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Open Loop Extraction Systems: Safety Risks and Inefficiencies

Open Loop Extraction Systems: Safety Risks and Inefficiencies

Choosing the right extraction system for your business can be a complicated process. There are many options, different configurations, and even different methodologies for extracting cannabis. It all makes finding the ideal solution for your business overwhelming.   

When considering options for extraction solutions, you should consider the issues associated with open-loop configurations. While they might appear to be the more cost-efficient option initially, the safety concerns and multiple inefficiencies related to those systems will cost much more in the long term. 

Safety and Labor Concerns

When it comes to open-loop systems, there are some serious concerns when it comes to both safety and labor. The most apparent consideration comes from the increased need for employees to manage each step of the extraction process. Because open-loop systems cannot be automated, hands-on management of the system is required at all times. In order to support this perpetual manual intervention, cannabis processors need to keep an extensive staff. That staff requires training and personal protective equipment (PPE).   

With a larger staff and more interaction directly with the system come increased safety concerns. It shouldn’t be surprising that the methods employed to produce cannabis extracts can be hazardous. Not only are most solvents highly flammable, but extreme temperatures and high pressures are also often utilized at various steps along the process. 

For instance, it’s common for cannabis processors to need to subject their cannabis crude oil to the winterization process. Winterization uses ultra-chilled ethanol to separate unwanted plant components, like lipids and chlorophyll. To winterize cannabis in an open system, an employee must transport crude to the winterization device and load it in. That also means they’ll need to manually operate the system and the frigid ethanol involved in the process. When it’s done, an employee will need to manually handle the still-cold end product for the next step of the process. Clearly, there are places where safety concerns arise. 

And that’s only one instance. The complete extraction process has many. The distillation process involves both high temperatures and high pressures. Rotovaps work by evaporating solvent out of the extracted cannabis. Regardless of the solvent, flammable vapors will be released into the air. With open-loop systems, each process step presents safety challenges, as employees interact directly with the product and potentially hazardous procedures. 

Inconsistency, Contamination, and Inefficiency

Handmade items can be great, but when something needs to be made with scientific precision, the human touch is inefficient at best and disastrous at worst. That’s why open-loop systems, requiring human intervention to help the process, open up a world of potential problems. 

If the extraction process is not tightly controlled, inconsistency is bound to arise. When measurements and timing are left to employees to manage, there’s always potential for things to change, even if slightly. Those slight changes can compound, leading to significant inconsistencies in product quality and even cannabinoid concentrations. 

Every time the product is taken out of the extraction system or exposed to open air, there’s the potential for contamination. No matter how clean the environment is, there’s potential for dust, hair, insects, or drips from condensation or another part of the system. Once the system is open, contamination is bound to happen eventually. 

Open extraction systems operate in a series of stops and starts. When each step of the process doesn’t immediately feed into the next, an employee must move the product along. Each time this happens, it introduces a delay. Even if the employee is standing by, waiting to load and unload the product, there’s still time wasted in actually doing so. While the delay may appear small, the total time wasted increases with each instance. It won’t take long for the operation’s overall productivity to take a serious hit. 

Closed-Loop Systems and Automation

If open extraction systems are the source of all these difficulties and inefficiencies, what’s the solution? Closed-loop extraction systems are a modern, efficient alternative to the more piecemeal methods of the past. Closed-loop systems are designed to run end-to-end without the product ever seeing open air, eliminating many safety concerns and contamination risks. 

Closed-loop systems, like the ones designed and engineered in-house in the U.S. by ENTEXS, are built to work autonomously from start to finish. Using the latest automation technology, these systems can regulate themselves to run at maximum efficiency. Control panels allow operators to set the exact parameters for the system and monitor the extraction process. Process directly from biomass to distillate by the click of a button, without intervention for winterization and rotovaping. ENTEXS systems are also cloud-enabled with remote monitoring capabilities.   

Automated systems require less maintenance, less employee oversight, and virtually zero external intervention. Load the raw cannabis in one end, and collect the finished product at the other. Because closed-loop automated systems are more tightly controlled and never open the product to the air, they operate at a level of safety and efficiency that cannot be achieved otherwise. 

Contact us for more information

Contact our sales team for more information on custom CBD extraction systems, state-of-the-art THC remediation systems or preview our catalog of systems and modules available through our website.

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