Does Your Tablet Deduster Fit Into Continuous Processing?

Three Keys To Remember Before Integrating A Deduster
With the manufacturing trend toward larger batch production and continuous processing, tablet manufacturers are dealing with mounting pressures to make more tablets, in less time, but with the same high quality. In response, companies have begun to use faster tablet presses, but issues arise when their dedusters can’t keep up with the new pace. Since dedusting is an integral link between the tablet press, coating, and packaging steps, it’s important to keep the following factors in mind to avoid unnecessary problems on your line.
A Cheap Price Now Could Mean More Expenses Later
The biggest mistake happens before the equipment is installed — companies make purchasing decisions based on price point. Too many times I’ve seen manufacturers purchase a horizontal deduster because they are very inexpensive up front. However, once the low-end equipment is integrated into the line, staff complaints start coming in because of the equipment’s negative effects on other operations — particularly in packaging. For example, excess dust can cause a lot of rejects because the foil isn’t sticking to the plastic part of the blister pack, or the seals on their bottles aren’t adhering. The first reaction is to blame the packaging line. Once you analyze the process, you’ll normally find the problem didn’t originate in packaging, but in the tableting and dedusting step. Fugitive dust can also gather on the counter sensors, causing over or undercounting of the tablets. This, in turn, causes bottling problems, such as over and under counts, which can trigger FDA penalties and customer complaints. Since the deduster isn’t doing what it’s supposed to, you are now seeing the side effects down the line. Additional “housekeeping” in the packaging and tableting areas can cause downtime or even shutdowns of your line, costing both time and money. Therefore, by choosing the least expensive option for a deduster, you could be increasing your TCO (total cost of ownership).
Overlooking Efficiency Is A Big Mistake
As mentioned earlier, the industry is trending toward the production of increased batch sizes. However, just because you need to convey tablets at a higher speed, doesn’t mean your deduster will effectively perform at the higher rate (i.e. dedusting efficiency). This is an important consideration when looking into a piece of equipment. After all, dedusting efficiency is why you are integrating that piece of equipment in the first place, and you don’t want to negatively affect your downstream equipment in the case of improper dedusting. It’s necessary to maintain a high-capacity performance level in the tableting step — both at the capacity and quality levels it is validated for — to keep every process working at its maximum.
In addition to adapting to higher conveying rates, dedusting efficiency also relies on sufficient utilities to support the tablet deduster. For example, inadequate dust collection vacuum and volume can result in dust build-up on equipment components. This, in turn, causes even the best dedusters to perform poorly.
Reduce Your Chances Of Reject Tablets
If a deduster isn’t sized, chosen, or operated correctly, you end up with tablets with chips or abrasions, which is definitely not what you want to send out to customers. To ensure the deduster is sized correctly, you must be able to communicate to the vendor what the minimum and maximum sizes for the tablets are, as well as the rate of speed at which that tablet will be produced. You will also need to make the supplier aware of the type and hardness of your tablets. For example, soft, chewable tablets have become increasingly popular, especially with many OTC drugs. They are very fragile, and the wrong equipment could end up doing of damage to the product. This wastes money and time in doing downstream inspections. Any time machines are not working to their maximum production, schedules have to be extended and reject product needs to be thrown away, all of which increase disposal costs and the cost of rework of off-spec products.
As with any piece of pharmaceutical manufacturing equipment, do your homework and perform a test before you buy a deduster. It’s best to see the pros and cons of the equipment for yourself, rather than just looking at a piece of literature.
It’s inevitable that drug manufacturing will no longer be looked at as a series of individual batch processes that can be put into storage until the next step catches up. The continuous process must be looked at as a system, with each step just as important as the other — so there is no weak link. Your system must be robust enough so no individual piece in the chain can cause a production failure.
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