By Maryann Lavelle

Michael Bishop is a corporate accounts manager for Heidolph, who is located in Portland, Oregon, while the company headquarters for North America is in Chicago. At the Indo Expo Trade Show recently in Portland, Oregon he presented some of the company’s equipment.

All the equip is manufactured at the home office in Nuremberg Germany. Heidolph NA’s traditional markets are chemistry labs and research institutions or pharmaceutical companies but since 2015 they have been making a push into the cannabis market with products specifically designed for this industry.

At the expo he was exhibiting some of their equipment one of which was their 20 liter Hei-Vap rotary evaporator. The core principal behind Heidolph’s design is safety. At the forefront of their planning they believe that the operator should be using the safest equipment possible and that is one of the paramount considerations of their design. The other two principals are ease of use and then lower cost of ownership.

So with the equipment being made in Germany it does command a premium and on the investment side it is a larger investment but they would contend that when looking back at the end of the life of this investment, 10 to 15 years from now, there will have been more production out of this unit, more evidence of safety, less downtown and a lower cost  of ownership. This is a huge dividend for a business in the cannabis industry. For example, a company invests $100,000 in a machine and if it is not reliable or not running there is going to be a loss of earnings for every minute it is down.

The Hei-Vap Rotary evaporator is designed for continuous production. Heidolph has the only product on the market right now for 24/7 continuous and unattended evaporation called the Hei-Volume Automatic Distimatic. This is actually a module that would be added onto the Heidolph Rotary Evaporator.  It is a command module that one would use to control the unit and it is a matrix of valves and pumps that will automatically fill the evaporating flask and monitor the level. It will also automatically drain your collected solvent and also remove any residue so it is really designed for 24/7 continuous use unattended.

It will do it without breaking vacuum. The collection flask is replaced by a different module that has 3 valves. One valve serves to close off the collection from the rest of the rotary evaporator so that the rotary evaporator can continue to operate under vacuum. The second valve ventilates the system and allows the collection to be drained and the third connection recloses it and puts the collection under vacuum so that it can equilibrate the system that way when this opens up there is not too much of a vacuum spike.

Heidolph offers a wide range of scalable solutions starting with our Distimatic Bench-top 5 liter system. This is a turn key system which includes a chiller and a vacuum pump.  This system costs approximately $15,000 to $16,000. A larger 20 liter system is priced at approximately $50,000 and then one can add on the distimatic module at a cost of around $30,000. This module can be added onto any sized unit. Where this is used right now is in winterizing.

Being different than a hydrocarbon extractor, in that using this module is one of the refining steps post extraction. A lot of people that do a hydrocarbon extraction will perform a secondary step adding a secondary solvent, like ethanol, which precipitates out dissolved fats and lipids that made it through a physical filter and then they will cool that down and precipitate out dissolved fats and lipids so it can be filtered. Then the final step is to remove that secondary solvent back out of your absolute concentrate.  The Hei-Vap Rotary Evaporator will do anything that any other rotary evaporator will do. There are probably additional applications out there that are not mentioned here but if you have seen another evaporator doing it this one can too.

Heidolph partners with several different chiller manufacturers as the company’s core competency is with rotary evaporators, so the company has partners that manufacture chillers from Germany and also here in the USA.  All of Heidolph’s chillers meet the highest level specifications. Some of the big differences between all the chillers that Heidolph offers and chillers that a company might source from China would be that all of our partners’ chillers meet certifications like UL, CE, CSA and they are actually tested and do meet the specifications that we provided.

A lot of calls from extractors have been received in the Colorado office who had invested in Chinese equipment and then were told by fire inspectors unfortunately they could not use the equipment, very unhappy people.  Equipment from Heidolph is used in all the top research institutions around the world as well as in government laboratories and fortune 500 companies.  It is all designed with safety and ease of use in mind.

Heidolph also produces other products for this industry such as an overhead stirrer which is for very viscous mixtures that can not be stirred using a stir bar and a magnetic stirring hot plate. In this case a Heidolph overhead stirrer would be used. What is nice about these overhead stirrers is they will detect the torque and they will maintain a constant speed even under a changing torque load. So, if there is something that you are stirring that either becomes more or less viscous while it is stirring, this unit will detect that and will maintain a constant speed as the torque changes.

The other thing that is nice about it is that it is very easy to clean. As those working in extraction labs know, things get very sticky and very messy. It has a magnetic button and the knob is actually removable so the front glass can then be wiped down with solvent or a rag and then put it back on and it is ready to go. It is all touch screen and easy to clean.

Another product is the Heidolph hot plate stirrer with a heating mantle made by Radleys in the UK which is one of the affiliated manufacturers. It heats and stirs as underneath the heating plate there is a magnet that spins so a stir bar would be dropped into a round bottom flask that is being held by the Radleys heat-on mantle. That stir bar would stir because the magnet underneath is spinning. What is nice about this hot plate stirrer in addition to having the Heidolph 3 year warranty and being manufactured to higher specifications, is that inside the unit the motor and pc board are hermetically sealed. Which means that if solvent is spilled on this unit, which can happen from time to time and is probable in day to day lab work, and it works itself underneath the plate there is no worry about this unit short circuiting or any fire issues. It is a very safe unit.

To be placed on top of the unit there is also the Radleys 1000 mill heat-on mantle and which also has some glassware from High Trust Connection which is a company out of Eugene, Oregon producing short path distillation glassware. These parts would be part of a very basic short path distillation kit example and it is one type of fractional distillation. Fractional distillation is a technique that is often employed either before or after the rotary evaporator. It is for people who want to have an high purity distillate that has a clear appearance and gold tint to it. 

Heidolph has some new things in the works. We are always looking to improve our operating systems and one thing that is noticeable about all of our products is that they have usb ports so anytime an upgrade comes along a jump drive or something can be sent out so the customer can stay up to date and they also have the capabilities to be networked. Keep an eye on this leading edge company for the latest products for the cannabis industry.