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Pharmaceutical Manufacturing and Packing Sourcer

Rough with the Smooth

Technological developments in texture analysis have improved product quality; Jo Smewing, at Stable Micro Systems, explores the new dimensions

For decades, pharmaceutical manufacturers have attempted to understand why certain products are more easily accepted than others. Working with universities and commercial research departments, pharmaceutical companies are increasingly looking at ways of measuring certain product characteristics that have an impact on quality – which can affect the efficacy, safety and customer acceptance of a product. Drug administration, interactions and side effects are well-established areas of research, but texture is another important aspect that has proven critical to overall performance of pharmaceutical products. Today’s ever changing market climate is dominated by stringent legislative and consumer demands, as well as increasing involvement from patients in areas such as self-prescribing. Constant testing, re-evaluation and new product developments are demanded in order to meet current trends. As a result, new dimensions of texture analysis are being explored to further improve product quality, gain competitive advantage and increase market share.

Two recent developments in this field are the analysis of acoustic emissions from solid products during deformation, and the video recording of the test during texture measurements to supplement traditional force-distance-time information. The following article explores these areas in more depth, explaining how they can be used to gain maximum commercial benefit.

Analysing the sounds emitted from products can provide vital information on actual and perceived product quality. When solid pharmaceutical products, such as chewable vitamins, painkillers and indigestion tablets are crushed through mastication or mechanical testing, unique sounds are emitted by the fracture event(s). These noises play a major role in determining the consumer’s perception and acceptance of a product. Every product has its own particular acoustic characteristics and the level or type of noise produced can determine the consumer’s acceptance or rejection of it, as well as giving an indication of its behaviour under compression. Acoustic analysis can therefore help manufacturers identify and analyse the sounds emitted from products and the results can be used to improve texture or change formulations, for example.


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Jo Smewing graduated from Nottingham University with a BSc and MPhil in Food Science. She has worked for Stable Micro Systems since 1994, having trained in several disciplines at United Biscuits. She has managed the application laboratory where she has developed specific texture analysis methods for the food industry. As Applications Manager she heads the development team of the company, which involves co-ordination of electronic, software and mechanical engineers in the generation of new products. Jo regularly writes magazine features across a range of industries including food, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and adhesives, and has published several papers on texture analysis.
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