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​Compression Tooling Equipment For Tablets

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26 September 2016 No comments

Changing the tablet manufacturing process can lead to better and more improved quality products as well as cost efficiency for the company. By communicating with one’s tooling vendor and taking into consideration the right material type, one can overcome the many problems that tablet companies are facing today.

When it comes to manufacturing of tablets, the material type matters the most. Most of the materials used in the industry today for tooling equipment are made of steel. Steel is not only vital to the preservation of the tooling equipment but also plays an integral role in the tableting process as well. Poor quality can result to premature degradation of the tooling, causes production quality concerns, waste products, slowdown of production as well as inefficient use of labor. As such, it is necessary to choose the right material to reduce not only the company’s expenses but also to improve the efficiency of the production process.

Choosing the Steel Quality Material

The steel quality that one should look for would be determined by looking at its properties. Consider the level of impurities included in its composition. The homogeneity of microstructure, the carbide or grain size and the compatibility of the steel grade to that of the tooling equipment specifications.

There are several ways that one needs to follow in order to manufacture the right steel to be used for die and punch manufacturing. From its purest, raw form, steel is melted, poured, then refined, and rolled into the final product. Following the steps is crucial as this affects how the product will perform and changing the process can result to a deviation from the norm resulting to varying products. The cleaner the material, the better it functions.

Cleanliness in the industry means how close the material is to its purest form or make-up as impurities or inclusions can affect the quality as well as the performance of the material. Some manufacturers would use heat or cryogenics treatment to remove impurities or improve the structure of the die or punches.

The chemical composition of the steel material can also reduce issues that companies face. Some of the features of the steel can help improve release of the product as well as prolong the durability of the tooling equipment by reducing premature wear and tear.

Steel Grade

It is critical for companies to choose the right steel grade that would complement their product’s formulation properties. By choosing the right grade and composition, one would be able to reduce and eliminate challenges that the company is facing when it comes to manufacturing and would provide several benefits. Aside from increase in production volume, it also reduces downtime and operational expenses.

Sticking and picking are common problems that tablet manufacturers face and happens when the formulation sticks to the punch cup surface. Picking, on the other hand, happens when the formulation is pulled from the surface as some of its parts are left or trapped in the engraver or embosser. Simply choosing the right steel type can reduce these two problems.

The steel grade is often overlooked in the industry but should be considered every time to prevent complications. Although steel has high composition of chromium and can in fact improve product release, it might result to less durability of the final product. This is also the case for highly abrasive formulation, which can cause premature wear and tear. Choosing a steel grade with high vanadium content would result to less wear and tear and longer lifespan for the tooling equipment.

Specialty Coating for Tooling

Another way to improve performance is to apply specialty coating to the punches. Coating can be useful in certain instances such as during compression of powders where a chromium coated punch tip can reduce the problem of sticking. With the right polishing technique, the chromium surface would have an average of less than 0.5 microns. Other coatings used such as diamond like carbon or titanium nitride can reduce abrasion issues.

That said, coating could be expensive and maybe unnecessary when the right steel is picked. The right steel type would work well with the product specification and produce the same results as that of using coating.

Some tooling vendors would recommend adding coating to their customers without reviewing their client’s needs. Coating can be a potential problem, as it does not wear evenly resulting to manufacturing problems for tablet manufacturers. As powders or formulations tend to be abrasive by nature, it would corrode the vertical cup surface, which would affect the coating’s effectiveness. Tools without coating tend to be less complex as one can easily refurbish and polish them resulting to efficient production and cost savings efficiency for the manufacturer. Adding a coating should be considered only as a last option.

An independent lab should test the material to ensure the cleanliness/purity and that the steel grade meets the standard industrial specification. The vendor should be able to provide the certification or certified report, which lists down the composition of the punch and die batch.

There are plenty of things about coating that tablet manufacturers should consider such as the cup face, wear, thickness and the actual composition of the coating. The use of branded coating products can also affect the cost of the coating.

Composition

Steels should be tested by an independent laboratory to ensure the quality of the steel grade material. Vendors should be able to provide a certification or a report that shows the cleanliness of the batch as well as its chemical composition and quality grade. The test would ensure not only transparency but can also help in times where troubleshooting is necessary. Some tooling vendors would hide the steel designation behind branded names. Even if a customized solution is provided to the client, it is still important that the vendor would be able to provide these reports.

It can be helpful for both parties to communicate directly with each other especially when it comes to potential problems such as sticking, tendency for high compression force, powder characteristics so that the other party can find the right solution, and resolve the problem.

Alternatives

Aside from coating, there are other options available to address tablet quality issues. For example, in Natoli Institute for Industrial Research and Development, the research department is conducting several tests to check which steel types, finish and coating would help produce a quality tablet coming from sticky powder formulation. The industry believes that the smoother the punch cup the easier it is to reduce adhesion forces and lowering the chance for the powder to stick to the cup’s surface.

In another study, a punch cup is fitted with a lightly abraded surface, which is like a matte finish and is opposite to the usual mirror like surface. The material is then tested in different scenarios including chromium punches, specialty nickel polymer and chromium nitride. The tests were done all at the same time with no variable. To identify, micro indentations were etched to the punch cup and after the test, each tablet was separated to check for any defects.

The result of the test shows that the one with the matte finish yielded a lower tablet defect than those with coatings. It also reduces sticking problems with Nuprin, which is one of the first Ibuprofens for over the counter.

In choosing the right steel type, one would be able to profit as well as improve the quality of their tablet product. It is necessary that proper communication between the manufacturer and the vendor exist to ensure that the right steel grade will suit one’s needs.