Conventional fluid separation units with fittings are often installed in small spaces, making it difficult to change out the filter unit. For example, it can be difficult to turn a fitting during installation and removal in a confined space. Even a quick-disconnect fitting can be awkward and difficult to manipulate in the spaces typical in industrial filtration applications. In addition, there is generally excess tubing, which allows the fittings or quick disconnects to be removed. There also may be additional tubing present to allow the filter unit to be removed from its installed position to a location with room enough that the fittings can be removed easily. However, moving tubing around is undesirable because tubing can be easily damaged, and contamination adhering to the inside surface of tubing walls may be dislodged into the fluid. Conventional disposable filters are also time-consuming to change due to cumbersome fittings, and filters often require extra space above or below to allow vertical movement for removal.
Leakage during change-out, potentially resulting in a hazardous condition, is another problem with conventional disposable fluid separation devices and tubing.
This invention provides a removable fluid separation assembly that can be installed in a confined space and readily connected and disconnected. It also includes fittings that allow installation with one easy motion and do not require that each fitting be individually connected. It features dripless connections, preventing leakage during change-out, and it aims to eliminate air entrapment during change-out. Also, because of its oriented connection, it prevents incorrect installation of the assembly.
The particular medium to be separated is not particularly limited, and can include slurries, fluids including water, and preloaded chromatography columns.
Figure 1 is a cross-sectional representation of the separation unit. It shows a manifold (A) housing one or more separation units, which in the embodiment shown here, are filter units (B). Each filter unit is adapted to be connected to a top manifold (C) and a bottom manifold (D). Although manifolds are illustrated, other means for attaching each filter unit to the system and providing fluid communication into and out of the filter units can be used. For convenience, however, this description will refer to manifolds. Preferably the manifolds are independent, allowing for separate changing of each filter unit. One or more of the manifolds may include pressure transducers (not shown) or other sensors for monitoring the conditions of the process. The filter units may include one or more guide blocks (E) to facilitate mounting of the units in a module.
The filter units may be completely disposable, or may comprise a reusable housing having a disposable inner cartridge. In the illustration, the top end of each filter unit has a male fitting or coupling (F), preferably centrally located (with respect to the housing of the filter) and preferably cylindrical, for attachment to the upper manifold. Similarly, the bottom end of each filter unit, which is spaced from and preferably opposing the first end, has a fitting or coupling (G), also preferably centrally located, for attachment to a receiver (H) on the lower manifold. At least one of the manifolds is movable between a first disengaged position (shown left) to a second engaged position (shown right). The disengaged position is high enough (i.e., sufficiently spaced from the lower manifold) in the module such that the filter can be lifted off and removed. In the engaged position, the coupling is received by receiver (I), engaging the filter unit in place in the module. Although both the upper and lower manifolds could be movable, preferably one is movable and the other is stationary as shown here.
Each upper manifold contains a valve (J) that is actuated by engagement of the coupling with the manifold. Upon attachment, the valve is forced open by contact with an actuating member (K) in the coupling, allowing fluid communication between the filter unit and the manifold. When the filter unit is removed from the manifold, a valve spring (L) biases the valve back to its seated, closed position, preventing leakage from the manifold.
Patent number: 7,056,436
Date: June 6, 2006
Inventors: Ralph Stankowski (Westford, Mass.); J. Karl Niermeyer (Tyngsboro, Mass.); William Wacks (Sharon, Mass.)