Drug manufacturing is the process of industrial-scale synthesis of pharmaceutical drugs by pharmaceutical companies. The process of drug manufacturing can be broken down into a series of unit operations, such as milling, granulation, coating, tablet pressing, and others.
In general, there are two types of granulation: wet granulation and dry granulation. Granulation can be thought of as the opposite of milling; it is the process by which small particles are bound together to form larger particles, called granules. Granulation is used for several reasons. Granulation prevents the “demixing” of components in the mixture, by creating a granule which contains all of the components in their required proportions, improves flow characteristics of powders (because small particles do not flow well), and improves compaction properties for tablet formation.
In the pharmaceutical industry, a wide range of excipients may be blended together with the active pharmaceutical ingredient to create the final blend used to manufacture the solid dosage form. The range of materials that may be blended (excipients, API), presents a number of variables which must be addressed to achieve target product quality attributes. These variables may include the particle size distribution (including aggregates or lumps of material), particle shape (spheres, rods, cubes, plates, and irregular), presence of moisture (or other volatile compounds), particle surface properties (roughness, cohesion), and powder flow properties.
In continuous manufacturing, input raw materials and energy are fed into the system at a constant rate, and at the same time, a constant extraction of output products is achieved. The process performance is heavily dependent on stability of the material flowrate. For powder-based continuous processes, it is critical to feed powders consistently and accurately into subsequent unit operations of the process line, as feeding is typically the first unit operation. Feeders have been designed to achieve performance reliability, feed rate accuracy, and minimal disturbances. Accurate and consistent delivery of materials by well-designed feeders ensures overall process stability. Loss-in-weight (LIW) feeders are selected for pharmaceutical manufacturing. Loss-in-weight (LIW) feeders control material dispensing by weight at a precise rate, and are often selected to minimize the flowrate variability that is caused by change of fill level and material bulk density. Importantly, feeding performance is strongly dependent on powder flow properties.