What are Pharmaceutical Printers?
Pharmaceutical printers are the basis for personalised medication. Under normal circumstances, one would have to undertake a large drug manufacturing plant. However, the costs of setting up such a plant for production at scale is capital-intensive, and errors are expensive. Pharmaceutical printers would be a very economical and versatile tool in such a situation.
A group of patients that would benefit from this technology is children who have very rare diseases. For low market demand, economy-focused high-scale production investments are difficult to justify. Small patient groups with rare conditions would be better off with printed drugs. In such cases, printing medicines can be extremely economic and effective. These machines can easily adjust the size, appearance, shape, and functionality of a wide array of medicines.
A rather successful lab testing for drug production combines Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) with hot-melt extrusion. Much like most 3D printing methods, this again requires the ideal temperature. Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) or Stereolithography are yet more options to be considered for tablet printing, where a laser is used to bond the required polymers.
HPMC-based (cellulose) excipients are consumed to print the appropriate tablet doses or prescriptions. These machines are scalable, therefore once a proof-of-concept is developed producing tablets on an industrial level would definitely be possible. This will not replace traditional production methods but rather aims to complement them by addressing the drawbacks of current production methods. Thus, it will provide more options for the manufacturing of everyday drugs and tablets.
How Can We Print Tablets?
Pharmaceutical printing involves three distinct methods. These are
Hot Melt Extrusion - the creation of filaments to use for FDM printing, or directly using the melt for deposition
Liquid curing - extrusion-based printing to deposit materials, or SLA to cure resins
Powder Fusion - SLS or binder jetting
Avay has developed a concept 3D printer for all the above styles of printing and is currently validating directly melting the powder to be deposited in the required shape. For temperature-sensitive drugs, liquid printing is offered as an alternative. An accurate measure of its specifics such as bulk density, drug content and dispersion, and friability are required while evaluating printed tablets. Eventually, we can mass-produce patient-specific and customisable medication.