HOW TO RECEIVE THE LARGEST RETURN FROM A TOOLING INVESTMENT: MAINTAIN YOUR TABLET COMPRESSION TOOLING
Tooling is a significant investment for companies. Individual punches and dies may represent a small portion of production cost in relation to the purchase and maintenance of machines such as fluid bed dryers and tablet presses. However, over the life of a product, many sets of tooling will be necessary amounting to a sizable expenditure. Excessively worn or improperly maintained tools could create a tremendous liability to the production team by creating a perception of poor quality to the consumer. Tablet manufacturers will receive the most use and highest quality tablets from their tooling if the tools are properly maintained.
COMMON WAYS FOR MAINTAINING TOOLING TO ENSURE MAXIMUM RETURN INVESTMENT:
1. PROPER HANDLING AND STORAGE
Proper handling and storage can be as simple as using tooling storage bins. These separate tools and keep them from striking one another. It’s surprising just how many tools need to be replaced each year due to mishandling, and “accidents” add up. In some cases, tablet compression technicians simply lack a systematic handling procedure. Damage such as nicks and dings on and around the punch tip are commonly known to cause black specs and product discoloration as well as capping, lamination and other visual defects.
Other solutions include racks and cabinets that provide adequate protection during storage and transport. The use of a desiccant pack inside the sealed tooling storage box or drawer is recommended as well.
2. PROPER CLEANING
A cleaning procedure with minimum human interaction is ideal to ensure that tools are cleaned consistently, reducing potential for damage. Ultrasonic cleaning with an automatic dryer is the optimum procedure, as it provides the tool with increased exposure to cleaning solution. Hard-to-reach portions of the punch, including keys and embossing, are cleaned without the risk of damage. The advantage of using a dryer in conjunction with an ultrasonic cleaner is that it eliminates the potential for surface corrosion and discoloration.
3. PROPER MAINTENANCE
Polishing tools refurbishes the punch cups, restores land, and allows for minor repairs of punch heads, back angles, and barrels. Unlike the polishing process of drag finishing, manufacturers using the cotton wheel method often double the usable life of the punch – increasing the life of your investment. However, polishing done by an inexperienced technician could destroy a set of tools. Great care should be taken that only a small amount of material is removed during this process. Therefore, a well-trained and experienced tooling technician should complete this maintenance procedure.
4. PROPER LUBRICATION
Automatic lubrication systems can provide false assurance that appropriate lubrication is being supplied to all the necessary areas of the punches. By simply applying a food-grade barrel lubricant to the punch barrel and applying a food-grade grease to the head of the punch with a proper brush prior to set-up and operation you will ensure proper lubrication on tablet press start-up. Some auto lubrication systems require the lubricant to migrate into distribution channels requiring centrifugal force. Automatic lubrication may not have reached critical lubrication points at press start-up, which can lead to damage on mating parts of the punch, including guides, keyways, cams, and pressure rollers as well as premature wear to the tools themselves. If a tool is not properly lubricated, it will cause excessive friction, increasing the operating temperature of the punch. The result is a thermal expansion of the punch barrel, which reduces the space allowed for lubrication. This expansion can lead to emergency stops, tool binding, and tool damage.
HOW TO EXTEND TOOL LIFE BEYOND PROACTIVE MEASURES RESIZING TOOL LENGTHS
The working length of the tool is critical in production, as it ensures consistent tablet parameters are met throughout the set. Punches should be visually inspected and measured before being transferred into storage. Working lengths of the set should be within the tolerance range determined by internal SOPs.
In most cases, tools that are out of specification with working length can be lightly machined and put back into specification. If working length is out of specification, contact your tooling supplier to learn what your options are. Management constantly evaluates cost reduction strategies, and those decisions reverberate through the business. It’s the responsibility of the production team and procurement department to reduce variable costs while maintaining or increasing output and efficiency. It’s the responsibility of all those involved, including suppliers, to ensure that costs are minimal and outputs are maximized. Protecting the company’s investment by properly maintaining tooling can be a part of cost reduction.
By maintaining the integrity of your tools through proper lubrication, handling, storage, and maintenance, production can ensure consistent and efficient tablet manufacturing while prolonging tool life and tablet quality.
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