Has Tablet Manufacture Reached Its Peak?
The tablet press is a pharma manufacturing facility staple, but today’s systems need to be faster, more reliable and more flexible than ever before; after all, companies are now manufacturing mini-tablets, bilayered pills and experimenting with continuous processing. Here, we ask three leading tablet machine makers for their thoughts on the trends driving innovation.
Stephanie Sutton | | Longer Read
This article was originally published in our sister publication, The Small Molecule Manufacturer, in July 2019.
Robert Sedlock, Director of Technical Training & Development at Natoli Engineering. Natoli offers a full line of products and services to assist at all stages of the tablet and encapsulation production process.
Scott Koehler, Vice President, Sales & Marketing at Elizabeth Companies. Elizabeth started as a six-man machine shop in 1954 and has grown into a global provider of punches and dies, tablet presses, parts and services.
Matt Bundenthal, Director Sales and Marketing at Fette Compacting America. Fette has installed more than 5000 machines across the globe and specializes in tableting and capsule machinery.
Some would say that the tableting process hasn’t changed significantly over the years. What are your thoughts?
Robert Sedlock: I would say that the overall tableting process has remained the same; the core principles of compression and the basics of how tablet presses operate are largely unchanged. However, significant improvements have been made in the control systems and safety features of tablet presses. Adjustments to tablet weight or thickness are no longer made by mechanical handwheels but are now controlled through touchscreen human-machine interfaces (HMIs) and servo motors, for example.
Scott Koehler: I believe that is a fair comment from a fundamental perspective. It is both testimony to the longevity of a stable process technology, and the cost-effective nature of compressing solid dose products. It is also compelling that similar technology can apply across a wide variety of products and industries beyond pharmaceuticals. Though the basic process is common, the nuances are significant, which challenges both tablet manufacturers, who need to ensure their formulations have the right properties to work well in the equipment, and equipment manufacturers who are designing machines to be as flexible as possible.
Matt Bundenthal: Although the core process has not changed all that much, manufacturers are using increasingly creative approaches in terms of the form taken by finished tablets. This, in some cases, is prompted by marketing-driven initiatives, but can also be based on requirements for optimized bio-availability, or making a controlled substance more resistant to abuse, for example.
Like virtually everything else today, speed has become a driving force in tableting. While not every formulation lends itself to being compressed at high speeds, most end users would like their presses to compress their products as quickly as possible. And given the increasing prevalence of potent compounds, modern presses have to run quickly and maintain control more tightly than ever before.
Another significant change to the compression process is the degree to which electronic and computer controls have facilitated the attainment of this balance between speed and control. Results must be validatable, and repeatable, to the highest degree – something not practically attainable with the “manual” presses of old.
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