Plate Process Soft Gelatin Capsules: The Complete Guide
Plate process is a technique that you can use in making Softgel capsules.
It is the simplest and easiest technique among all the techniques of Softgel encapsulation.
Today’s guide on plate process soft gelatin capsules covers everything you need to know about this technology.
From advantages, comparison with other Softgel encapsulation processes, Softgel formulation to working principle – you’ll learn everything about plate process in Softgel encapsulation.
Advantages of Plate Process in Softgel Manufacturing
Plate process of making soft gelatin capsules has numerous advantages.
Here are some of the main advantages of using the plate process.
i. Simple and Direct Process
You can easily perform the plate process of making soft gelatin capsules with minimal hitches.
All you need to do is follow the instructions to the letter.
ii. Requires Use of Simple Machines
You will use very simple tools in this process such as a die plate with a number of die pockets.
iii. Cheap Process
The equipment that you will use in making the soft gelatin capsules using this process is very affordable.
Apart from that, you will not require a lot of human labor for the plating process.
iv. Suitable for Small Scale Production
You can use the plate process method for making soft gelatin capsules on a small scale.
It will spare you the cost of purchasing the expensive equipment for large scale production.
v. Allows for Prior Rectification of Capsules
Since the process is slow and follows specific steps, you can easily make changes before proceeding.
Implying, in case of any mistake in the initial process, you have the chance to rectify the mistakes.
vi. 20 – 40 % of Net Moisture Content
It ensures that the moisture content of the capsules is at the right level.
Implying that the soft gelatin capsules are in perfect shape.
Despite the numerous merits of the process, it also has its short comings.
Let us find out more about them in the next section.
Disadvantages of Plate Process for Soft Gelatin Capsules
Just like any other process, you are bound to meet a few challenges.
Here are some of the cons.
Soft gelatin capsules
i. Slow and Time Consuming Process
In comparison to other processes, plate process is very slow and will consume a lot of time.
This is because most of the operations are manual and will depend on man power to complete.
ii. Requires a Lot of Man Power Input
Since most of the operations are manual, you will need to have man power for assistance.
You also have to be very accurate to avoid making any mistakes making it a tedious process.
iii. Limits the Scale of Production
Since it is very slow, you cannot use it to produce soft gelatin capsules on large scale.
iv. Expensive to Hire Man Power
The process requires the use of a lot of man power in the process of production.
You will have to pay for all the man power thus making it expensive in the long run.
v. Exclusion of Efflorescent and Deliquescent Material
You cannot include efflorescent material because it may cause leaching.
Deliquescent materials, on the other hand, may lead to the formation of brittle capsule or excess hardening of the capsules.
vi. Too many Auxiliary Equipment
You need to have additional equipment that will assist in further processing of the Softgel capsules.
Purchasing additional equipment means additional cost of manufacturing soft gelatin capsules.
Do not let the demerits to discourage you from using the plate process to make soft gelatin capsules.
In the next section, we will compare the plate process vs. rotary die process to give you a complete insight.
Plate Process vs. Rotary Die Process in Softgel Encapsulation Process
Making soft gelatin capsules has never been this simple.
You have different encapsulation processes that you can choose from.
In this section, we are going to compare the plate process and the rotary die process.
Rotary die in Softgel encapsulation
· Level of Automation
You can use both processes to make soft gelatin capsules.
The rotary die process depends on more automated systems while the plate process is manual.
· Scale of Production
You can use the rotary die process in large scale production of soft gelatin capsules because most systems are automatic.
The time it takes to produce soft gelatin capsules using the rotary die process is shorter.
The manual plate process is, however, slower and you can only use it on small scale production.
· Installation Cost
The initial cost of installing a rotary die process is high due to the high cost of machine.
The machine is composite and comes with all the auxiliary machines apart from a few.
On the other hand, the initial cost of starting the plate process is low.
You will, however, need to purchase the auxiliary equipment on the side.
This makes the initial cost of purchasing all this equipment very high.
· Working Space
You will need a huge working space for the rotary die process unlike that of the plate process.
· Auxiliary Processes
Both processes share most of the auxiliary processes.
This includes drying, cleaning, inspecting, sorting, packaging and storing among other processes.
After that comparison, let us look at the other processes of soft gel encapsulation.
Other Softgel Encapsulation Process
Apart from the two Softgel encapsulation processes above, there are other types of encapsulation processes.
Let us have a brief look at the other two.
1. Reciprocating Die Process in Softgel Encapsulation
The reciprocating die process is almost the same as the rotary die process.
The main difference between the two process is:
- Reciprocating die process uses reciprocating back and forth die
- Rotary die process uses the rotary round and round die
In this case, you will use a different type of machine for the plate process of encapsulating the soft gelatin.
You will feed the gelatin ribbon between sets of vertical dies that form rows of pockets on the gelatin ribbon.
The machine will form the pockets by continuously opening and closing
The machine fills the pockets with the medication, seals it and shapes it.
After that, it will cut the capsules from the machine before allowing it to move to the auxiliary steps.
You might also pass the soft gelatin capsules through refrigerated tanks to ensure that the seal is compact.
2. Accogel Process in Soft Gelatin Capsules Manufacturing
Accogel process of making soft gelatin capsules also follows the procedure of rotary die process.
It depends on the use of the Accogel capsule machine.
The Accogel capsule machine is the only machine that can fill powder inner fill materials into the capsule shells.
Implying that the Accogel process involves the encapsulation of dry powder inner fill materials.
You will mix all the dry ingredients of forming the dry powder inner fill material separately.
In that case, you will fill the inner fill tank of the Accogel machine with dry powder.
The machine will form the gelatin capsule shells using the same process as that of the rotary die process.
After that, the machine will fill the gelatin capsule shell with the powder inner fill material.
The level of accuracy of filling the capsule shells is very high and precise.
After that, the capsule goes through the other process just as that of the rotary die process.
As we proceed, it is important to know the formulation of the soft gelatin capsule you are making.
In the next section, we will find out the exact ingredients you will be using to make soft gelatin capsule.
Softgel Capsules Formulation
The soft gelatin capsule usually consists of a number of various parts.
To have a clear understanding of Softgel formulation, let us break it down into the following:
· Anatomy of Softgel Capsules
A soft gelatin capsule consists of the outer shell and the inner fill materials.
i. Outer Shell
The outer shell of the capsule basically consists of a plasticizer, gelatin, and water.
It may also have more ingredients such as color, preservatives, Opacifying agents, acids, sugar, and flavorings.
You can include medicaments to give the gelatin the effect it should have.
ii. Inner Fill Materials
The inner fill materials can be in the form of liquid or different combinations of miscible liquids.
Apart from that you can also have:
- Solutions of solids in liquids
- Suspension of solids in liquids
- Volatile oil compositions such as Pudinhara
- Vegetable oils such as arachis oil, aliphatic hydrocarbons, ethers, or esters.
You will use suspension agents such as lecithin, soya bean oils, and yellow wax to make suspensions.
· Softgel Capsule Ingredients
You can either use gelatin or tapioca to make the shell of the Softgel capsule.
Gelatin is suitable for people who consume animal products.
Vegans, on the other hand, will depend on Softgel capsules from Tapioca plant.
You should also include:
- Water in the right ratio depending on the viscosity of the gelatin
- Plasticizers to make the shell of the soft gelatin pliable and elastic
- Varying shades of color depending on where you will use it.
- Opacifiers such as titanium oxide to make the shell opaque
- Chelating agents such as iron which should not exceed 15 ppm
The soft gelatin capsules ingredients will vary according to the type of Softgel capsule but some are constant.
· Shapes of Softgel Capsules
As a manufacturer, you can produce soft gelatin capsules of varying shapes and sizes.
The different shapes help in distinguishing the different types of capsules.
It also makes the soft gelatin capsule more pleasing and appealing to the eye.
Round soft gelatin
Oval soft gelatin
The most common shapes that you can easily produce include:
- Round Shapes
- Oblong Shapes
- Oval Shapes
- Tube Shapes
The shape of the soft gelatin capsule will also depend on the market that you are targeting.
Additionally, the shape has to increase the ease of swallowing the capsule.
You should, therefore, avoid shapes with shape corners.
Equipment for Plate Process for Soft Gelatin Capsules
The equipment for making Softgel capsules using the plate process are very simple.
You have to use the different equipment separately as they are not available as one unit.
For instance, you will use the gelatin melting tank to make gelatin then use another machine for encapsulation.
In this section, you will learn about all the equipment you need for the plate process of soft gelatin capsules.
Let us dive right in.
· Gelatin Melting Tank
You will use this machine to mix and heat the soft gelatin capsules to form homogenous molten gelatin.
· Hammer Mill
You will use it to crush and grind aggregate ingredients to fine powder.
Before you mix aggregate materials, you might need to crush them before you proceed with other processes.
· Fluid Bed Processor
You need a fluid bed processor for granulation, coating, drying, coating, and pelletizing.
It will assist you in making the inner fill materials.
· Bins and Drums
These are the containers that you will use in mixing all the ingredients of the inner fill materials.
They are available in different sizes depending on the amount of material you would like to mix.
· Pharma Ovens
The ovens assist in drying the ingredients that you are preparing.
It has a control panel that will allow you to set the temperatures of the ovens.
You need to be careful not to exceed the temperature limits that might destroy the active ingredients.
· Plate having 200 to 300 Holes
You will use the plate for the purpose of making the bottom part of the soft gelatin capsule.
For this process, you will use a plate with 200 to 300 holes.
The number of holes might vary according to the number of capsules you would like to make.
It is a critical aspect of plate process soft gelatin capsules
· Loading Tray having 200 to 300 Holes
The loading tray will assist you in holding and loading the Softgel capsules.
The number of holes will also depend on the number of capsules you will be loading.
· Pin Plate
This is a plate with different projection such as pins for holding the plate.
As you prepare the soft gelatin capsule, you need to hold the plates in position to avoid spilling the ingredients.
· Cam Handel Lever
It will assist you in quick fastening and unfastening without using other tools.
The lever will assist you in moving the different parts of the plate process equipment.
· Sealing plate with a Rubber Top
You will use the sealing plate to seal the soft gelatin capsules.
· Filling Machine
The machine will fill the ingredients into the lower cup of the soft gelatin capsule.
It makes sure that the fill materials are of the right quantity during plate process soft gelatin capsules making procedure.
Apart from that, it also ensures that the inner fill material forms a homogenous mixture.
Remember that choosing the right equipment will guarantee you the best Softgel capsules.
Whenever you are choosing an encapsulation equipment, consider the following technical specifications:
i. Power consumption of the machine
ii. Capacity of the machine
iii. Mixing speed for instance speed of gelatin mixing tank
iv. Dimensions of the machine such as weight and size
v. Durability of the machine in terms of how long it will serve you before servicing
vi. Efficiency of the machine such as heat retention factors.
At this point, I believe you are ready to learn about the plate process of making soft gelatin capsules.
Well, in the next section you will go through the step by step plate process of making soft gelatin capsules.
Step by Step Plate Process of making Soft Gelatin Capsules
You have come to the main section of this guide where you will learn about making Softgel capsules.
As much as you may know about the rotary die process, here, you will learn about the plate process.
Let us begin with the basics.
Soft gelatin capsule formulation
Step One: Preparing the Ingredients and Die Plate
First, you need to have all your tool ready.
All the tools should be inclusive of the equipment for the plate process, and the necessary ingredients.
As you know the main ingredients of a soft gelatin capsule are the cover shell and the inner filler materials.
i. Preparing Gelatin for the Outer Shell
You need to choose materials of very high quality since you need to make a strong gelatin shell.
The stronger the outer shell, the higher the probability of protecting the sensitive inner fill materials.
You will need to have key ingredients such as plasticizer, gelatin, water, color, sugars, and opacifying agents.
You must mix all the above ingredients to get a good and suitable shell for the soft gelatin capsule.
With the help of a gelatin melting tank, you can heat all the ingredients to form molten liquid mass.
In many cases, the mixing and heating process will take around 3 hours.
Once the gelatin is ready, you should prepare the inner fill materials.
ii. Preparing the Inner Fill Materials
The inner fill materials are the ingredients that you will enclose inside the gelatin shell.
You will have the inner fill materials in the form of liquid, suspension, and semi-solid solution.
In the preparation of the inner fill materials, you have to prepare a homogenous mixture.
The homogenous mixture will ensure that all the vital ingredients are in the inner fill materials.
You will choose the inner fill materials according to the type of inner fill materials you need to prepare.
The type of machines that you will use include fluid bed processor, hammer mills, pharma ovens, drums, and bins.
Apart from the type of machine, the process of making the inner fill materials will vary accordingly.
Implying that making oil mixtures is easier than making pastes.
The inner fill materials need to meet the following criteria:
- It has to guarantee overall stability of individual elements
- Increase bioavailability
- Has to guarantee efficient and safe filling process of the soft gelatin.
- Has to maintain the stability of the soft gelatin capsule
With all the ingredients in place, let us proceed to the next step.
Step Two: Drawing Sheet into Die Pockets
At this stage, you will bring the warm gelatin sheet from the previous process.
Place the warm gelatin sheet over the die plate with numerous die pockets.
The gelatin plate will sink into the die pockets to form the bottom part of the capsule.
You will apply vacuum that will draw the gelatin sheets into the die pockets.
Step Three: Filling Die Pockets
After that you will fill the die pockets with the inner fill materials.
Carefully pour the inner fill materials into the die pockets.
The inner fill material can either be paste or liquid.
You need to ensure that the quantity of the inner fill material is as accurate as possible.
For that reason, you may need to use a filling machine
Step Four: Covering the Gelatin Pockets
At this point, you need to cover the gelatin pockets.
Covering the gelatin pockets will protect the inner fill materials from external interference.
External interference includes humidity or moisture, fluctuating heat or temperature, and acidity.
You will place another gelatin sheet on top of the die pockets.
Step Five: Sealing the Gelatin Capsules
Using a die press, you will sandwich the gelatin to cover the gelatin with the fill materials.
As it covers the inner fill material, it forms a complete seal.
Apart from that, the die press will also cut the soft gelatin into the right sizes.
You will then proceed to the next step which is common in almost all the soft gelatin encapsulation processes.
Step Six: Auxiliary Processes
Auxiliary processes are a combination of different processes that will test the quality of the Softgel capsule.
You will pass the soft gelatin capsules through:
· Tumble Drying
You will place the soft gelatin capsules in a tumble dryer.
Dry and sterile air passes over soft gelatin capsule and removes excess moisture from the outer surface.
Softgel capsules tumble dryer
· Curing or Supplemental Drying
You will place the soft gelatin capsules on special trays for further drying.
The drying process occurs in the drying room or tunnel for about 48 hours.
You have to monitor the Softgel capsules every now and then and ensure the capsules are not dehydrated.
To assist you in sizing the soft gelatin capsules, you will need an automatic capsule sizing machine.
The machine will automatically eliminate oversize and undersize capsules.
You have to remove any substance that may stick on the back of the soft gelatin capsule.
Polishing the Softgel capsule will ensure that you remove every bit of impurity
You should inform the end user of the soft gelatin capsule about the content of Softgel capsule.
Most manufactures print unique pharmaceutical marks on the capsule to inform the end user.
You will use a soft gelatin printing machine to inscribe the unique marks on the soft gelatin capsules.
You can inspect the Softgel capsules by simply observing them.
You will be looking for capsules with malformations, damages, or capsules with improper fills.
After inspection, you will package the capsules accordingly in plastic or glass containers.
Make sure that the packages are tight with low rates of moisture transfer.
After packaging, you will transport the soft gelatin capsules to various destinations.
On arrival at these destinations, you might need to use them for various purposes.
Let us find out more about the uses of the soft gelatin capsules in the final section of this guide.
Uses of Softgel Capsules
As a form of medication or supplement, you might use the soft gelatin capsules for various purposes.
Here are some of the major uses of the soft gelatin capsules:
i. Depending on the combination you can use it to supplement or boost the dietary requirements.
ii. Boost the body energy requirements for gymnasts
iii. Treat certain illnesses.
iv. Improve oral bioavailability of compounds that are poorly soluble
v. Delivering ultra-low and low dosages of different compounds
vi. Delivering low melting point compounds
vii. Improving the ease of oral medication due to the lack of taste and odor.
It is clear to see that the plate process of soft gelatin encapsulation is straight forward and simple.
All you need is the plate process equipment and you are good to go.
What are you waiting for?
Do not hesitate to contact your supplier and order your plate process soft gelatin encapsulation machine.
Ensure that you are very keen with the technical specifications when you are choosing a good machine.