Screening pharmaceutical excipient powders for use in commercial 3D binder jetting printers

Binder jetting is an additive manufacturing technique that creates three-dimensional constructs from a powder feedstock. It is used by several industries, including pharmaceuticals. This additive approach to manufacture provides several functional benefits that are not easily achievable using conventional manufacturing methods. There is currently only limited publicly available knowledge that details the requirements of an effective binder jetting powder. Specifically in the pharmaceutical industry, since the 2015 release of Spritam®, a binder-jetted tablet containing levetiracetam, no new pharmaceutical tablets have been produced using such methods.



Screening of pharmaceutical excipient powders for use in Binder Jetting process.
Printable microcrystalline cellulose formulation developed.
Various dosage shapes printed using pharmaceutical excipients.
Particle engineering can tune flow and wetting properties to enhance printability.

There appears to be gap in powder technology expertise and the development of 3D printing processes. Our goal is to enhance our knowledge in terms of powder flow, powder wetting and powder binding to link particles with process and build the capability to create a greater range of powders suitable to be binder-jetted into new products. After initially screening several standard pharmaceutical excipient powders for their relevant properties, two candidates showed best fit potential for use in binder jetting, specifically microcrystalline cellulose (Pharmacel 101 and 102) and lactose (Lactohale 200). Using simple formulations of these pharmaceutical excipient powders as a model, we analysed for printability and powder performance using a range of quantitative parameters including dimensional accuracy, construct hardness, friability, porosity and surface finish. In general, formulations of these powders showed good printability, but some powder blends produced constructs with more obvious manufacturing imperfections. Several routes to improve the printability of these pharmaceutical powders are proposed for future works. Ultimately, this work provides a fundamental basis to start to quantitatively assess the potential of standard pharmaceutical excipient powders in binder jetting printers using powder characterisation techniques and print quality outcomes. Continue reading 

Table 1. Candidate powders evaluated for binder jetting in a Projet CJP 460Plus printer.

Powder Trade NamePowder Generic NameManufacturerBatchd10d50d90
Calcium sulfate dihydrateSet gypsumSigma AldrichBCBV139071846
Calcium sulfate anhydrousSigma AldrichMKBW9429V3923
Calcium sulfate hemihydratePlaster of ParisSigma AldrichBCBV758151762
HydroxyapatiteSigma AldrichBCBZ32803715
β-tricalcium phosphateSigma AldrichBCBS4390V3717
Methocel E5HPMC E5Dow ChemicalVJ27012N232451107
Methocel E6HPMC E6Dow ChemicalQC270124022449127
Methocel K100HPMC K100Dow ChemicalTK06012N212051119
Methocel K4MHPMC K4MDow ChemicalTD02012N122362186
Methocel K3HPMC K3Dow ChemicalTE18012N221956160
Salicylic AcidMerck KGaAF159133591836
Croscarmellose sodiumDFE PharmaNot available*193147
Sigmacell CelluloseCelluloseSigma AldrichSLBN4490V102036
Avicel PH101MCC 101FMC CorpBCBQ8403V2455103
Pharmacel 101MCC 101DFE Pharma7652560120
Pharmacel 102MCC 102DFE Pharma7723186172
Lactopress anhydrous lactoseLactoseDFE Pharma95632070
Lactochem extra fine lactoseLactoseDFE Pharma97432050
Lactochem fine lactoseLactoseDFE Pharma75231540
Pharmatose 350 MLactoseDFE Pharma68943080
Pharmatose 450 MLactoseDFE Pharma10532050
Lactohale 200LactoseDFE Pharma3951865114
Pharmatose 130 MLactoseDFE PharmaNot available*1685196
20:80 VA64-Pharmacel 102BASF-DFE PharmaNot applicable**2773150
20:80 VA64-Pharmacel 101BASF-DFE PharmaNot applicable**2154105
20:80 VA64-Lactohale 200BASF-DFE PharmaNot applicable**2771119
0.5:9.0:90.5 MgSt-VA64-Lactohale 200Honeywell-BASF-DFE PharmaNot applicable**2470119

by A. Antic, J. Zhang, N. Amini, D.A.V. Morton, K.P. Hapgood, Screening pharmaceutical excipient powders for use in commercial 3D binder jetting printers, Advanced Powder Technology, 2021,ISSN 0921-8831, (

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