A Vision for 3D Printing in Pharma Manufacturing

Three-dimensional (3D) printing—a type of additive manufacturing (AM)—has the potential to be the “next great step” in pharmaceutical manufacturing, enabling fabrication of specialty drugs and medical devices, said Emil Ciurczak, Doramaxx Consulting and CPhI expert panel member, in the 2016 CPhI Annual Industry Report. 3D printing could be used for personalized or unique dosage forms, more complex drug-release profiles, and printing living tissue, noted Ciurczak in the report. 

Because 3D printing builds an object layer by layer, it could be used to print drug tablets with a personalized dosage, possibly combining multiple drugs into a single dose. Printing a barrier between APIs in a multilayer tablet could facilitate targeted and controlled drug release. Ciurczak proposed some applications where 3D printing could be of benefit. Orphan drugs, for example, may be limited because their market is too small to justify production costs, but a 3D printing process could minimize the cost. Another possible use is for making tablets to calibrate dissolution testers for United States Pharmacopeia testing. Ciurczak suggested that 3D printing could allow these tablets to be made in smaller lots, as needed, rather than once every few years, which could improve reproducibility. Products that would benefit from the lack of high compressive forces in 3D printing of tablets, such as abuse-proof tablets, may be another opportunity.

Although personalized tablets and 3D-printed organs are still in development, there are already commercial, 3D-printed products in areas such as dental implants, tailored orthopedics, and tailored products for maxillofacial surgery.

“While mass production of dosage forms will probably remain the mainstay of the industry, with CM [continuous manufacturing] taking more and more of the workspace, 3D printing will also expand, due to the growth of personalized medicines and medical devices,” wrote Ciurczak. “A synergy between 3D and CM is also a potential, where formulations are developed on CM units and produced on 3D units, as needed. The limits of 3D printing are merely the needs and imagination of the researchers modelling the products of 3DP.”

Source:  2016 CPhI Annual Industry Report

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