Tablets & Capsules


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Tablets & Capsules September 2016 33 A major international manufacturer of branded health, hygiene, and home products had long struggled with tabletting a product that contains ibuprofen, a notoriously sticky sub- stance. The 400-milligram tablets are usu- ally made in four batches per cam- paign, and the company estimated that waste granulation from rejected tablets cost it $2,400 per campaign. Furthermore, the downtime associated with resolving the sticking problem meant that the tablet press had an overall equipment effectiveness (OEE)—the time required to complete a batch through the number of tablets made per hour—of just 58 percent. That was well short of the company's minimum standard of 92 percent. Clearly, the operation was underper- forming and required attention. In fact, the company had tried many times to solve the problem, including switching tooling suppliers, said the production manager in charge of the process. The company also tried pumping chilled air into the press, pol- ishing the punches after a set number of batches, and spraying a powder lubricant onto the press. "None of these worked. This has been a prob- lem for many years." While switching tooling suppliers seemed like a dead end, later some staff members learned that I Holland of Nottingham, UK, offered punches made of PharmaGrade steel and installed some. The superior steel in those punches reduced sticking, but didn't eradicate it. I Holland then sug- gested that the company try its TSAR Predict service—launched in 2014— that quickly matches punch coatings to specific products. Before TSAR Predict, when cus- tomers asked I Holland for help with a sticking problem, it required a lot of field testing to identify a coating that would stop it. Those tests caused cus- tomers to interrupt production to run test punches, which then had to be analyzed. The predictive tool elimi- nates that work by using data about the formulation to be compressed. The data—comprising six physio- chemical parameters—are often pub- licly available if the customer provides Chemical Abstract Service (CAS) numbers. It then calculates particle adhesion levels and specifies the coat- ing that will help solve the sticking problem. In this case, the computer model indicated that the PharmaCote CT coating was best suited for the formu- lation. It showed that applying a 2- to 4-micron-thick CT coating—a tex- tured chromium nitride—to the punch-tip face would provide the low- est particle adhesion force to the com- pany's granulation. The coating also has good anti-corrosion and wear- resistant properties. After receiving the TSAR Predict report, the company ordered a full set of PharmaCote CT-coated tools and installed them on its Fette P2100 press. The results were quick and clear: Sticking disappeared and the cost of waste granulation per campaign decreased to just over $50, saving the company nearly $2,350 over each campaign. In addition, the OEE of the tablet press soared to 94 percent, reducing by half the number of work- ing days required to complete a batch. Example of severe sticking I N D U S T R Y a p p l i c a t i o n Coated punch tips eliminate sticking boost production Coated punches cut the time required to complete a campaign by 50 percent.

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