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PEEK film can take the heat - and more

01 October 2008

The German company, Makatec supplies specialist membrane type heat exchanger systems for applications in the pharmaceutical, food, and biotechnology industries. In one of its recent developments, the company took a leap of faith and decided to replace the metal parts within its spiral plate heat exchangers with a PEEK (polyetheretherketone) thermoplastic film from Victrex, called ‘APTIV’. According to Victrex film business leader, Uwe Marburger, APTIV film is an extremely versatile product that delivers a broad range of capabilities under a variety of demanding conditions. By using the film in the heat exchanger, she says, Makatec will be able to reduce its costs, improve performance, and enhance the design.

APTIV film provides all the properties of PEEK semi-crystalline aromatic polymer (which ranks among the highest performing thermoplastics available today) in a more flexible format. In this application for Makatec, the APTIV film is spiral bound in combination with a high temperature-resistant adhesive, a configuration that provides the right mix of high temperature performance and chemical resistance. The new film-based heat exchanger achieves a heat transfer coefficient that is comparable with that of a conventional plate heat exchanger, and its novel spiral design allows volume specific heat exchange areas of up to 1,000m2/m3 to be achieved.

Providing an effective barrier against many liquids and gases, APTIV film is lightweight, halogen-free, withstands lead-free soldering process temperatures, is RoHS compliant and, significantly, can be used to manufacture products compliant with this directive. The Makatec heat exchanger is thus environmentally friendly and is 100% recyclable.

The smooth surfaces of APTIV film inhibit residue build-up inside the heat exchanger, thus minimising the danger of microbial contamination. Makatec heat exchangers are thus suitable for use in potable water systems and in the food sector, as well as in pharmaceutical and biotechnology applications. Indeed, it is an FDA food contact and dairy 3A certified material.

Apart from the performance enhancements that APTIV film brings to the design of the heat exchanger, a number of production advantages are also achieved. Makatec's simple design means quick and low cost assembly even for customer specified products, and it is significantly less costly than a stainless steel exchanger – the material traditionally demanded by the food processing and pharmaceuticals industries. From an operational standpoint, costs are further reduced, thanks to the low pressure drop across the Makatec heat exchanger and correspondingly lower pumping effort required. This compares favourably with conventional plate heat exchangers. There are savings in maintenance and service costs, too, because the film offers a high degree of corrosion resistance.

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