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Mixing in the pharmaceutical industry

April 26, 2013

Today’s pharmaceutical market is highly competitive. There are several mixing techniques which are being used. Experiments are constantly being conducted to try to better this ever expanding industry.

The equipment used for mixing substances in the healthcare field of industry must be clean, consistent and accurate. The products have to be safe, effective and pure. Mixing pharmaceutical products calls for an even higher level of quality standards.

Mixing is a much larger production that simply combining raw ingredients. To achieve the desired products the mixer must reduce particle size, carry out certain chemical reactions, dissolve various components, facilitate proper heat transfer and be able to prepare fine emulsions. To achieve a final, usable pharmaceutical product it is not uncommon to use several different mixers of varying styles. It takes more than one step to properly process the raw ingredients, handle all the steps in between and yield a proper final product.

Mixing pharmaceutical products is an exact science. It requires a lot of planning to use the proper chemical formula in the process. The actual mixing requires precise steps to reach the proper and accurate dose required. Along with dosing scenarios the final product must also have the right texture as well as appearance and it must be able to remain stable for the amount of time required before it is consumed. One cannot be too careful when selecting mixers.

There are three basic types of blenders that companies use to manufacture tablets for pharmaceutical companies. Usually at least one dry blending operation is part of the combination. Adding the proper increments of the active ingredient, fillers, binders and even other additives such as lubricants, disintegrants or preservatives must be precise to achieve the proper end product. Even in dry mixing some small amounts of liquids may need to be added. These may be necessary to provide a coating, add coloring, oils or flavorings. The three most common blenders are the ribbon blender, a vertical blender, and a tumble blender.

The ribbon blender has a horizontal, U-shaped trough along with an agitator. The agitator consists of inner and outer ribbons that move materials opposite directions through the blender. They can rotate up to 300 fpm. Liquids can be added by using a spray nozzle on a spray bar. Its design is such that it is efficient and economically advantageous for dry mixing.

The vertical blender uses an auger that gently rotates vertically rather than horizontally. The auger slowly moves ingredients through a conical shaped vessel. It also uses spray nozzles to add any liquids.

The tumble blender is a rotating vessel. It is generally double-cone shaped or V-shaped. It is another low impact mixer. Tumble blenders rotate at about 5 to 25 rpm. This type of blender usually has an intensifier bar and a chopper blade. This helps to break up the mixture to keep it from clumping.

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