped film evaporation.
- Degassing can be done with a stirred tank reactor, but the disadvantage of degassing with a stirred tank reactor is degradation of active targets such as CBD or CBG and breakdown of the oil. This method is also commonly a batch, compared to the continuous operation of a wiped film evaporator. – Aaron
- Second wiped film evaporation stage: distillation
- Degassed, winterized oil is wiped onto the heated exterior surfaces of the wiped film evaporator column where the more volatile cannabinoids vaporize into the headspace. The internal condenser condenses the cannabinoid vapors to produce the distillate product. The pressure of the system is GREATLY reduced to decrease the boiling point of the target cannabinoid products. Lower boiling points prevent product degradation and decrease heat load requirements.
- If you choose to degas with a stirred tank reactor, both stages of the clearSTILL wiped film evaporator can be set to distillation operating conditions to achieve a high purity distillate. – Aaron
- Output distillate often feeds either chromatography or crystallization processes.
What does WFE do?
- Also known as molecular distillation, the system is similar to short path distillation equipment in the sense that there is a short distance between the evaporator and condenser. Depending on the operating conditions, wiped film evaporators can degas winterized oil or distill degassed winterized oil. The distillation column is comprised of a permeable vertical cylinder and a rotating wiper blade that wipes a thin film of winterized oil over the evaporative surface. The condenser is typically only 1-2 inches away from the evaporator so that when the volatile components begin to evaporate into the headspace, they migrate towards the chilled surface of the condenser and condense to a liquid, distillate product.
- Degasses winterized oil.
- Makes distillate from degassed winterized oils.
- Removes color, terpenes, flavor, and other impurities.
- Makes oil consistent so that it can be used in a product for consistent results.
- Upgrades potency of target distillate.
What is the advantage of a dual still?
- Continuous degassing and distillation in a continuous two step operation that will yield a first pass distillate.
- If operating with only distillation parameters, increased distillation production and better control of the distillate product with no handling required in between operations.
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Meet Our CEO and Founder in Service Dr. Jon Thompson, Ph.D
Dr. Thompson is a separations scientist, entrepreneur, and inventor. As a scientist, he has a strong technical background and industry experience in analytical instrumentation, in-vitro diagnostics, biotech, mining, and homeland security markets. During his industry career, Dr. Thompson has earned a strong track record in successful extraction startups in well-regulated, medically-modeled states. Dr. Thompson has assisted numerous companies to attain their goals in hemp manufacturing, as well as market development, strategic marketing, and worldwide business-to-business alliance formation (including international markets).