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The Future of Stainless Steel in Bioprocessing
September 24, 2020

Single-use technology has been touted as the latest and most promising development in bioprocessing technology, fast replacing stainless steel as the material of choice for many bioprocessing engineers. Does this mean an end for traditional bioprocesses that employ stainless steel technology? Is it possible that stainless steel is already being considered a legacy product?

To address these questions, a new industry report, authors Marc Pelletier, Director of CRB Consulting Engineers, and Mark Embury from ASEPCO, part of Watson Marlow Fluid Technology Group (WMFTG), discuss the advantages and limitations of both stainless steel and single-use technologies.

According to the report, single-use technologies have their advantages, especially when it comes to avoiding contamination, as they eliminate the need for cleaning. This is particularly important when it comes to satisfying regulatory requirements, an essential consideration for biopharmaceutical processing engineers. Up-front costs are also significantly lower than stainless steel components, leading to lower process redesign costs. In the US, 67.4% of bioprocessing experts surveyed said they expect to see a fully single use facility in operation within five years.

However, the report goes on to note that single-use does not come without its own challenges. While it is true that upfront costs are lower, ongoing supply of components can generate significant expenses. In the same survey, the top reasons for not using consumables in the US included cost as well as the limited scalability of single-use systems and the investment that has already been made in current equipment. These industry concerns also meet the growing external pressures regarding the environmental impact of single-use products.

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