We’ve all heard the phrase, “You get what you pay for,” and there couldn’t be a more accurate statement in the realm of cannabis and hemp production. Throughout these newly emerging industries, there’s no question; quality products start with quality extraction processes. However, without quality equipment, even the best methods are sure to fail.
In the long run, better equipment can mean better yields, but unfortunately, it can also mean much higher startup costs. When purchasing equipment for a commercial cannabis operation, cheaper is not always the best practice.
There are several companies that are carving out their niche in the space, including Lab Society, based out of Boulder, Colorado, that are bridging the gap by offering cannabis producers high-quality lab equipment for all types of extraction processes.
High-Grade Extractions Require Lab-Grade Equipment
Although the process of extracting cannabinoids from cannabis started from rudimentary, and even dangerous, extraction systems, the commercialization of marijuana has forced the evolution of safer, cleaner methods. Today, there are several common methods for extracting valuable cannabinoids and terpenes from cannabis and hemp biomass.
A relatively simple and natural extraction process, solventless extraction uses a combination of heat and pressure to squeeze the oils from the plant material. One such piece of equipment is the Pure Pressure Pneumatic Rosin Press which contains 3” aluminum plates which evenly, and accurately, heat up to 300°F. With dual pressure control, the extraction technician can gradually increase pressure to as much as 16,000 pounds to ensure every last drop of oil is recovered for an extractor.
Separating the compounds from crude with liquid-liquid extraction uses two liquids that do not mix, like water and a non-polar solvent, like hexane or benzene. Essentially, the solvent with the highest solubility extracts the cannabinoids; then the liquids are separated using specialized equipment like a separatory funnel. Finally, lab technicians remove the solvents utilizing a piece of equipment called a rotary evaporator, or rotovap, which uses pressure and a vacuum to evaporate solvents away safely.
Supercritical and Subcritical Extraction
Increasing in popularity, supercritical, and subcritical extraction processes use carbon dioxide or CO2. By controlling the pressure and temperature of CO2, this solvent pulls the compounds from the plant material. Unlike other solvents like butane or propane, CO2 is a gas at room temperature, so the process is safer than other procedures using highly flammable liquids. Subcritical extractions, on the other hand, use lower pressure and temperatures, but it also takes longer and is less efficient.
Short Path Distillation
Also known as fractional distillation or thin film distillation, this process separates the various compounds through boiling and condensing the compounds while using a vacuum pump. By decreasing the atmospheric pressure inside the system, the boiling points of the different cannabinoids and terpenes are reduced. Not only does this reduce the time necessary to process the extraction, but it also increases the efficiency in distilling heavier molecules. Although short path distillation systems require a more substantial investment up front, the manufacturer will reap the rewards in quality, high-grade cannabinoids.
Finding Providers of Industry-Leading Solutions
Just as each extraction has benefits and drawbacks, not all equipment suppliers are created equal either. While some companies are capitalizing on the growing cannabis industries with cheap, inferior equipment shipped in from China in an effort to gain a quick return, companies like Lab Society are eyeing long term goals and strong customer relationships. Focusing on innovation and constant improvement, the company intends on growing and adapting with the industry, and their clientele.
Lab Society also offers a range of lab consulting services, such as design, equipment consultation, workflow optimization, equipment installs, and even staff training and education. Regardless of the type of extraction process, finding an equipment provider that has the knowledge, expertise, and resources necessary to build a state-of-the-art extraction facility worthy of producing high-quality, high-yield extracts, is the key to success.
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