The pharmaceutical industry has traditionally used manual methods of solids transfer from process to process when preparing solids material for formulations used in the production of tablets, capsules and granules.
Dispensing, whether for direct compression or granulation often involves small containers, drums and polyethylene bags being manually poured as an open transfer to the process hopper inlet or using a vacuum transfer system to elevate the material to the process inlet.
Apart from being labour intensive, these open transfers are dusty as well as operator-reliant, and make products vulnerable to cross contamination.
Introduction of IBC Technology - After Granulation
Closed transfers using Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBCs) were first introduced to transport single batches from the granulation process to compression. Transfer from the IBCs was either by vacuum or by gravity.
A major breakthrough in the use of IBCs came with the discharge of 2 or 3 batches of dried granulate into one larger IBC. Lubricant was added and the IBC rotated in an IBC blender to homogenise the batches and the lubricant, enabling a single IBC to discharge 2 or 3 sub-batches to the tablet press in one operation.
This process resulted in significant savings in product quality, cleaning, IBC movement, labour and validation.
During this phase of IBC development, butterfly valves were used as the outlet valve on the IBC as the solids were granulated and free flowing, and therefore able to discharge by gravity alone.
Pre-Granulation use of IBCs
An increasing need for improved containment, batch integrity/ traceability and plant automation saw the introduction of IBCs earlier in the process chain.
This and the growing use of direct compression blends meant that IBC systems now had to cope with poor flowing, cohesive solids, highlighting the limitations of butterfly valve IBC technology.
The introduction of cone valve technology from Matcon IBC provided IBCs with the ability to promote and control discharge of cohesive and free flowing solids at any process step without segregation or degradation of product while maintaining a high degree of containment and batch integrity/traceability throughout the entire process chain.