Types of Capsule Filling Machines

Capsule filler machines play an integral role in modern pharmaceutical industries. We use these machines to fill powder, pellets, tablets, or solutions into capsules.

Depending on your production needs, or the material you want to package, there are many types of capsule-filling machines available today.

Whether you wish to fill soft gel capsules or hard gelatin capsules, you will find a machine that meets your unique production needs.

But first, let’s get some basics right:

What are Capsules?

A capsule is a small “container” we use to package drugs or any other formulation. Depending on your industry requirements, you can package:

  • Drugs
  • Supplements or,
  • Vitamin products
Capsules
Capsules

As earlier mentioned, the capsule content can be in the form of solvent, tablets, powder, or pellets.

Broadly, there are two types of capsules to choose from:

1. Soft Gelatin Capsules

They have a soft structure. Softgel capsules are perfect for packaging solvents.

At times, we refer to soft gel as one-piece capsules. It is because they come in the form of a single piece that you cannot separate.

Softgel Capsules
Softgel Capsules

2. Hard Gelatin Capsules

Unlike the Softgel capsules, these capsules have a hard shell. For this reason, they are also called two-piece capsules. That is, you can separate these capsules into two different pieces. That is the:

  • Capsule body
  • Capsule cap
Two Piece Capsules
Two Piece Capsules

Furthermore, other types of capsules available are classified as:

  • Vegetable capsules – these capsules don’t have gelatin or any animal product
  • Acid-resistant capsules – these capsules are resistant to gastric acids hence they do not release their content in the stomach. The capsules are also called delayed-release capsules.

Of course, these capsules come in different sizes, which may require unique filling mechanisms. As a result, you may require capsule-filling machines with specialized dosing mechanisms.

With that overview, let’s explore the most common types of capsule-filling machines.

Hard Gelatin Capsule Filler or Two Piece Capsule Filler Machines

These are some of the most common types of capsule fillers. Whichever machine you choose, the working principle is quite simple:

  • Receiving empty capsules from the hopper (Remember, the capsule sizes may vary from 000, 00 to 5)
  • Positioning the capsules
  • Separating capsules (separating capsule cap from the body)
  • Filling capsules with appropriate product
  • Sealing capsules or replacing two-piece capsule’s cap
  • Expelling filled and sealed capsules from the filling system

Although the fundamental process remains the same, how the different types of capsule filler machines work will depend on the technology.

You will learn more about this as we explore the different types of capsule filler machines.

Manual Capsule Filler

Manual Capsule Filling Machine
Manual Capsule Filling Machine

A manual capsule-filling machine is one of the most basic equipment. As the name suggests, manual capsule filler is operated mainly by hand.

You should note two critical things about this type of capsule-filling machine:

  • The initial investment cost is low
  • Best for small-scale production – on average, it can process about 25 capsules to about 500 capsules in a single pressing cycle depending on the machine size.
  • Tedious to use since you will handle nearly all operations

Although manual capsule filler machines come in different designs, the most common configuration has two trays. The bottom tray and top tray.

In this method of filing capsules, you will ensure empty capsules fit every hole in the bottom tray. You will then fill the empty capsules with powder.

Next, you will fill the upper tray with the top section of the empty capsules. Once the powder fills the bottom seals, you will replace the cover. Press gently to cover the filled capsules.

In manual capsule filler machines, every process is manually operated. This makes the entire capsule-filling process slow and somehow tedious.

Usually, this explains the low production capacity when filling capsules using this type of capsule filler. Well, there are many different types of manual capsule-filling machines available. You can choose a manual capsule filler design depending on your production needs.

Semi-automatic Capsule Filler

Semi Automatic Capsule Filler Machine
Semi Automatic Capsule Filler Machine

A semi-automatic capsule filling machine is a hybrid capsule filler. That is, it combines certain aspects of a manual capsule-filling machine and a fully automatic capsule filler.

Although semi-automatic capsule filler machines come in different designs, generally, certain aspects are automated. Whereas others are hand-operated.

Let’s quickly look at how this machine works:

  • Through the HMI, you will configure the machine depending on your capsule-filling parameters
  • Fill respective hoppers with powder and capsules
  • Place the capsule plate just below the feeding system. The machine will automatically rectify and feed the capsule into different holes within the plate. Note that at this point, you have to place the capsules manually
  • The capsule plate has two parts – an upper section and a bottom part
  • Remove the tray from the capsule filling station then separate the top from the bottom section. Of course, you will handle this manually.
  • Next, the machine will fill the capsules’ body with the right quantity of material. Note that this process takes place automatically.
  • After feeding the powder, replace the upper plate of the capsule filler plate.
  • Put it on the machine and let it press the two together. This will ensure the capsule’s cap pushes through to the locking rings on the main capsule body. This forms a tightly sealed capsule.

Now, there are a few things you need to note whenever you are working with semi-automatic capsule filler:

  • The operator moves the tooling system from one station to another. That is, from capsule feeding station, powder feeding station to capsule locking station.
  • Feeding capsules and powder is fully automatic

Looking at the working principle of a capsule filling machine that is partially automated and the manual capsule filler, the semi-automated option has a higher production capacity.

Furthermore, the components of a capsule filling machine with semi-automated parts are more than manual capsule filler. Therefore, expect to pay more for these machines.

Fully Automatic Capsule Filling Machine

Illustrating How fully automatic capsule filling machine works
Illustrating how a fully automatic capsule-filling machine works

Fully automatic capsule filler machines are popular for their high production capacity. Unlike other machines for filling powder in hard capsules, all processes are fully automated.

These types of capsule filling machines are fully programmed to execute all the vital processes. Currently, they are some of the most common pharmaceutical capsule filling machines in most drug manufacturing companies.

There are many reasons why you should consider investing in automatic capsule filler machines:

  • Best for high-speed capsule filling processes or large-scale production
  • Reduces possible product contamination
  • Highly accurate and scalable capsule filler machines
  • Improves capsule filling efficiency

With the fully automated system, the components of the capsule filling machine are more complex. At the same, you should expect to pay more for a unit of these capsule filler machines.

Of course, depending on the working principle, and production requirements, we have:

  • Tamping pin capsule filling machines
  • Dosator capsule filling machines

We shall come to these classification criteria shortly. Let’s explore the working principle of capsule filling machines with fully automated capability:

Step 1: Configure Capsule Filler

You should ensure the capsule filling machine has the right configurations and parameters. In most cases, you can do this through the human-machine interface (HMI) or touchscreen display.

Step 2: Put Capsule and Powder in Respective Hoppers

These machines have different hoppers for products such as pellets, or powder. At the same time, there is a shopper where you will put empty capsules.

After configuring the capsule filler machine, and having both product and empty capsules ready, you can start the filling process.

Step 3: Capsules Rectification

Empty capsules come with both body and cap joined together. Besides, when you place empty capsules in the hopper, they will be in different orientations.

Therefore, capsule rectification is critical. It will ensure the empty capsules are in the right position ready for the filling process.

As the empty capsule plate moves up and down, capsules are pushed into the right position ready for the next process. Usually, the capsules fall symmetrically.

With the help of a horizontal fork and vertical fork, the capsules enter the compartment with the body segment fist. This ensures the capsules’ cap now becomes the top section.

Step 4: Separating Empty Capsule Cap and Body

Next, the machine uses a vacuum mechanism to separate the capsule cap and body. At this time, we will have the upper section with the capsule cap and the lower section with the capsule body.

During this stage, in case a capsule’s body and cap fail to separate, it will be rejected. Only the separated capsules move to the next stage.

Step 5: Capsule Filling Stage & Locking

Separated capsules will move to the filling station. The machine will fill the capsules with the right amount of powder or granules. From here, the machine replaces the cap thereby locking the capsules.

From here, the capsule will be ejected ready for other processes such as cleaning, sorting, and packaging.

Remember, in stage 5 where the fully automatic capsule filling machines dose power into the empty capsules, there are various techniques the machine uses. Again, this forms an important way to classify these types of capsule-filling machines.

Based on the capsule-filling technique, we have:

  • Dosator capsule filling machine
  • Tamping pin capsule filling machines

Well, these are some of the most common capsule-filling techniques. The working principle of capsule-filling machines varies depending on the dosing mechanism.

Let’s compare the two techniques:

Tamping Pin Capsule Filling Process
Tamping Pin Capsule Filling Process
Dosator Capsule Filling Process
Dosator Capsule Filling Process
Parameters to CompareTamping Pin Capsule Filling MachineDosator Capsule Filling Machine
Form in which they discharge powder· Slug for better yield and precise dosing· Slug for better yield and precise dosing
Type of material to fill in empty capsules· Pellets

· Powder

· Pellets

· Powder

Types of capsules· Suitable for all standard capsule sizes· Suitable for all standard-size capsules
Application·  Best for standard-size capsules. However, it does not work well in micro-dosing· It is suitable for micro-dosing.  – That is when you want to fill capsules with a capacity of 200 mg and below
Working principle · Tooling systems have several pins that may range from 1 to 5 with a dosing disc consisting of several holes

· As the dosing disc rotates, the powder flows into the hole. At the same time the pins press material in stages

· That is, the powder undergoes successive compression until the capsule filler discharges it into the empty capsules

· The design features a rotating Dosator pin and cavity

· The machine inserts a dosator pin into the powder, which then fills the cavity

· Once the dosator pin is in the powder bed, it exerts a force thereby compacting the powder

· The powder tip is trimmed and ejected into empty capsules

 

As you can see, the difference between these two capsule filler technologies depends on how they prepare powder before ejecting it into the empty capsule.

In short, when it comes to two-piece capsules, these are the only options at your disposal.

Filling Softgel Capsule

These types of capsule filling machines have unique designs and configurations. Also referred to as softgel encapsulation machines, they fill solvents or products in liquid form thereby making softgel capsules.

Ideally, these capsule encapsulation machines are examples of fully automatic capsule filling machines. However, their working principle is completely different.

The main components of a softgel capsule encapsulation machine are a liquid pump, wedge, spreader box, tumbler dryer, die roll, and lubrication roller among other parts.

Usually, the working principle of capsule filling machines with this design involves:

Softgel Encapsulation Process
Softgel Encapsulation Process

Step 1: Prepare Gelatin

You need a gelatin that will be the outer shell of softgel capsules. The process involves mixing all ingredients including colorants plasticizers, gelatin, and water. This forms a syrup-like structure that forms the outer shell of the soft gelatin capsules.

Step 2: Prepare Material to Fill Softgel Capsules

These capsule fillers are designed for semi-liquid products. These can be CBD oil or any other liquid medicine.

The ingredients will vary depending on the content you want to fill in softgel capsules.

Step 3: Softgel Capsule Encapsulation Process

During this process, both the gelatin and product “meet” on the die system (tooling system). The dies system is a tooling section where the capsule encapsulation process takes place. The shape of your softgel capsules will depend on the die system.

Once you have the fill material and gelatin ready, you will start the process.

As the gelatin leaves the gelatin tank, it flows through the spreader which helps to make ribbon. Remember, the gelatin moves from two different sides.

The two gelatin ribbons pass over the strategically mounted die rollers. At the same time, the product material you want to fill flows between the two ribbons as the die hermetically seals the content.

The soft gelatin capsules at this point require further processing such as drying to remove excess water.

Using Capsule Filling Machines in the CBD Industry

CDB industry has gained immensely from capsule filling machines. Remember, we have CBD powder capsules as well as CBD softgel capsules.

Therefore, if you are planning to package:

  • CBD powder in capsules, you will choose machines for filling two-piece capsules
  • For CBD oil, you will use softgel encapsulation machines

Depending on your unique packaging requirements, choose a unique type of capsule filling machine. For the best machines for your industry contact us now.

More Resources:

Capsules – Source: WIKIPEDIA

Filling Machines – Source: LOM

Capsule Filling Machine – Source: PHARMAPPROACH

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