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A Guide to Cannabis Extraction Equipment and Machines

Mar 21, 2019 | by Mike May

A Guide to Cannabis Extraction Equipment and Machines

Before any CBD oil, THC tincture, weed butter or cannabis concentrate can be bought, first, it must be extracted. This is the job of cannabis extraction equipment, the machines that remove the coveted cannabis compounds from the plant’s matrix (a process explored in more detail here). 

And just like any other piece of kit, an inevitable question arises when considering extraction machines: which one’s the best value for money?

Some are industrial, some are the size of a kettle. Some use CO2 as a solvent, others utilize alcohol.  All have their pros and cons which can be listed in a nice, handy guide to cannabis extraction equipment and machines. A guide just like this:


CO2 Cannabis Extraction

CO2 might not be the cheapest solvent going, but its benefits can be worth the price tag. In these machines, high heat and pressures turn the gas supercritical, enabling it to extract higher yields than many other solvent methods.


The BOSS CO2 Extraction System 

Automation at all stages has already improved the extraction process, especially with regard to repeatability and accuracy. Quadron Cannatech focuses on developing automated extraction systems specifically for the cannabis industry. Its BOSS CO2 Extraction System incorporates automated controls that eliminate the use of manual valves and has been designed to make load and unload times as short as possible to increase production capacity. The company claims that by streamlining the process its setup can process 20 pounds of cannabis material in 4 hours and run continuously without supervision, enabling a total of 6 runs per day. 


The BOSS CO2 extraction system. Credit: Quadron Cannatech 


The price: approximately $250,000

Pros
Cons
Small footprint
Not suitable for small-scale production 
Relatively low energy costs
Relatively expensive 
Automated batch loading 
CO2 must be stored carefully 
Easy to use for this kind of system
Operates at high pressures 
Does not require harmful solvents
Relatively complex 



CannabisSFE  

In all extraction methods, throughput will always be a key element for improvement. For example, the CannabisSFE, a supercritical CO2 extraction system from Supercritical Fluid Technologies, can be configured with 1-3 vessels to increase the amount of material that can be processed in line with a producer’s requirements. Flexibility and scalability in throughput are always desirable attributes, particularly in the fast-paced cannabis industry where companies grow fast and requirements can change overnight. 


The CannabisSFE Supercritical CO2 Extraction Unit. Credit: Supercritical Fluid Technologies. 


The price: $35,500 

Pros
Cons
Small footprintNot suitable for large scale production 
Suitable for average scale production 
No automated loading between runs 
Scalable capacity
CO2 must be stored carefully 
Add-ons available to enhance functionality 
Operates at high pressures 
Does not require harmful solvents
Relatively complex 



Hi-Flo FX2 20L 5K 

The Hi-Flo™ High Performance Series is known for its processing powers, and one of the latest in the series, the FX2 20L 5K, is no exception. Capable of processing as much as 107lbs of biomass a day, the extractor offers up to 5,000 psi and a rapid change-over for maximum extraction times.


The Hi-Flo FX2 20L 5K. Credit: Eden Labs LLC.  


The price: $175,000

Pros
Cons
Closed-loop design with up to 95% CO2 recapture rate
Requires a well-ventilated, tightly controlled lab environment
Fast terpene capture with advanced oil integrity cup design
Not suitable for small scale operators 
Easy step-by-step protocol for upkeep
Relatively expensive 
No internal moving parts so fewer points of failure
Requires scientific expertise to optimize
Energy efficient 
Lower capacity than some competitors 



Apeks Supercritical CO2 System 

The most industrial extraction products deserve intimidating names, and the Force is certainly no exception. Able to process a colossal 200 pounds of dried botanical material every day, Apeks Supercritical’s system is optimized to tackle the biggest workloads in the industry. This one’s for the pros.  

 

The ForceTM. Credit: Apeks Supercritical


The price: start at $445,000

Pros
Cons
Can perform supercritical and subcritical extractions
Hefty price tag
Equipped with CO2 storage tank
Not suitable for small operations 
Fully automated
Extensive scientific expertise required to run and optimize system
Works for large scale operations
High energy consumption 



Super C Extractor 

Compared to the industrial behemoths, OCO Labs’ SuperC extractor looks like a toy. But don’t be fooled by its size; for the right buyer, this little extractor has is it all-in-one. Capable of processing 1oz at 4500 psi by itself, the SuperC’s capabilities can also be expanded with purchased additions such as OCO Labs’ rack specs. 


The SuperC. Credit: OCO Labs.

The price: $4000

Pros
Cons
One of the cheapest extractors on the market
Very low capacity 
Ideal for small, irregular use
Incapable of mass production  

Affordable 

Practically necessitates expansion packs



Alcohol Cannabis Extraction

Like CO2, alcohol is one of the most commonly used solvents for cannabis extraction. Cheap to source, the ethanol soaks up the prized compounds, which can then be separated via evaporation. But this cheap solution doesn’t come without its challenges. Ethanol is highly flammable, and any temperature change can drastically alter the final product. Luckily, these machines come with instruction manuals.


Across International Rotovap 

Built more like a home chemistry set than an industrial extractor, Across International’s Rotovap might be the perfect choice for a savvy buyer. Plus, thanks to its smaller volume, the Rotovap offers much more control over the evaporation of liquid phase materials. Any downsides, of course, stem from the extractor’s stripped back design. For example, any cooling system will have to be purchased separately.


The Ai SolventVap 5.3G/20L Rotary Evaporator. Credit: Across International.


The price: $19,470

Pros
Cons
Much more affordable than other products
Minimal temperature control
One-year warranty
Accessories, such as chillers and pumps must be bought separately
Suitable for small scale operations
Very limited loading capacity 
Simple and easy to use
Lacks flexibility 
Small volumes allow fine controls 
Alcohol extracts must be treated to remove unwanted co-extracts like chlorophyll 



Genius ASAHI Rotary Evaporator 

Like Across International’s Rotovap, the Genius ASAHI Rotoray Evaporator’s choice of solvent, alcohol, helps to keep it affordable. Two cold chambers can help to keep chlorophyll trapped in the plant matter, making the final product lighter in color and more flavorful.


Genius ASAHI Evaporator. Credit: Genius Extraction Technologies, Inc. 


The price: varies depending on size.

Pros
Cons
Removes solvents at low temperatures to preserve terpenes and cannabinoids
Accessories, such as chillers and pumps must be bought separately
Much more affordable than other products
Limited loading capacity in smaller models
Easy cleaning and maintenance
Lacks flexibility
A variety of sizes are available
Extraction process is completely manual 



Source Turbo

The extractor for the on-the-go cannabis connoisseur, the Source Turbo can be operated remotely via a mobile app. No day is too jam-packed for this extract. As an extra feature, the Turbo also comes equipped with altitude-specific tuning, so it can operate at its best performance whether up in the mountains or down on the beach.


Source Turbo. Credit: Extract Craft.

The price: $599 

Pros
Cons
Suitable for home-use 
Very low production capacity
Easy to use
Alcohol extracts can require extensive clean up
Does not require harmful solvents
Not suitable for commercial extraction 



ESCET  

Part of the evolution of any form of equipment comes from the introduction of new methods. ESCET, for example, have developed a method that enables cannabis extraction with low-proof alcohol, such as bourbon or vodka, plus vegetable oil and water. The company claims that this method is “non-flammable, has no moving parts, and operates at normal pressure.” As the process is currently patent pending, data to prove the efficacy of this method are promising but unavailable. 


The price: unknown. 

Pros
Cons
Does not require harmful solvents
Not commercially available 
Very easy to use 
No public data available to prove efficacy 
No dangerous chemicals or equipment required
Alcohol extracts can require extensive clean up 



Butane Cannabis Extraction

Butane, or propane in some instances, can be seen as similar solvents to CO2 in many ways. The butane is pressurized and heated, which transforms it from liquid to a vapor, making it easier to remove. This process creates a shatter, a clear material of THC, CBD and other cannabis compounds like terpenes. Although effective, the process can be undesirable for medicinal products, due to the risk of contamination. 


The PX40 Extraction System  

Throughput and scalability have been the focus of manufacturers of hydrocarbon solvent-based extraction equipment too. Precision Extraction Solutions, for example, continuously update their flagship PX40 Extraction System, which is ominously known as the Executioner. Run using either butane or propane, or a mix of both, this system can process up to 360lbs of material in a 10-hour shift of runs. The $189,000 price tag comes with the assurance that any extractor will be able to process vast amounts of cannabis using a machine that has been built above and beyond regulatory compliance. Plus, on-demand heating and chilling enables maximum control with ease of operation. 

 

The PX40 Extraction System, also known as the Executioner. Credit: Precision Extraction Solutions.


The price: starts at $189,000 

Pros
Cons
Easy to use for this kind of system
Uses hydrocarbon solvents which must be removed 
Compatible with propane and butane gas
High cost 
High capacity 
Not suitable for small-scale production
High throughput
Hydrocarbon solvents must be handled with care
Great for terpene extraction 
Relatively complex


The Io extractor  

Over on the butane side of the extractor world is the Io extractor, a fully automated system capable of extracting 18lbs of plant material per hour. Priding itself on its novel data logging suite, Luna Technologies’ product constantly reviews the temperatures and pressures of each run, logging and refining its process with each cycle. 


The Io extractor. Credit: Luna Technologies.


The price: approximately $225,000

Pros
Cons
Computer controls can help refine extraction recipes for maximum yield and efficiency
Low processing capacity (18lbs)
Automation-ready
The dangers associated with butane oil
Simple to use 
Butane must be removed post-processing 


Ablaze Mini Closed Loop Extractor 

And here it is, what might be the cheapest butane extractor on the market: Ablaze’s Mini Closed Loop Extractor. With a 45g capacity and a 100psi limit, this processing product might only be capable of the most humdrum extractions, but for those interested in a saving, this is one of the best deals out there. 


ABLAZE Mini Closed Loop Extractor. Credit: Ablaze.

The price: $510

Pros
Cons
Low price point
Not as simple as at-home alcohol extractors 
Suitable for home-use
Very low production capacity
Easy to use
Vaccum pump and recovery tank also required


Ice Water Extraction

More ‘back-to-basics’ than other extraction methods, ice water extraction isn’t a step too far from giving the cannabis plant a cold bath. Because THC is denser than water, the compound can separate from the leaf material when washed. After this, the cannabinoid-rich water only needs to be filtered through a series of micron bags before it’s ready to be used. 


Eberbach Model E5703 

Working to create a safe and easy method for cannabis extraction, collaborators at Mountain High Suckers and Eberbach have developed a commercial platform that enables ice-water extraction, which eliminates any concern of residual chemicals in extracts. Plus, putting cannabis material in ice water and then filtering it is an extremely safe process. Currently available on their website, the Model E5703 can process over 1lb of plant material per hour and has been designed to comply with existing FDA standards. They are yet to release detailed information on the results of their experimentation, but the technique holds promise for small scale extraction and could potentially be scaled up to process more material. 


The Eberbach Model E5703. Credit: Eberbach.


The price: approximately $10,000

Pros
Cons
Does not require harmful solvents
Methodology still in development 
Very easy to use 
Scalability unknown 
No dangerous chemicals or equipment required 
No public data available to prove efficacy
Cheap to run 
Ice water extraction is non-specific 
Suitable for small scale operations
Water-based extraction can be slow 

Funding cannabis extraction equipment 

Getting real equipment takes some investment in a business and can be a huge barrier to start-ups with some setups costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. To help overcome these hurdles, companies such as Trust Capital have been set up to offer financing for cannabis equipment. If a manufacturer wants to make a professional extract, professional equipment must be used. Another approach is to borrow or lease the extraction equipment your business requires, enabling you to get off the ground without making any large capital investments and potentially explore various production methods whilst you are developing your ideas. For example, Apeks, a manufacturer of CO2 extraction systems, offer their equipment on lease for anything from a week right up to two years. They even throw in free servicing and in-depth training on the system. 


As this industry grows, so will the equipment options for extraction. These advances will probably go across the kinds of extraction processes, and the connection between extraction and analytical testing could also see improvement. Even with the best equipment, though, only skilled operators can produce the intended results. So, training operators as needed should always be performed in any company to guarantee results.

 

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