The key to tableting success: how to choose the right tooling

Choosing the right tooling can increase tablet output, decrease waste and ultimately determine the success of a product launch

Consider Production Limitations from the Start

Generally, a tablet starts as a concept in a company’s marketing department without serious consideration of how it will be manufactured. If the marketing staff does not understand what’s feasible, a complicated or impractical tablet design could make it to the production floor before someone discovers the tablet may be very difficult or impossible to manufacture.

When choosing tooling for tablet presses, tablet manufacturers need to know that one size does not fit all

In order to avoid this costly mistake, organize a meeting with an experienced tool manufacturer and include people from marketing, product development, engineering, and production. Doing this at the start of the project allows everyone to share their ideas and concerns, and utilizes the resources and expertise of an experienced tool manufacturer who can steer you away from common problems by avoiding designs that have proved troublesome or impractical for others in the past.

Ask the Right Questions

After assembling your “dream team” from marketing, product development, engineering, and production, it’s time to meet with your tooling vendor. Here are some critical questions to ask before making any decisions on tablet design:

  1. Given the intended weight and volume, what size, shape, and cup configuration will the product require?
  2. Will the tablet be coated?
  3. How will the configuration of the cup affect the compression force required to compress the tablet?
  4. Is the product prone to sticking and picking?
  5. Is the product sensitive to the heat of standard operating temperatures?
  6. Is the product abrasive or corrosive?

Failure to answer these questions in the early stages of product development will likely cause major problems when the product reaches the production floor. Every detail counts — so be sure to provide the tooling vendor with as much information as possible. Preventative measures taken early in the process will lead to improved compressability, increased tablet consistency, and longer life from your tooling and other processing equipment.

Steel Selection

Steel selection is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing your tablet compression tooling. General-purpose steels, such as S1 and S7 for punches and D3 for dies, provide a good combination of wear-resistance and toughness. If your product is abrasive, consider using A2, D2, or DC53 grades, or in extreme cases, contemplate punch tips and dies lined with tungsten carbide. For severely corrosive formulations, 440C or M340 high-chromium steels are good options. When using premium tool steel, the punch must have a strong cup design to avoid tip fractures. When choosing tool steels, consideration should be given to both the formulation characteristics and the tool design to determine the best solution. Tooling vendors are a great resource for information and guidance, so be sure to take advantage of their knowledge and expertise.

Conclusion

Remember that every formulation is different. No two products are exactly alike. They don’t run the same, and they don’t perform the same under compression and decompression forces. Likewise, when choosing tooling for tablet presses, tablet manufacturers need to know that one size does not fit all.

There are standards for tooling, but you can’t always expect the standard tool configuration to be the optimum configuration for your product. Don’t be afraid to ask your tooling vendor questions—early. They will have the knowledge and experience to assist you with product development.

Featured Companies

Natoli Engineering Company (more information, website)