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How A Simple Innovation Changes The Tablet’s Future


Despite being an important part to the product’s success, the shape of the tablet is given less consideration by marketing departments and are only given much attention during a campaign where the shape and tablet is promoted to the public. That said, small changes in the shape can impact the public’s acceptance as well as the tablet’s efficiency.

Faulty Design

A faulty design can cost the company millions and even affect the launching success of the tablet. Although many companies do pay attention to the design, some do not comprehend how the tablet’s shape can affect the production and efficiency of the tablet’s operation.

Experienced manufacturers are often questioned and asked to help with the tooling issue. The question of the shape of the tablet often crops up whenever a design is suggested. It is to their experience that even small changes that are invisible to the naked eyes can produce dramatic results.

Why It is Important

The marketing department often influences the design process. Some companies hope to hold to their customer’s loyalty by designing unique designs that will promote a certain level of brand recognition. Tablets are also designed based on the end user. A ‘break-easy’ design offers versatility as well as functionality if the dosage is flexible. That said, efficiency is also crucial and many manufacturing companies design tablets that are easy to break and provide unobstructed production such as a simple round shape.

All of the issues mentioned above should be considered whenever a company is designing their tablets as too often, the ease of production is often overlooked. There are certain shapes that create problems not only with tooling but also with the function. This adds up the cost of the unit. This can also be a problem when it comes to packaging issues. An incorrect design can clog, chip and even be full of dust especially in the bottom area of the package.

This is why the shape of the tablet should be checked meticulously during the start to avoid any added costs.

Ease of Use

The FDA has provided a standard guideline considering the shape, attribute and size of the tablet to encourage acceptance of the consumer. Certain patients such as the elderly or the pediatric sector would have difficulty swallowing the tablets, therefore it is necessary to consider the demographic and tablet use. An example would be a patient that finds it difficult to swallow a size 8 in diameter. Tablets that have a cross-sectional would be easier to swallow and would less likely cause accidents than tablets that are spherical in shape.

The physical appearance of the tablet should also be considered in order to ensure the patient’s safety as well as comfort experience, which would ensure patient compliance. Oval shaped tablets are easier to swallow and have faster transit times than other tablet shapes available. In developing drugs, the FDA encourages applicants to consider the design of the tablet and develop accordingly.

The design also plays a crucial role in the generic production of the reference-listed drugs or “branded products”. As generic tablets closely resemble these branded products, it will increase the compliance and acceptance of the patient and at the same time reduces the medication errors that may incur. That said, the FDA recommends a change in the generic design when it is proven that the shape makes it easier to swallow the product.

All of the things mentioned above are some of the considerations that would help ensure the success of the product. Aside from these factors, one would also need to consider the friability -- weight, transit time as well as dissolution time of the tablet. As these parameters are established for the tablet, the production as well as the packaging department should be encouraged to be involved with the design to prevent sticking, picking and even chipping. The Department has received some reports concerning the friability of tablets, which makes it difficult for the tablet to be pushed through blister packs. Every department should take into consideration the shape and size of the tablet to ensure smooth operation and thereby reducing cost and time waste.

Branded or smaller tablets can improve the patient’s experience and a huge savings for manufacturers. An example would be a multivitamin manufacturer that has some problems with their tablet. The oval shaped tablet was marketed for the female gender and the oval shaped design was easy to swallow and follows the guidelines. That said, during the production stage, the manufacturer experienced costly issues concerning the tablet presses. The design causes excess ejection forces that creates excessive punch head wear resulting in premature wear to the equipment. The redesigning of the design results in manufacturing efficiency lowers the expenses and makes the appearance and shape of the tablet appealing to the patients.

The changes in the design can reduce the production cost, adjusting the shape also reduces problems such as friction and heat which causes complications to the tablet presses. Reducing these can cause lower operating cost that can add up quickly.

What Design Can Help Increase Efficiency

A simple change to the tablet’s design can result to improved efficiency, one of which is by switching from a bevel edge to a radius edge especially when producing uncoated flat beveled tablets. The improvements do not affect the shape but can increase production capacity. It is understandable that companies want to limit the expenses during the entire process resulting to ill-advised practices such as copying existing designs that are problematic and weak. This happens when existing designs are reproduced.

The flat-face design is the oldest design used in tablet production. As improvements in technology take place, manufacturers find the need to modify the edge attrition of the tablets. The edge attrition happens when the flat face tool enters into compression cycle and pushes the power to the outside area of the punch tip and through the die wall, which results to the extrusion through the punch and die clearance.

In the flat-face tip, there are no cups or depth only flat surface so that there is nothing that would limit the compression force. The pressure limit determines the punch tip size.

In order to prevent this problem, the flat face bevel edge was developed. The design is the oldest but the most common one reproduced. The design is beneficial as it reduces the soft edges of the tablet by guiding the loose powder back into the tablet. One problem with this is the ‘punch weakness’ the lack of cup depth results to compression force limit in order to avoid bending of the tip as well as distortion. Although the new design modifies edge attrition, it results to another problem – limiting the compression force making it harder to achieve the desired hardness of the tablet.

To combat this problem, another design was created – FFRE or flat face radius edge. The design allows higher compression force to be applied without causing problems or damages to the punch tip when producing flat faced tablets. The design should be considered when creating flat face beveled edged tablets as it improves the manufacturing as well as increases patient’s acceptance.

By eliminating the bevel edge and using the radius edge (FFRE), it allows the compression force needed to prevent any problems such as sticking of the powder to the corner junction of the bevel and the flat. The change in the radius edge improves the compression strength.

The FFRE also provides better uniformity with the tablet’s hardness, which is desired especially when uniform dissolution is required. In using this design, the powder has a natural flow inside the radius and helps reduce the hot spots or discoloration the tablet’s top. This shape has advantages in production but also helps eliminate problems when higher compression force is needed.

Using the FFRE instead of the FFBE is a simple change but results to bigger results. Changing the tool can reduce problems such as downtime by keeping the press running and eliminating breakage of tools thus resulting to significant savings. The design can also increase acceptance by consumers. Tablets that have a softer look and better mouth feel is often highly desirable. Although the FFRE design is unnoticeable, an appealing tablet will increase acceptance and compliance. The FFRE design simply has many advantages and should be considered for all new designs that are applied to non-coated tablets, making the FFBE design obsolete in the future.

The CCBE or Concave bevel edge is the same as the FFBE, with its design commonly used for round shaped tablets, reducing edge attrition during the coating process. The design can also benefit from an addition of the radius edge. Adding this design would ensure a better and more robust design, which would also allow an increase in the compression force. Replacing the bevel with radius results to a compound cup design which is highly desirable than the CCBE design.

Often the unseen designs result to tangible ones. A small change can definitely influence the production as well as the consumer experience.

Many considerations come into mind whenever a tablet is designed. To ensure that the tablet is successful, it is necessary that all departments be involved in the process. From the marketing department to production and packaging, it is important that each department have the opportunity to comment to ensure the product’s success. Involving the tooling supplier is important as they have the experience to provide guidance and help prevent issues. Keeping all parties involve will ensure a timely and successful launch. It is to everyone’s interest to make certain that the product will succeed in the market and provide an excellent experience for patients.