AMI's Newsletter
January 2012

Dear ;   


Our January newsletter features an article from Sigi Castro Diaz, bioprocessing and chemical engineer at AMI, discussing the design and optimization of biochemical processes utilizing computer simulation tools. Recently, Sigi was named one of the top scientists in Kansas by the Ad Astra Initiative.


We also have an article about how we assisted Bourbon Trucking and Trailers with a variety of services to help expand their business.


We have 13 students participating in our intern program this semester. This includes eight engineering students, two business students, one communications student and two masters of business administration students. Our interns say their experience provides them an edge in the job market and makes them feel more prepared to make an immediate impact when they begin their career.


Next month, we will have an article from Dale Wunderlich, our industrial designer.


Please feel free to give me a call at 800-292-4186 or e-mail if you have any questions or projects you would like to discuss. You can also connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.


AMI...Engineering Success.



Taylor Jones

Chief Engineer


Feature Article

Design and Optimization of Biochemical Processes Using Computer Simulation


 Sigi Castro

Sigi Castro Diaz

Bioprocessing/Chemical Engineer


The world of chemical and bioprocess engineering is full of a large variety of unit operations, which are integrated into a process to achieve some kind of transformation of matter. Whether the conversion of reactants into products, the treatment of a waste stream or the separation and recovery of a valuable substrate, these chemical and/or physical transformations are carried out in a process with the ultimate goal of maximizing efficiency, minimizing production or treatment costs and reducing potential environmental pollution.


Process simulators are a valuable tool during the design and development of a new process or the evaluation and optimization of an existing one. Process simulation software is programmed to solve model equations. Model equations are mathematical relationships between process performance and design variables, allowing the user to simulate a process rather than performing hundreds of experiments on a real system. A process simulator is then used to perform tasks such as:

  • Represent the entire process on the computer
  • Perform material and energy balances
  • Explore unit operation alternatives
  • Estimate equipment sizes
  • Calculate demand for utilities as a function of time
  • Estimate the cycle time of the process
  • Perform cost analyses
  • Assess environmental impact

Simulation is an important process engineering tool for activities like: generating design alternatives, evaluating process performance under various conditions, suggesting process modifications, determination of optimal conditions, bottlenecks or sensitivity to process changes and estimating effluent characteristics.


In terms of modes of operation, chemical processes can generally be classified as batch or continuous. In batch processes, the feedstocks for each processing step are charged into the equipment at the start of the process and the products are removed at the end. The conditions in each processing step are dynamic, changing over time. The transfer of material between equipment units is intermittent. On the other hand, continuous processes allow for continuous flow of materials between processing units and are designed to operate at a steady-state.


Process simulators for continuous chemical processes have been used by the petrochemical industries since the early 1960's. Well-known simulators for the petrochemical industries include: Aspen Plus (Aspen Technology Inc.), ChemCAD (Chemstations, Inc.), HYSYS (Hyprotech, Ltd.) and PRO/II (Simulation Sciences, Inc.).


Simulation of batch processes is more challenging due to their intrinsic, time-dependent behavior. Batch Process Technologies was the first batch process simulator, commercialized under the name Batches in the mid 1980's. Intelligen, Inc., developed SuperPro Designer in the late 1980's. Aspen Technology Inc. introduced Batch Plus in the mid 1990's. Hyprotech Ltd. released Batch Design Kit (BDK) in the late 90's. While the operation models in Batches are dynamic and the simulation involves integration of differential equations over time, Batch Plus, BDK and SuperPro Designer operate with models based on simple algebraic equations to reduce computational time. Batch Plus is recipe driven, which means that the user develops a text recipe and the modeling engine creates a Process Flow Diagram (PFD). BDK and SuperPro Designer provide a graphical user interface that allows the user to directly generate the PFD. SuperPro Designer, originally developed at MIT to address the needs of biopharmaceutical industries, has been expanded over the years to address other industries (synthetic pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, food processing, microelectronics, etc.) as well as water purification and end-of-pipe treatment processes. While Batches, Batch Plus and BDK are practically limited to batch processes, SuperPro Designer can handle batch and continuous processes equally well.


Because of their history, software packages developed for the petrochemical industry are quite advanced at simulating chemical synthesis processes but considerably underdeveloped for the description of biotechnology operations. There are several challenges in the application of simulation software to the bioprocessing industry. First, pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries typically integrate batch and semi-continuous operations, which can be difficult to simulate. Second, unit operations such as fermenters, homogenizers, centrifuges and chromatography columns, are unique to the bioprocessing industry and are not always well-characterized. Additionally, these unit operations are based on physical and biological phenomena rather than phase equilibrium. Third, raw materials and products are usually under defined (e.g., cells and proteins with unknown physical properties) or complex substrates of varying compositions are used (e.g., yeast extract, soybean meal). Finally, cleaning and sterilization of equipment and final products are necessary for FDA-approved processes and products; thus, the simulation software must include the materials, equipment and scheduling required for clean-in-place (CIP) and steam-in-place (SIP) operations.


A team from the University of Maryland along with Merck and Company evaluated the process simulation software packages Aspen Batch Plus and SuperPro Designer for use in modeling industrial biotechnology processes. They concluded that both packages are best suited to provide a format for process management, using material and energy balances to answer scheduling questions, explore equipment change-outs and perform economic analyses. Although successful performing specific simulation tasks, the ability of the software to accurately predict unit operation scale-up and bioprocess optimization was somewhat limited. The rating for SuperPro Designer was "good", or better, for user friendliness and absence of software bugs, set up time and run time, tracking material balances across the entire process, economic evaluation and modeling unit operations such as fermentation, centrifugation and reaction.


The bioprocessing team at AMI has recently acquired a commercial license to utilize the simulation software SuperPro Designer, by Intelligen, Inc. Our team is pleased to offer chemical process simulation services with over 140 unit operations/procedures, rigorous reactor models including fermenters (Figure 1) and tools to perform process integration and flowsheet development, scheduling of batch operations, thorough process economics, throughput analysis and debottlenecking, waste stream characterization (Figure 2) and environmental impact assessment.


Available literature containing examples of successful SuperPro Designer applications can be found at Some of these include:  

  1. Modeling the Process and Costs of Fuel Ethanol Production by the Corn Dry-Grind Process (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
  2. Bio-Diesel Production from De-gummed Vegetable Oil (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
  3. Production of Polyhydroxyalkanoates from Renewable Carbon Resources (Tokyo Institute of Technology)

We are currently using SuperPro Designer to determine the most feasible and economical alternative to achieve BOD reduction in a glucose-rich industrial waste stream. Special emphasis is being given to aerobic biological treatment, anaerobic digestion and flash vacuum evaporation technologies. The size of the equipment, operational costs, stream characterization and environmental impact are some of the design aspects being determined. The software has allowed us to explore these options under different scenarios, including fluctuations in flow rate and/or BOD loading and seasonal temperature changes among others.


The simulation software allows AMI to serve our clients in a more efficient way, facilitating exploration of options to determine the most feasible one without having to perform experiments for all of the alternatives.


Our bioprocessing interns have expressed their satisfaction using SuperPro Designer, as it is relatively easy to understand and has become a very useful tool for mapping out different design situations and learning about a great variety of unit operations available for use.



(1) Papavasileiou V., Koulouris, A, et al. (2007). Optimize manufacturing of pharmaceutical products with process simulation and production scheduling tools. Chemical Engineering Research and Design, 85 (7), 1086-1097.

(2) Hamouda, M.A., Anderson, W.B., et al. (2009). Decision support systems in water and wastewater treatment process selection and design: a review. Water Science and Technology, 60 (7), 1757-1770.

(3) Petrides, D., Koulouris A., et al. (2002). The role of process simulation in pharmaceutical process development and product commercialization. Pharmaceutical Engineering, 22 (1), 1-8.

(4) Potera C. 1998. Computer simulation systems. Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News, 18 (16), 10, 29.

(5) Shanklin, T., Roper, K., et al. (2001). Selection of bioprocess simulation software for industrial applications. Biotechnology and Bioengineering, 72 (4), 483-489.

AMI Helps Trucking Company Expand Business

A Jewell trucking company is on the road to success with the help of the Advanced Manufacturing Institute.


Father and son business partners LeRoy and Eric Bourbon used the Advanced Manufacturing Institute's design and marketing expertise to improve the efficiency of their existing business, Bourbon Trucking, and to develop their new business, Bourbon Trailers.


Currently Bourbon Trucking and Trailers specializes in transporting bulk commodity goods and a wide range of equipment and materials, as well as offering a full service repair division and a new pup trailer manufacturing company.


Bourbon Pup Trailers maximize the amount of material that can be transported in a single trip, which increases profits. The more compact size of the pup trailers, when compared to traditional super cube or straight trailers, enhances maneuverability and decreases wear and tear on roadways because the wheels do not slide when turning corners. Bourbon Pups also offer configuration flexibility, air ride suspension and in-field weight estimates.


"Bourbon has done an excellent job of identifying a niche opportunity in the trucking market," said Bret Lanz, marketing and development manager at AMI. "The company is continuing to grow this opportunity by vertically expanding into the manufacturing of the trailers."


AMI offered a variety of services to enhance the new trailer manufacturing company including creating CAD models and production drawings of the trailers and using finite element analysis to validate the optimal hopper design. In addition, the institute helped create marketing materials, developed pricing models, identified potential dealers and built a company website that Bourbon employees can edit and maintain.


"We've been really happy with how AMI has helped us out and we look forward to working with them in the future," said LeRoy Bourbon, founder and co-owner of Bourbon Trucking and Trailers. "As our company grows, we hope to expand our line of trailers and continue our partnership."


For more information about Bourbon Trucking and Trailers please visit


AMI Logo

AMI Bioprocessing Engineer Named One

of Top Scientists

in Kansas

Work by a Kansas State University bioengineer is not only recycling and reducing environmental pollutants, it is also earning him a spot as one of the state's top researchers.


Sigifredo Castro Diaz, a bioprocessing engineer with the university's Advanced Manufacturing Institute, was named by the Ad Astra Kansas Initiative as one of the top 150 scientists ever to work in Kansas throughout its 150 years of statehood.


Diaz develops and tests new bio-based products and processes.


Recently a U.S. patent was issued for a phosphorus reduction system -- called Phred for short -- that was developed by Diaz and colleagues. The system removes up to 60 percent of the phosphorus in the wastewater from cattle feedlots. As a result, it decreases water pollution in lakes and reservoirs, as well as decreasing the amount of algae blooms that result from the excess phosphate.


Similarly, Diaz is also looking at ways to decrease phosphorus in cattle feed, which will prevent excess phosphorus from entering the ecosystem.


In addition to reducing phosphorus, Diaz is also developing and studying pilot systems for phytoremediation, anaerobic bacteria, biotechnology and bioseparations -- all aimed at better waste treatment.


"Engineering and science education give you the knowledge and tools it takes to design potential solutions for a wide variety of real-world challenges," Diaz said. "In the course of my graduate work at the chemical engineering department at K-State, I developed a strong interest in the environmental management of wastewaters originated from industrial facilities and agricultural fields. I find it very exciting to discover overlooked opportunities to economically recover useful byproducts or generate energy from waste streams, while at the same time, protecting the ecosystem."


Throughout 2011, Ad Astra spotlighted 150 Kansas researchers, scientists, inventors and engineers from the past to the present who have advanced the scientific field in Kansas' 150 years of statehood. The initiative's project, "Science in Kansas: 150 Years and Counting," celebrated the state's sesquicentennial and emphasized the importance of science and the career possibilities in research and innovation to K-12 students.


Diaz is the one of the 21 active faculty researchers at K-State to be named among Kansas' top 150 scientists.  


Top-Notch Experience: Students Say Internships at AMI Give Edge in Job Market 

Kansas State University students are getting the chance to gain professional experience and an edge when they enter the work force by serving as interns with the Advanced Manufacturing Institute, or AMI.


Through the institute's intern program, students work with skilled professionals and gain hands-on experience with real client projects -- experiences that can enhance their career prospects.


Spencer Kaufman, senior in mechanical engineering, Dodge City, says the institute's intern program is preparing him to make an immediate impact when he enters the professional field.


"I've held internships every summer with different companies, and my experience at AMI ranks high on my list. When working with the engineers, they don't just use you for busy work; they have you help them find solutions for actual client projects. The AMI intern program is top-notch."


Brian Busenitz, a December 2011 bachelor's recipient in mechanical engineering, Newton, took advantage of the institute's internship opportunities and landed a job prior to graduating. He's now working for AGCO Corp. in Hesston, Kan.


"My experience at AMI broadened my knowledge base so that I was able to acquire the position I wanted at AGCO," Busenitz said. "AMI's intern program is first-rate. It's hard to find an internship experience where you work on real projects for clients while working alongside professional engineers who are more than willing to give you guidance. My favorite times at AMI were when I got to see some of the designs I was involved with manufactured."


Thirteen students are participating in the Advanced Manufacturing Institute's internship program for the spring 2012 semester. In addition to Kaufman, they include:


Michael Patenaude, junior in mechanical engineering, Clay Center; Kyle Coover, senior in mechanical engineering, Galesburg; Andrew Woolley, junior in chemical engineering, Goddard; Douglas Niehues, junior in biological systems engineering, Goff; Joseph Rush, master's student in business administration, Haviland; Amanda Weishaar, senior in mass communications, Lawrence; Kasey Krueger, senior in management and marketing, Liberal; Jacob Picolet, senior in mechanical engineering, Madison; Michael Michalski, senior in mechanical engineering, Shawnee; and Benjamin Robinson, master's student in business administration, Gabe Ryan, junior in management, economics and entrepreneurship, and Alexandra Ternes, senior in chemical engineering and biochemistry, all from Wichita.

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