March 4, 2019

To manufacture tablets and capsules, pharmaceutical companies have to efficiently process the powdered form of the ingredients that comprise them. These powders must pass through several material handling steps, including blending, transfer, and storage, before being fed to a press for tablets or a dosator for capsules. Ensuring reliable powder flow is essential to keep the production line moving and avoid costly downtime.

The Pharmaceutical Industry Relies Heavily on Powders

According to the FDA, 46% of approved drugs are manufactured in tablet form. The modern pill manufacturing process began in 1843 when British artist, inventor, and watchmaker William Brockedon received the first-ever patent for a production device for “Shaping Pills, Lozenges, and Black Lead by Pressure in Dies.” In almost two centuries of pill making, the process has changed very little. However, each formulation has its own unique granulation, wetting, and solubility profiles. That’s because, in addition to the active ingredient, a product can incorporate a number of other elements, such as excipients, diluents, and disintegrating agents, as well as binders, lubricants, glidants, and colorants. Since the FDA understandably demands minimal variation in quantity and physical properties of the active ingredients from pill to pill, that means the manufacturer must maintain a homogeneous mixture and ensure a consistent flow of powder before the pills are compressed or the capsules are assembled.

Keeping Powder Flowing

During the various stages of the manufacturing process that precede the tablet press and capsule dosator, powders must flow smoothly. Flow behavior depends on a variety of properties, including bulk density, permeability, cohesive strength, and wall friction, that are a product of the forces acting on individual particles such as van der Waals, electrostatic, surface tension, interlocking, and friction to name just a few. Flow may also vary with the specific piece of equipment used for handling, storing, or processing the material, so the same powder that flows well in one hopper may flow poorly in another. Finally, flow can be affected by atmospheric conditions, especially humidity and moisture.

Reducing Caking is Essential to Maintaining Powder Flow

Caking occurs when powders agglomerate in a solid mass. This clumping typically occurs when powders are stored in large containers or when the product sits in equipment for an extended period, such as over a long weekend. The resulting lumps of solidified powder may be challenging to discharge, blocking the flow of equipment and bringing production to a halt. Caking is exacerbated by moisture, so creating an environment where the powder is protected from changes in temperature and humidity is essential.

Polygon’s Dehumidification Techniques Can Remove Moisture to Reduce Clumping

Powders must be maintained in the right climate conditions for efficient production of pharmaceutical products. Polygon Group, a leading temporary climate solutions provider, offers a full array of state-of-the-art desiccant dehumidifiers suitable for any size job or application. Polygon can help pharmaceutical companies protect their valuable ingredients from the unwanted clumping and caking effects of extreme temperatures, humidity, moisture, and condensation during every stage of the manufacturing process. Polygon’s real-world expertise, industry-leading experience, intellectual property, and fit-for-purpose fleet of equipment has helped some of the world’s highest profile organizations effectively manage humidity and climate control problems.

Find out more about Polygon’s temporary climate solutions by visiting https://www.polygongroup.com/en-US/services/temporary-climate-solutions/.

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