A formulator of nutritional supplements, Natural Alternatives International faced a tough humidity problem head on with the installation of a desiccant dehumidifier.

Natural Alternatives International, a formulator, contract manufacturer and marketer of nutritional supplements, used Munters dehumidification equipment to address a high humidity challenge in its Vista, Calif., production facility.

As a manufacturer of nutritional supplements, NAI needed a dry manufacturing environment because many of the powders used to make its products are dry and compressible. Powder that is too moist will stick to equipment, form clumps that affect the efficacy of the product, and will not flow well through the production line.

However, because the production facility is located 12 miles from the Pacific Ocean, humidity levels outside the building often reach 70 to 85 percent year-round, raising moisture levels inside and disrupting the sensitive manufacturing operations.

“When humidity levels are too high, the powder gets sticky and doesn’t form a good capsule or tablet and then it can’t be dosed mechanically,” says Terry Doane, facility manager for NAI. So, he attempted to tackle the humidity issue by installing three 15-ton packaged air-handling units in the facility’s blending, encapsulation and tableting areas. He later supplemented the air-handling units with several small, individual dehumidifier units. However, this didn’t lower the humidity enough to improve operations significantly.

Seeking another solution, Doane worked with a Munters representative to design a dehumidification system that includes a Munters HCU desiccant dehumidifier. The unit was installed on the plant’s roof to deliver conditioned air via ductwork to the three existing heat pumps.

The HCU desiccant dehumidification system provides operators with the ability to control humidity independently of temperature and is designed to treat 100 percent of makeup air while working in conjunction with an existing air conditioning system.

It removes humidity using a combination of direct expansion (DX) cooling and a desiccant rotor. The rotor is regenerated using recycled heat from cooling components, providing dry air to the air-conditioning system at low operating costs. The end result is a unit that controls humidity with a coefficient of performance that is up to 65 percent higher than a typical air-conditioning system.

After installing the system, Doane says NAI has consistently dry air in the plant. “Before we had 50 to 65 percent relative humidity, and now, during peak summer conditions, we are experiencing levels between 40 and 45 percent, which is an acceptable level for production.”