Several recent trends in the pharmaceutical industry are converging to squeeze profit margins for drug manufacturers, who are adopting multiple strategies in response. Increasing production efficiency is one key approach, and equipment manufacturers have been responding with the development of production and packaging systems designed specifically to increase productivity while maintaining quality and reducing costs.
In biopharmaceutical manufacturing, the adoption of single-use equipment for both upstream and downstream processes at increasingly larger scales and the introduction of equipment designed for integrated continuous manufacturing are two examples.
For small-molecule manufacturing, significant progress has also been made in the implementation of continuous processing for both the synthesis of active pharmaceutical ingredients and final tablet production. In fact, new equipment designed to improve the efficiency and productivity of all stages of the tablet manufacturing process is regularly being introduced to the marketplace.
For instance, Fitzpatrick roll compactor/mill systems increase powder densities via dry agglomeration and produce free-flowing granules for high speed tableting or encapsulation through the use of a unique pre-compression feed system and precision real-time roll gap control.
Automated tablet press lubrication systems from Coperion K-Tron Food & Pharmaceutical Industries have high-accuracy twin screw gravimetric feeders that can deliver much smaller amounts of magnesium stearate lubricant, leading to elimination of sticking problems, improvement in the granulation process, increased dissolution rates, and lower overall operating costs, according to a company spokesperson.
Multi-tip punches process a greater number of tablets per turret rotation, and thus more tablets can be produced with fewer tablet presses, leading to increased productivity and capacity and lower overall operating costs. The latest equipment announcements come from Fette Compacting America and KORSCH America, which are both launching new double rotary presses at Interphex 2015 for single and bilayer tablet production. The Fette system can be equipped with up to 115 punch stations to produce more than 1.6 million tablets per hour, including the direct compression of challenging products requiring maximum dwell time, according to the company. KORSCH’s system has the flexibility to produce a tablet of virtually any size and shape with the highest efficiency and is well suited for any production environment that requires high-volume, flexible manufacturing, according to the company.
Advances have also been made in tablet coating technology. L. B. Bohle LLC, for example, offers tablet coaters that reduce processing times by up to 35 percent compared to conventional tablet coating systems, yielding significant cost savings and improved campaign efficiency while maintaining cGMP standards, according to the company. In addition, spray drying is avoided through the use of L. B. Bohle’s patented airflow bed technology, which reduces waste and promotes uniform tablet coating with a high-quality, defect-free film coat.
Even the design of tablet handling systems has been improved to reduce tablet damage, thus reducing product losses, increasing productivity and lowering costs. The Tablet IBC from Matcon, for instance, has a proprietary Spiral Inlet that reduces the risk of tablet breakage and marking by decelerating the speed of the tablets and minimizing their drop height, thus reducing tablet impact. On the other end, the special Cone Valve in the outlet gently lifts to empty the tablets into the next process.
Note: In February of 2015 Nice Insight, the research arm of That’s Nice LLC launched their Pharmaceutical Equipment survey that will capture rankings of 98 manufacturing equipment, services and systems companies across 6 major categories with responses from 5 buyer groups for these products and services. Results are expected to be published online in April 2015.
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