Softgel production can be a lengthy process. From fill and gelatin preparation to polishing and packaging, there is a large margin for error. As such, softgel manufacturers must be cautious in all stages of the encapsulation process.
To help you maximize efficiency and limit error in your drying process, become familiar with the five different things that could go wrong if you’re not careful.
1. Exposing Inefficient Gelatin
Have you perfected your gelatin preparation process? If not, it may be impacting the quality of your production process. You may be unaware your gelatin is faulty until the final step of your process—think of the time and money spent creating a batch of capsules, only to find out your product was inefficient from the beginning.
If your gelatin is not properly prepared, it will become evident in the drying process; you may have an unusable final product. Whether the gelatin-to-liquid ratio was too low or too high in your initial recipe, or any other type of mixing mishap occurred, improper ingredient ratios won’t dry effectively.
2. Too Much Moisture
Sticky capsules can occur in one of two ways. The capsules may not have been dried for an appropriate amount of time—not enough moisture is removed. A moisture transfer could have also occurred between the outer shell and the inner filling. If your process does not properly account for the moisture transfer from these two substances, you may end up with a sticky situation.
Sticky capsules are a concern when drying softgel capsules, as they will attach to one another. When pulled apart, this may cause the capsules to tear, causing leaks.
3. Not Enough Moisture
Too little moisture is also a major problem in your softgel drying process. When you dry your softgel capsules for too long and remove the majority of the moisture, this can cause your capsule to become hard and brittle. A brittle capsule is more prone to breaking and fissures, which will, in turn, cause your filling to leak out of the shell.
An equilibrium moisture content for a softgel capsule is between 13 and 16 percent; it’s important not to dry your capsules past (or below) this point.
The more you move your capsules from place to place, the more you’re at risk of damage. Each time you transfer your capsules to a new location, you increase the risk of them catching onto something and tearing.
Tearing is a major concern, as your fill will leak out and it will be an unsalvageable mistake. To decrease your risk of capsule tearing, it’s best to limit the movement of your capsules. If you are using an oil-based capsule, in-line drying systems may be the best option to limit capsule tearing. This system requires no movement during the drying process.
5. Machine Malfunction
Malfunctioning or outdated equipment and dryers may be the reason for defective capsules in the drying process. The drying process has very specific requirements in order to achieve the desired 13 to 16 percent moisture content. As such, if you drying systems aren’t functioning at the right speed or temperature, this could be detrimental.
The best way to avoid equipment-related malfunctions is to clean and check your drying systems regularly and invest in preventative maintenance. If you notice a problem, have your machine serviced straight away. If your machine is old and unsalvageable, it may be time to consider looking into purchasing new drying equipment.