Pharmaceutical Powders Mixing, Transport and Dosing – Handling Active Ingredients Smoothly

Author / Editor: Michaela Volk / Doris Popp

When investing in new materials handling equipment, firms need to consider the need for consistent product quality; flexibility to react quickly to new customer requirements and changes in demand; efficient materials handling; and documentation for continuous traceability. Learn about solutions which meet these needs, working smoothly together at all stages of the product handling chain.

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Process control and visualization system — the entire production line at a glance.
Process control and visualization system — the entire production line at a glance.
(Picture: AZO)

Manufacturers of pharmaceuticals, dietary supplements and neutraceuticals need to handle powders at nearly every stage of the production cycle, from raw materials through to tablet pressing or capsule filling. This article shows how two plants have benefited from an integrated materials handling solution.

The first of the two plants is designed to weigh and mix powders for tablets. It has three levels. Raw materials enter the system on the top level, where there are two large feed hoppers for excipients and four smaller hoppers for active ingredients and excipients. Each of the hoppers has its own local extraction system and filter for dust control during filling; since the raw materials are very expensive, the company decided not to use central extraction.

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Managing Small Quantities of Active Ingredients

Very small quantities of certain ingredients are often critical to the formulation but are difficult to automate. These minor ingredients are therefore weighed manually at a Man Dos weighing station. The Man Dos control system guides the operators through the process of weighing out small quantities with great accuracy, avoiding user errors and ensuring full documentation for batch traceability.

The raw materials are first scanned with a barcode reader and then weighed into bags which are also barcoded, ruling out any risk of product mix-ups. The operators then transfer the contents of the bags into small funnels, from where the material falls into a portable container (Batchtainer) below. Raw materials for halal products are also added using these feed funnels. Beneath each of the two large feed hoppers for the bulk excipients is a vibrator to ensure reliable discharge into a screener (Azo type DA) which protects the downstream equipment against foreign and oversize material.

Metering and Weighing of Pharmaceuticals

The screener is also a dosing unit, which meters the product accurately into the Batchtainer on the floor beneath. The Batchtainer is positioned on floor scales, and for maximum weighing accuracy the dosing unit can be switched from “coarse” to “fine” settings automatically, using a frequency converter.