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Capsules, being a common and easy-to-produce pharmaceutical dosage form, are gelatin, collagen or cellulose based containers that enclose medicine in solid, paste or liquid forms. Capsules in general contain a single dose of active ingredients and are taken orally. It is vital that the API filled in the capsule production process should not attack the shell and release the content of the capsules. Furthermore, the shell enclosure helps to delay the release of the API into the digestive tract.

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Capsules are usually seen in two types: hard gelatin capsules and soft gelatin capsules. Hard gelatin capsules consist of two parts, one is the body while another is the cap of the body. When two different properties of medicine are added in a capsule, one of them should be in the form of a tablet, pellet, or small capsule and then enclosed in the large capsule. Soft gelatin capsules, also known as softgels, are suitable for a non-aqueous solution such as oil. The active pharmaceutical ingredients are dissolved or suspended into a oil based form.

Softgel capsules. A quick introduction from 'How is it made'?

Soft gel capsules are made by preparing gelatin with water and a plasticizer or preparing your HPMC materials into a liquid mass. The fill material can be in the shape of a liquid, semi-solid solution or suspension and should be homogeneous to make sure API is distributed equally.

Veggie caps as an alternative for gelatine capsules

Being vegetarian, hydroxypropyl methylcellulose (HPMC) and starch capsule shells share religious and food preference advantage. Hypromellose comes from softwood trees, such as pine, spruce and fir trees and is a popular alternative for gelatine.

Gelatin capsules offer a lower cost of production, but HMPC capsules also offer certain advantages. Read more on how they compare here.

Industrial processing of hard shell capsules

For producing hard shell capsules, the shell manufacturing process and capsule filling are not necessarily done by the same company. Shell making starts by preparing the gelatin made from collagen or other cellulose preparation. Afterward several moulding pins made of standardized steel are dipped into the gelatin to create a capsule cap and body. Pins are transferred towards the drying area while spinning around their axis in order for the gelatin to get distributed evenly. After drying, capsule body and cap halves are stripped off the pins, cut to a correct length and in the final step joined together into a pre-lock position before they get ejected into containers for transport and powder filling.

Capsule filling and packaging equipment

Encapsulation refers to the process of enclosing active ingredients in a relatively stable shell, known as a capsule, for oral consumption. To pick a suitable capsule filler for your process considerations include capsule size and shell, the physical form of the material to be filled, desired dosing accuracy and sterility and production speed.

Vitamin or food supplement capsules are often packed in a simple container together with a desiccant pouch to absorb moisture and maintain a controlled environment. Blister packs offer more protection and often preferred for medicines or capsules that require more care or stricter dosage. Complete blister packaging solutions often include coding and die-cutting systems but simple entry level batch machines are also available.

Capsule manufacturing equipment in action

HMPC capsules

Softgel manufacturing line

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