Cathay Industrial Biotech (Cathay) is China’s leader in the field of bio-manufacturing. Its areas of expertise include producing polyamide from biomass, which takes place in a totally digital plant using laboratory, automation and control technology from Siemens. Extensive plant-wide digitalisation and automation have simplified research and maintenance, while also increasing the yield. This has enabled Cathay to produce polyamide and fibre using a method that is both sustainable and ecological.
Polyamide is required across a range of areas, including the manufacture of clothing, shoes and automotive components. Traditionally, polyamide is synthesised from fossil fuels in petrochemical plants. Cathay is taking a completely new approach using renewable biomass, or corn to be more precise. But the process required is a complex one, due largely to the organisms used. Digitalisation can open up wide-ranging opportunities in this field. “With big data, we can learn more about the laws guiding production,” says Liu Xiucai, chairman and CEO of Cathay. “The efficiency of bio-manufacturing can only be improved by integrating the whole production chain with hardware and software control, collecting, processing and analysing data automatically, and then feeding the results back to production.”
Integrated solution for integrated digitalisation
The digitalisation solution required to make this possible comes from Siemens. Using Simatic Sipat software with Process Analytical Technology (PAT), the researchers at Cathay investigate microorganisms best suited to industrial production. The plant engineering software Comos enables the construction of a digital twin. The Simit simulation software is then used to test and optimise the systems. The Simatic PCS 7 process control system secures stable production. The MES Simatic IT is responsible for ensuring stable production processes by sending out electronic work orders and evaluating and recording the quality. Using the XHQ operational intelligence software, Cathay can acquire information from all systems and create detailed reports and dashboards for further optimistion. Siemens also provides smart sensors, process instruments as well as LV and MV electrical equipment for the new plant, and supports Cathay with technical services and system integration.
Ideally placed for the future
This integrated solution provides Cathay with the benefits of real-time feedback from production, a minimised maintenance workload, simplified troubleshooting and fixing of faults, as well as automation of many of its production steps. With these advances, the factory is setting new standards on many levels. Not only is it an ultra-modern production facility, it is also a trailblazer for the future of biotechnology: “Biotechnology can be used to manufacture better materials and also for mass production,” concludes Liu.
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