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Not Letting It Go To Waste

Albion Minerals®

Proper maintenance, retrofits and high-efficiency equipment all go a long way toward maximizing the amount of product. 

Even assuming that all else remains status quo—prices on raw materials hold the line, overhead holds steady, labor expenses remain constant—waste can eat into margins. That applies to both wasted time and wasted product.

“Finding ways to maximize yield during the encapsulation process is something all capsule manufacturers face— contract manufacturers, big pharma, generics, small pharma and nutraceutical companies alike,” wrote Thomas Mauritzen of Wisconsin-based Bosch Packaging Technology in an article on best practices in this area. “With an older model encapsulator, you inherently don’t have the latest and greatest features, but there are plenty of things you can do and upgrades are available to keep your machine running at top efficiency.” 

Although Mauritzen describes in the article a number of the maintenance and retrofitting tricks that can keep older equipment acting young, Bosch and other equipment suppliers are stepping up their game with new introductions that are aimed at maximizing production and minimizing waste.

This past September, for example, Bosch’s German-based parent company announced the VRT 1010/1020 capping machine, which features a camera-based sensor that checks the presence of the stopper. Containers with a missing stopper, or an incorrectly placed one, are guided to an outward station, while correctly stoppered containers continue to the capping station. Later in the process, the sealing machine is similarly equipped with a camera to check whether the capping process has taken place and the caps have been optimally crimped.

“To achieve reliable results, we use mirrors which enable an all-around view for the camera to identify incorrect objects,” said Dieter Bandtel, product manager at Bosch. Containers that fail to meet the requirements are conveyed into an additional reject station. Meanwhile, according to Bosch, correctly closed injection and infusion vials are transported to a traying-off station or onto a discharge belt.

Similarly, New Jersey-based MG America earlier this year brought out its MultiFLEXA 250, a continuous-motion capsule filler that features “no capsule, no dosage” dosing unit. In other words, if the capsule to be filled isn’t there, the dose is neither drawn nor released, thereby avoiding product waste while also not dispersing the product in the processing area and in the environment.

In addition, the MultiFLEXA 250 can be equipped with MultiNETT, a weight control system that checks the net weight of each dosed capsule. That extends to microdosages and, individually, the different components in case of dosage combinations. Ultimately, MultiNETT rejects all capsules that are out of specification, thus helping to cut down on waste.

Speed & Accuracy 

Qualicaps in North Carolina emphasizes both efficiency and high capacity in its machines. Qualicaps’ Hicapseal machines, for example, use a doubleband sealing technique. According to the company, this ensures that if an air bubble or unevenness occurs in the first band, it will be eliminated in the second round.

Then there’s the same manufacturer’s LIQFIL series of capsule-filling equipment. The LIQFIL series of capsule-filling equipment offers manufacturers a variety of filling capabilities available to handle powders, liquids, beads, mini-tablets, granules, pellets, pastes and oils; along with versatility, the series is designed to maintain high accuracy of fill weights to ensure precision even when small quantities of fill material are being used. To help achieve this, a patented three-drum rectification system is said to be gentle on capsules and to prevent damage during transportation, while un-joined and double caps are automatically removed from the feed drum and rectifier rollers. The filling unit is also removable for easy cleaning.

New Jersey-based ACG North America touts an acronym—in this case, ZRM, for zero relative motion—as a pathway to greater efficiency. The company said this patented technology, introduced in 2010, “minimizes segregation during operation, thereby reducing waste and fugitive dust, thus ensuring nearly zero dusting [and] saving formulation and money.” 

The ZRM mechanism, according to ACG, ensures that there is “virtually no gap between the slider, dosing disc and pad during the compaction stroke. ZRM technology improves manufacturing efficiency by minimizing segregation during operation at 130 strokes per minute. ZRM technology is suitable for full filling operations and partial filling for quantities as low as 15 mg +/-2 mg.” 

On the tableting side, Fette Compacting America in New Jersey evidently does not believe in wasting time. At the ACHEMA 2012 trade show this past June, Fette’s German parent company introduced the second in its FE Series, the FE35. While noting that it can be fitted with up to 51 punch stations, resulting in production capacity of about 370,000 tablets per hour, Fette said the rapid product changeover is the machine’s real point of distinction. The turret, for example, can be removed in just 15 minutes.

A key to this efficiency, according to the company, is the new TRI.EASY concept. “The idea behind this concept is that technology can only be efficient when it is equally easy in all three aspects of operation, refitting and maintenance,” Fette stated. “Hence, the TRI.EASY design focuses on the user and guarantees smooth operation regardless of the experience and qualification levels of its operator. With the FE35, the implementation of this principle is the foundation for quick product changeovers.” 

The machine’s layout is the starting point: it allows for quick and easy access to all modules, Fette said. “When changing the turret, all operational steps are fully automated or can be executed tool free. Furthermore, all supply lines are connected to the machine via a single plug.” 

Additionally, Fette said its FE35 is the only machine in its class with upper and lower compression rollers that can be adjusted automatically, as well as compression measurement cells with integrated measuring amplifiers and drive units with a new position measurement system. “This results in much shorter refitting times—operators no longer have to move to reference marks after a turret change, and can calibrate the measurement cells at the operations terminal using software,” according to Fette, which plans to begin shipping the FE35 next spring.


ACG North America, (877) 618-3344

Bosch Packaging Technology, (715) 246-6511

Fette Compacting America, (973) 586-8722

MG America, (866) 962-3090

Qualicaps, (336) 449-3900