Condition monitoring of pharmaceutical powder compression during tabletting using acoustic emission
This research project aimed to develop a condition monitoring system for the final production quality of pharmaceutical tablets and detection capping and lamination during powder compression process using the acoustic emission (AE) method. Pharmaceutical tablet manufacturers obliged by regulatory bodies to test the tablet's physical properties such as hardness, dissolution and disintegration before the tablets are released to the market. Most of the existing methods and techniques for testing and monitoring these tablet's properties are performed at the tablet post-compression stage. Furthermore, these tests are destructive in nature. Early experimental investigations revealed that the AE energy that is generated during powder compression is directly proportional to the peak force that is required to crush the tablet, i. e. crushing strength. Further laboratory and industrial experimental investigation have been conducted to study the relationship between the AE signals and the compression conditions. Traditional AE signal features such as energy, count, peak amplitude, average signal level, event duration and rise time were recorded. AE data analysis with the aid of advanced classification algorithm, fuzzy C-mean clustering showed that the AE energy is a very useful parameter in tablet condition monitoring. It was found that the AE energy that is generated during powder compression is sensitive to the process and is directly proportional to the compression speed, particle size, homogeneity of mixture and the amount of material present. Also this AE signal is dependent upon the type of material used as the tablet filler. Acoustic emission has been shown to be a useful technique for characterising some of the complex physical changes which occur during tabletting. Capping and lamination are serious problems that are encountered during tabletting. A capped or laminated tablet is one which no longer retains its mechanical integrity and exhibit low strength characteristics. Capping and lamination can be caused by a number of factors such as excessive pressure, insufficient binder in the granules and poor material flowabilities. However, capping and lamination can also occur randomly and they are also dependent upon the material used in tabletting. It was possible to identify a capped or laminated tablet by monitoring the AE energy level during continuous on-line monitoring of tabletting. Capped tablets indicated by low level of AE energy. The proposed condition monitoring system aimed to set the AE energy threshold that could discriminate between capped and non-capped tablets. This was based upon statistical distributions of the AE energy values for both the capped and non-capped tablets. The system aims to minimise the rate of false alarms (indication of capping when in reality capping has not occurred) and the rate of missed detection (an indication of non capping, when in reality capping has occurred). A novel approach that employs both the AE method and the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve was proposed for the on-line detection of capping and lamination during tabletting. The proposed system employs AE energy as the discriminating parameter to detect between capped and non-capped tablets. The ROC curve was constructed from the area under the two distributions of both capped and non-capped tablet. This curve shows a trade-off between the probabilities of true detection rate and false alarm rate for capped and non-capped tablet. A two-graph receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve was presented as a modification of the original ROC curve to enable an operator to directly select the desired energy threshold for tablet monitoring. This plot shows the ROC co-ordinate as a function of the threshold value over the entire threshold (AE energy) range for all test outcomes. An alternative way of deciding a threshold based on the slope of the ROC curve was also developed. The slope of the ROC curve represents the optimal operating point on the curve. It depends upon the penalties cost of capping and the prevalence of capping. Sets of guidelines have been outlined for decision making i.e. threshold setting. These guidelines take into account both the prevalence of capping in manufacturing and the cost associated with various outcomes of tablet formation. The proposed condition monitoring system also relates AE monitoring to non-AE measurement as it enable an operator predicting tablet hardness and disintegration form the AE energy, a relationship which was established in this research.