As the world continues to advance technologically, it has become increasingly important to provide students with hands-on experience to supplement their theoretical knowledge with computer simulation tools. In this regard, process simulation has proven to be a valuable tool in training chemical engineers. Since 2022, the INOSIM Software is used in a new course about batch process design and simulation at the University of Twente, located in Enschede, the Netherlands. With a focus on science and technology, the university offers a diverse range of programs to its students. In the master program of Chemical Engineering Science at the Faculty of Science and Technology, a new course called Batch Process Simulation has been established by Prof. Meik Franke, Ir. Hilbert Keestra, and Ir. Albertus Fuad.
A Professor with industrial background
Meik Franke has a PhD in Chemical Engineering from the Technical University Dortmund and has worked for over 15 years at Bayer and LANXESS in Germany and China in various positions. In his last assignment at Bayer, he headed the Process Modeling and Design Group, part of the digital transformation activities providing the Digital Twins for the production plants of Bayer. In January 2021 he has been appointed as a Professor for Process Design and Optimization at the Sustainable Process Technology Group at the Faculty of Science and Technology at the University of Twente with research interests in advanced process design and optimization.
Simulating the Aspirin production process
The newly established course includes a realistic simulation of an Aspirin production plant. The model was developed by considering numerous factors such as energy constraints, equipment failures, and processing times, which were either manually calculated or based on literature. The production involves the most common batch process operations, including reaction, crystallization, centrifugation, drying, sieving, and distillation. This comprehensive approach provides a realistic representation of a real plant, making it ideal for de-bottlenecking exercises. Using this model, students gained hands-on experience in batch process simulation and learned how to identify and address bottlenecks in the process. Overall, this model provides a valuable learning experience for students to enhance their process simulation skills and gain a deeper understanding of the fundamental challenges associated with batch processes.
Process improvement with teamwork
As part of the course, students were assigned to work in groups of 2-4 to improve an inefficient Aspirin plant model. The assignment required students to add additional equipment, close the recycle, or de-bottleneck the process by adding the right units or changing the right parameters. This exercise helped students develop their problem-solving skills by applying theoretical concepts to practical problems. The group assignment also encouraged teamwork and collaboration, as students had to work together to develop solutions. By completing this assignment, students gained a better understanding of how to improve an existing plant model and learned how to identify and eliminate bottlenecks. The final report submitted by each student group included their results and justifications for their choices, which provided valuable feedback and insights for future improvements. Overall, this group assignment was an important component of the course that helped students develop their process simulation skills and prepare for real-world challenges in the field.
Positive feedback for hands on teaching concept
“The feedback of the students was very positive. They liked that the theoretically taught concepts could be tried out in INOSIM, and, for example, the effect of debottlenecking measures could be seen in INOSIM directly. In the next version of the course, we want to improve the connection of batch unit operation design and INOSIM. For example, by adding a tutorial on the use of Visual Basis for Applications (VBA) in INOSIM.” says Prof. Meik Franke.
In conclusion, the Process Design and Optimization course provided an excellent opportunity for students to gain practical experience in batch process simulation. Through this course, students were able to identify and address bottlenecks in the process, work in groups to develop solutions, and gain a better understanding of how to improve an existing plant model. The positive feedback received from the students indicates that this course is an effective tool in preparing chemical engineering students for real-world challenges in the field.