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The two-piece capsule is a visual shorthand for all types of medical remedies. Advances in technology have made the production of hard-gelatin capsules a convenient delivery method for drugs and other ingested substances. But the simple solution requires micrometric precision to be manufactured to the proper pharmaceutical standards.

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Dosing accuracy is key to manufacturing hard gelatin capsules

The bright colors that hard-gel capsules are synonymous with come from dyes and edible colorings. However, the main ingredients of the shell are gelatin and plasticizers, which combine at a typical ratio of 1:0.4 using precise dosage technology.

Compared with softgel capsules, the hard gelatin alternatives require fewer components to produce. But your standard formula will also include sugars, an opacifier, and preservatives.

Hygroscopic ingredients weaken the hard-shell structure

The flexibility of hard-gel caps and their relatively long shelf-life make them an ideal solution for the delivery of various drugs. Two-piece capsules can hold a range of powder formulations, tablets, and semisolid solutions.

But hygroscopic agents may lead to cracks in the shell over time, making the production of hard gelatin capsules unsuitable for materials such as silicon dioxide and magnesium carbonate.

Production of hard gelatin capsules is largely impacted by the water content

The mixture to manufacture hard gelatin capsules consists of 14% to 16% demineralized water. Achieving this delicate proportion is key to ensuring that your shells have the proper elasticity to hold their structure and protect the filling.

Too little water will result in brittle capsules, while too much of it risks destabilizing the drug content inside.

Plant-based gelatin alternatives follow the same manufacturing process

Gelatin has been the industry standard in manufacturing hard capsules for nearly a century. But currents drifting away from animal-based ingredients are spurring research into vegetarian alternatives. Substitute materials like starches and carrageenan can be handled with minor modifications to existing technology.

HPMC capsules have emerged as a prime contender to produce plant-based encapsulation formulas. An edible natural polymer, HPMC is made from plant-extracted cellulose.  Unlike gelatin, which is non-allergenic foodstuff, HPMC is considered an additive (E460).

Processing steps involved in hard-gelatin-capsules making

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