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An Essential Part of the Tableting Process: Clean Tooling

by / Thursday, 21 February 2019

The number one reason for tablet press failure is lack of tooling cleanliness.

Dirty tooling may cause binding, which can damage tooling and tablet presses. Keeping tools clean can decrease premature tool wear and allow lubrication to be more effective as well as reduce the possibility of product cross-contamination.

Comparison of clean and dirty tablet compression tooling

Additionally, clean tooling is critical to the production of quality tablets. Dirty tools can cause tableting and product quality-related problems, including picking and sticking. Excessively worked or improperly maintained tools can create a downstream of production difficulties. With properly cleaned and maintained tooling, tablet manufacturers can expect the highest quality of tablets and a longer production life from their tooling.

It is critical that tooling is thoroughly cleaned and dried to remove any oil or product residue from the tablet press. A cleaning procedure that involves minimal human interaction is recommended to ensure that tools are cleaned consistently and to reduce the potential for damage.

Recommended Cleaning for Tooling Life & Product Safety

The optimum procedure that meets this criterion is ultrasonic cleaning with an automatic dryer. Ultrasonic cleaning provides the tooling with increased exposure to the cleaning solution without the risk of damage, critical for hard-to-reach portions of the punch, such as the keys and embossing. The advantage of using a dryer in conjunction with an ultrasonic cleaner is that it eliminates the potential for surface corrosion and discoloration.

Ultrasonic cleaning is highly effective for removing all traces of product and/or contaminants from tablet compression tooling. The Tableting Specification Manual (TSM) suggests an ultrasonic bath as the ideal method for clean tooling. After cleaning, moisture from the operator’s fingers can contaminate the tooling and cause rust. It is advised that the operator wear gloves while handling tooling. Beyond cleaning tools, an ultrasonic cleaner can also be used to clean press parts. This high-tech cleaning process saves times, reduces cost, and minimizes chemical and water waste.

How Ultrasonic Cleaning Works

Ultrasonic cleaners use high-frequency pressure waves to cause cavitation to agitate a liquid (usually cleaning solution and/or water), which in turn creates tiny bubbles that loosen and remove debris. The ultrasonic waves penetrate all surfaces of the tool, including hard-to-clean areas, such as key slots, cups, and die bores, and cause debris such as oil, grease, and biological residue to break up and disperse.

In addition to using an ultrasonic wash unit, it’s also critical that tools are rinsed and dried properly because any residue left from the cleaning solution can cause corrosion or discoloration of the tooling.

Ultrasonic Cleaner for Tablet Compression Parts

Natoli Stainless Steel 3-Piece Ultrasonic Cleaning system allows for quick and easy transfer of tooling from the wash to rinse to drying tanks saving time and labor.


Benefits of Ultrasonic Cleaning

More effective cleaning: Ultrasonic systems clean more effectively and thoroughly than manual scrubbing which can be ineffective on heavily soiled tooling and can cause damage to delicate surfaces. Using ultrasonic waves to clean will remove material even tightly adhered to surfaces.

Reduce Costs and Cleaning Time: Not only does ultrasonic cleaning save labor costs, but it also completes the cleaning cycle in less time. A typical cleaning cycle for moderately soiled tools can last 12 minutes or less and require little supervision, which frees up staff to spend time completing other tasks. The most important cost savings, however, may be reduced wear and tear on tools. Ultrasonic cleaners provide superior cleaning without using abrasives to remove grime and do not create friction or wear during the cleaning process.

Completes Cleaning Validation Process: Many tablet manufacturers must adhere to strict regulations and audit procedures that require them to ensure product contamination is removed from all components including tooling for the tablet press. Ultrasonic cleaning is the best method to validate that all tooling is free of contaminants. Completing all steps in the ultrasonic cleaning process enables tablet producers to verify that tooling is clean and that the cleaning process is repeatable.

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