A FLINTSHIRE firm has broken into the Chinese market with a ground breaking system which is cleaning up in the pharmaceutical industry.

David Catherall, managing director of TDC Services in Ewloe, is the brains behind a high-pressure water system which has transformed the cleaning out of huge reactor vessels used to mix up some of the world’s most important, life-saving drugs.

Known as the TDC Hydrodynamic Cleaning System, it centres around a robotic head which is lowered into a drug vessel, generally in three different positions.

It then rotates in a predetermined pattern and uses high pressure, low volume, directional water jets to break down and remove debris build up with no need for costly solvent or intensive manual labour inside the container.

The energy of the jets of water are strong enough to remove physical debris, but not powerful enough to cause damage to the glass equipment inside which is crucial when the vessels can cost around £1m to replace.

The system is also fully Atmosphere Explosive Approved (ATEX) which is required when equipment operates in a solvent laden environment.

Conservative estimates suggest it is saving companies around £750,000 a year on their cleaning bill.

The hydrodynamic system has proved so effective within pharmaceutical firm Novartis’ plants in the UK, Ireland and the US that it has now caught the eye of senior production managers at Novartis in China who are looking for ways of reducing costs and time when the vessels are out of action.

They have recently placed another order with the industrial cleaning specialist.

David, a mechanical engineer and inventor, said: “China is our biggest breakthrough to date.

“It is a notoriously difficult global market to break into and you have to jump through all sorts of hoops. To finally make it is a huge achievement for us.

“In terms of revenue, it gives us about five per cent of our turnover with one order so it is significant both financially and in terms of reputation.

“Breaking into the Chinese market is like a form of accreditation. It gives us a real boost of credibility with the pharmaceutical industry and it gave us a great buzz to achieve it.

“We are bucking the trend in many ways. Lots of firms are importing from the Chinese industry, but how many can say they are exporting?”

David’s success with the cleaning system, which helped the company win a prestigious Welsh government award for business innovation and creativity in 2000, started back in the late 1990s when he was contracted to do a job for AstraZeneca in Macclesfield, Cheshire.

For many years, the pharmaceutical industry had relied upon costly, time wasting cleaning measures which involved expensive solvents, vast water consumption and sometimes even workers being lowered down into the vessels to clean them by hand.

It meant the vessels were out of action for considerable amounts of time, costing the global firms thousands of pounds at a time.

David, 68, who describes himself as a ‘common sense engineer rather than a university educated one’.