Atomisation of an aqueous solution for tablet film coating is a complex process with multiple factors determining droplet formation and properties. The importance of droplet size for an efficient process and a high quality final product has been noted in the literature, with smaller droplets reported to produce smoother, more homogenous coatings whilst simultaneously avoiding the risk of damage through over-wetting of the tablet core. In this work the effect of droplet size on tablet film coat characteristics was investigated using X-ray microcomputed tomography (XμCT) and confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM). A quality by design approach utilising design of experiments (DOE) was used to optimise the conditions necessary for production of droplets at a small (20 μm) and large (70 μm) droplet size. Droplet size distribution was measured using real-time laser diffraction and the volume median diameter taken as a response. DOE yielded information on the relationship three critical process parameters: pump rate, atomisation pressure and coating-polymer concentration, had upon droplet size. The model generated was robust, scoring highly for model fit (R2 = 0.977), predictability (Q2 = 0.837), validity and reproducibility. Modelling confirmed that all parameters had either a linear or quadratic effect on droplet size and revealed an interaction between pump rate and atomisation pressure. Fluidised bed coating of tablet cores was performed with either small or large droplets followed by CLSM and XμCT imaging. Addition of commonly used contrast materials to the coating solution improved visualisation of the coating by XμCT, showing the coat as a discrete section of the overall tablet. Imaging provided qualitative and quantitative evidence revealing that smaller droplets formed thinner, more uniform and less porous film coats.
Bibliographical note© 2016 Dennison et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Funding: MRC CASE award (Grant No. MR/J01236X/1) with Viridian Pharma Ltd.
Data Availability Statement: All relevant data are within the paper.