Today, the pharmaceutical industry is growing at a rapid rate with several new research and developments. The industry has been bracing itself for some changes in the marketplace and is looking for new avenues to drive growth.

What is a filling machine and what is the relevance of this machine?

Pharmaceutical filling machines are utilized to fill syringes, vials, small bottles, and capsules.

The pharmaceutical sector has several variants of filling machine based on the capacity, features, functions, size, and shape of containers to be filled. A single machine can be utilized as a multi-tasking machine and can be further integrated with more than one pharmaceutical filling machine to perform the tasks.

Before we delve deep into the pharmaceutical filling machines for liquid and powder products, let us understand the pharmaceutical filling process and the involvement of the machines in the filling process.

Pharmaceutical Filling Process

The filling process in the pharmaceutical industry is the method of filling different drug substances into single-use systems, such as bottles and bioprocess containers. Maintaining sanitation during the fling process is vital as interaction with any foreign pollutants will compromise the product’s integrity.

Moreover, the heavy costs of developing and producing highly potent drugs always put pressure on the pharmaceutical filling process to increase yields and reduce waste. The manufacturing facilities ought to prevent and avoid underfilling and overfilling and underfilling during the pharmaceutical filling process, as these practices result in the wastage of money,  time, and resources.

Before the filling process, the drug containers including vials, syringes, cartridges, ampoules, and bottles, ought to be sterilized. The type of sterilization is dependent upon the material used for the containers, i.e. plastic or glass. Additionally, microorganisms are eradicated from a drug before the filling process with the help of sterile filtration. This filtration helps drug molecules to seep through while filtering out unwanted microorganisms.

With the help of well-established technologies with innovative digital and automation solutions, the filling process allows to gain maximum yields with high dosing accuracy. However, one needs to remember that achieving a high level of accuracy can be challenging, especially when it comes to catering to various types of available pharmaceutical formulations.

Ampoule and Vial Filling Machine

Blow-Fill-Seal Technology

Blow-Fill-Seal Technology is one of the most common filling processes. A pharmaceutical filling process, where containers are formed from a thermoplastic granulate, further filled with product, followed by sealing in a continuous, integrated, automatic operation.

Pharmaceutical Filling Machine

Owing to the demand for medicines, the pharmaceutical filling industry had to make a shift from manual to semi-automatic, and further from semi-automatic to automatic processes with less manual supervision.  A variety of pharmaceutical filling machines streamlines the pharmaceutical manufacturing process.

Manufacturing high-quality pharmaceutical filling machines requires a significant amount of financial investment in research, development, and production, which is highly likely a restraint in terms of cost for small organizations in the medical field.

What is the function of a Pharmaceutical Filling machine?

A Pharmaceutical Filling machine has the following roles:

  • The filling machine acts as a piece of equipment and expedites small and large-scale manufacturing.
  • It controls the sterility and precise volumetric dispensing of the product.
  • The filling machine facilitates constant operation to meet the never-ending output demands from the industry and customers.
  • The filling machine provides automated or semi-automated control of the manufacturing process.

Some of the filing machines include:

  • A syringe filling machine is used for large-scale filling, thereby ensuring sterility and dispensing of the correct volume of the medicine content.
  • The machine of vial filling can fill hundreds of vials per minute while securing against product loss and inconsistent volume.
  • To ensure that the final product meets quality standards before packaging, pharmaceutical checkweighers are adopted to sort out tablets and capsules that are flawed or broken.

The cost of filling machines depends on aspects such as the machine’s capacity and features for processing and packaging. Labeling and capping machines are available in several models as the capping of bottles, vials, ampoules and any other size and shape of the container is easier with flawless accurate filling measures.

Pharmaceutical Liquid Filling Machine

A liquid filling machine is used in the pharmaceutical business to fill vials or ampoules with liquid medication. These devices incorporate a mechanism for attaching stoppers over the tops of the containers. A pharmaceutical liquid-filling machine accommodates a wide range of liquid viscosities.

The most commonly used machine for filling and capping vials is the twin-head liquid filling with rubber stoppering machine with two filling heads to fill the vials and automatic rubber capping after finishing the filling job.

With an accuracy of up to +/- 0.5%, the pharmaceutical liquid filling machine includes:

The machines are equipped with automatic fillers, station cappers, and pre-feeders. Other types of machines include inductive sealers, snap cappers, turntables, and conveyor systems.

Different Types of Filling Machines

Pharmaceutical Powder Filling Machine

Powder-filling machines are useful in filling free-flowing granulated products. The following are the variations of the powder-filling machines:

  • Auger-type Powder Filling Machine, suitable for filling all kinds of powders such as penicillin snow powder, operates at high speed and has a strong condensed structure.
  • The Injectable Dry Powder Filling Machine contains a rubber stoppering mechanism. The automatic dry powder filler places rubber caps once the filling is done by the machine, thus preventing any powder from being adulterated.
  • Ensuring chemical stability of the drug, the Dry Syrup Filling Machine is the highest form of the automated machine wherein containers are sterilized and dried to avoid any change in content as free flow powders as well as non-free flow orders.

Pharmaceutical Syrup Filling Machine

Syrup-filling machines are most commonly used in pharma companies to automate the process of filling syrups into containers, such as bottles or vials.

The most common types of syrup-filling machines are:

  • Piston Fillers, where a piston is used to measure the precise amount of liquid or syrup medicine and fill it into the container.
  • Peristaltic Fillers, suitable for small amounts of syrup, use a rotating roller that compresses a tube to create a vacuum and draw in the syrup or liquid medicine
  • Gravity Fillers use gravity to fill the container with liquid medicine and are suitable for filling containers with huge openings and can additionally handle high-viscosity liquids.
Automatic Syrup Bottle Filling Machine

Pharmaceutical Capsule Filling Machine

Also known as a capsule filler, the capsule filling machine, is utilized to fill empty capsules with pharmaceutical ingredients.

Based on the uses and functions, the pharmaceutical capsule-filling machines can be categorized into the following:

  • Used for large-scale production and higher efficiency, a professional pharmaceutical capsule-filling machine is an automatic filler machine that fills a prescribed amount of medication or pharmaceutical ingredients into the capsule. Hence, Automatic Capsule Filling Machines are being utilized in large-scale capsule productions in the industry.
  • Used for small-scale capsule production, a personal capsule-filling machine is utilized by small-size entities to fill the capsule with the required dosage of prescribed medication. For this purpose, a manual capsule-filling machine has been designed to cater to minimal quantities.

A hybrid capsule-filling machine, also known as a semi-automatic capsule filler, is a combination of both manual and automatic capsule-filling machines. This machine can fill and rearrange the capsule caps as per the set computer programming.

Capsule filling machine

Pharmaceutical Filling Lines

Filling lines are a requirement for any packaging business especially in the pharmaceutical industry. A particular form of packaging is used on the basis of the type of medicine, especially when the nature of the medicine is in liquid form.

Pharmaceutical filling lines help expedite the modern pharmaceutical manufacturing process. Traditional pharmaceutical filling lines are single-format dedicated lines often with pre-preparation to process glass vials, cartridges, and syringes.​

The pharmaceutical filling line machinery has been one of the major pharmaceutical machinery for better production of liquid health chemicals.

Some of the product ranges under the pharmaceutical filling packaging lines include:

  • Ampoule Filling Line, an ampoule compact line, includes an ampoule production line is a cGMP injectable line ingrate with washing, filling sealing, inspection, and labeling operations.
  • Vial Liquid Filling Line is a vial production line consisting of washing, sterilizing, liquid filling, cap sealing, and labeling machines for filling injectable vials.
  • The syrup Production Line is a suspension filling line, consisting of a production plant, washing, liquid filling, capping, and labeling machines.
  • Ointment Cream Production Line, an ointment manufacturing line, comprises of topicals production line that is apt to produce ointments, cream, lotion, and gel. toothpaste

Pharmaceutical Fillers

In order to facilitate the processing of the components and create a size that is suitable for consumption, pharmaceutical fillers are adopted to enhance the volume of the material used.  Being a ubiquitous class of materials in formulated products, pharmaceutical fillers assist with product stabilization.

The active pharmaceutical ingredient is hardly regulated in its basic form, given the vast majority of medicinal medications in use today. This is a result of its presence being significantly less concentrated compared to the dosage form unit’s weight.

Role of Pharmaceutical Fillers

One of the most important roles of pharmaceutical fillers is to fill space. Apart from this, pharmaceutical fillers help with the following benefits:

  • Fillers are utilized to ensure consistency in the size of the tablet or capsule, thereby facilitating uniform mixing of active ingredients, in the manufacturing process.
  • Fillers add bulk to products making very small active ingredient components easier for consumption.
  • They stabilize and bind a supplement. However, they do not alter or impact the effectiveness of the active pharmaceutical ingredient.
  • Fillers provide the foundation upon which the formulation is constructed.

Pharmaceutical fillers can be classified on the basis of their functionality; dosage form in which they are used; source such as natural, mineral, or synthetic; and physical and chemical properties. They can be organic chemicals, simple inorganic chemicals, polymers, mineral substances, metal oxides, aerosols, and liquids.

Most Common Pharmaceutical Fillers in Solid Dosage Forms:

  • Lactose

A natural disaccharide obtained from milk, lactose has been one of the most commonly and widely used fillers in tablets and capsules, lyophilized products, and infant formulas.

  • Microcrystalline cellulose

Used in many types of dosage forms, microcrystalline cellulose is a purified, partially depolymerized cellulose and is included in the FDA Inactive Ingredients Database such as oral powders, suspensions, syrups tablets, etc.

  • Calcium Phosphate

The main advantages of calcium phosphates as pharmaceutical fillers include source of calcium, chemical inertness, and low hygroscopicity.

Composed of chemical substances such as calcium ions and phosphate anions, calcium phosphate includes tribasic calcium phosphate and hydrated dibasic calcium phosphate.

  • Sucrose

A naturally occurring disaccharide, sucrose is a compressible pharmaceutical filler used in tablets and is a popular filler due to its safety aspect, sweetness in taste, low reactivity, and cost-effectiveness.

  • Sodium Chloride

A crystalline white powder with a saline taste, sodium chloride is used widely in parenteral products to produce isotonic solutions. Moreover, it has been included in the  FDA Inactive Ingredients Database of ophthalmic, inhalations, injections, nasal, and various oral products.

Pharmaceutical Machinery

The Pharmaceutical Machinery industry has been flourishing in engineering excellence, cutting-edge technology, and professional approach. With the unstoppable growth of pharmaceutical companies, machine manufacturers have been upgrading themselves to meet the growing challenges arising from the requirements set by several pharmaceutical industries and companies.

The machines manufacture tablets, capsules, ointments, cosmetics, and liquids for the pharmaceutical industry.

Apart from liquid filling machines and powder filling machines, pharmaceutical machine manufacturing companies offer a plethora of packaging machinery such as inspection machines, capping machines, labeling machines, turn tables, tablet machines, blister packaging machinery, tablet press, and tube filling machines. The range of machine models is based on the products’ packaging capacities.

Globally, pharmaceutical scientists are in constant and dire need of instrumentation companies to develop faster, more efficient, and more precise tools, as the requirement for better productivity has been leading the movement of laboratory analytical tools into the processing arena.

Final Thoughts

The use of pharmaceutical filling machines has become indispensable to the pharmaceutical sector.

By choosing the perfect filling machine, pharmaceutical companies could enhance production and manufacturing processes, improve consistency, reduce labor costs, increase flexibility, and maintain high-quality standards for their products.