Merck’s 3D printing overview
Traditional tablet production is efficient for large volumes, but it’s costly and time-consuming for clinical trial drug manufacture. 3D printing will make it simpler, faster and less expensive.
NEXT-GENERATION TABLET MANUFACTURING: 3D PRINTING
Large-scale tablet production as we know it today was invented in the late 19th century. Although the machinery has, of course, become more modern, the manufacturing process has hardly changed and is still based on the compression of powders and granules.
This traditional tablet manufacturing process is very efficient for large-scale production. Yet, when active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) dosages need to be adapted – as it is the case for clinical studies or for any tablet batch production in smaller volumes – the process is both extremely time-consuming and expensive.
We are currently developing a GMP-qualified solution that uses additive manufacturing (commonly known as 3D printing) technology combined with powder formulation. Laser sintering technology will simplify tablet production tremendously, leading to significant cost and time savings in clinical development.
Tablet manufacturing using additive manufacturing will be as easy as “mixing, printing, done”. The API is mixed with excipients as a powder. A laser then fuses the mixture in a powder bed into tablets layer by layer. The tablets are then coated, and it’s all done!
In addition, 3D printing allows for API formulation to be scalable while avoiding costly reformulations throughout the entire pharmaceutical development and commercial production processes.
ALL CRITICAL CAPABILITIES IN ONE PLACE
This novel approach is being pursued at the Merck Innovation Center, which brings ideas, knowledge and people together to create new viable businesses beyond the company’s current scope. The innovation project can benefit greatly from the long-standing formulation expertise of our Healthcare business sector as well as the experience of our Life Science business with excipients. In addition, we are partnering with EOS, the world’s leading technology supplier in the field of industrial 3D printing of metals and polymers, on this project.
The goal is to establish, in a first step, a Contract Development and Manufacturing Organization offering tablet formulation development and production for clinical trials.
Listen to Merck’s “Future Talk” about “3D Printed Pills: Faster, Cheaper, Simpler” with Dr. Inés Dawson, Dr. Christoph Hüls & Martin Bullemer here!
In addition to making tablet manufacturing simpler and reducing time and costs, we envision making it possible to mass produce tablets flexibly and sustainably in line with patient needs. Tablet production could be tailored locally to meet specific market requirements, for example. Or imagine how it could benefit children or elderly people by providing them with tablets in special shapes and colors so that they can easily recognize their medications.