Continuous & Semi-Continuous Applications

Superior expertise, equipment design and process knowledge for the feeding, material handling and extrusion of continuous and semi-continuous processes

As the pharmaceutical industry continues to accelerate the current paradigm shift in pharmaceutical processing from batch to continuous, Coperion and Coperion K-Tron have continued to be technology leaders in this mode of manufacture. Our high-accuracy loss-in-weight feeders, integrated pneumatic refill systems, and continuous pharma extruders have become critical components of various continuous and semi-continuous processes, such as continuous direct compression, continuous wet and dry granulation and hot melt extrusion, milling and micronization, and continuous coating. Our loss-in-weight feeders, pneumatic systems and extruders are available in hygienic easy clean executions, with options on various modes of product containment, cleaning, and accessibility. Extensive continuous process knowledge, as well as design expertise in handling even the most difficult excipients and active ingredients have made Coperion and Coperion K-Tron the industry leaders in continuous manufacturing technology.

Typical continuous manufacture materials include:

  • API’s (of varied potency levels)
  • Excipients (e.g.  microcrystalline cellulose (MCC), hydroxypropylcellulose (HPC), crosscarmellose sodium, lactose hydroxypropylmethyl cellulose (HPMC), silicon dioxide, titanium dioxide, povidone (PVP), crospovidone, starch, etc.)
  • Lubricants (e.g. magnesium stearate, calcium stearate, stearic acid, etc.)
  • Diluents and fillers (e.g. salt, calcium phosphate)
  • Binders (e.g. carnauba wax, corn starch, gelatin, sucrose)
  • Liquid Binders
  • Coloring agents & preservatives (e.g. iron oxide, ferric oxide)
  • Synthetic Polymers (e.g. polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP), polyethylene glycol (PEG))
  • Glidants (e.g. fumed silica, talc, magnesium carbonate)
  • Sweeteners and flavorings
  • Vitamins and antioxidants
  • Final formulation blends

Features and Benefits

  • Coperion ZSK twin screw extruders and Coperion K-Tron pharma feeders and vacuum refill systems are designed specifically to meet the hygienic requirements of the pharmaceutical industry
  • Coperion K-Tron’s superior accuracy in loss-in-weight feeding, with resolutions as high as 1 in 4'000'000, is a critical component of the continuous process
  • Coperion’s expertise in both hot melt extrusion as well as wet granulation applications with the ZSK pharma extrusion line ensures the highest quality standards for pharmaceutical formulations
  • Coperion K-Tron’s wide array of pharmaceutical feeder configurations as well as innovative technologies, such as electronic pressure compensation, ActiFlowTM for difficult flowing powders and the Smart Refill control algorithms, ensure consistent and accurate feeding for a wide array of pharmaceutical powders
  • Coperion’s global systems engineering network can provide complete and specialized systems designs, with integrated controls for a variety of continuous processes
  • Custom engineered solutions for Coperion K-Tron’s feeding and material handling equipment are available, including WIP and COP designs as well as high potency containment
  • Coperion K-Tron’s line of integrated pneumatic conveying refill systems ensures the highest accuracy and consistent mass flow of product to the continuous process
  • Coperion K-Tron’s line of liquid loss-in-weight feeders are ideal for a continuously metered feed of liquid streams in wet granulation applications

Application Examples

Coperion Pharma twin screw extruder
Pharma extruder ZSK 18 MEGAlab with KT20 feeder (shown with top opened)

The application of continuous extrusion via twin screw extruders for pharmaceutical solid dosage forms as well as adhesives and implants is growing in popularity. Twin screw extrusion offers several advantages including reproducible continuous processing with highly efficient dispersive and distributive mixing, granulating and devolatilization. This production method also provides gentle product handling in short residence times with low temperatures.

Find out more about pharma extrusion.

Download the application sheet for more information:

Continuous Direct Compression (CDC) or Continuous Blending is one of the simplest forms of continuous manufacturing for solid dosage forms. The emergence of CDC in the pharmaceutical industry offers several key technical and process advantages including decreased operational costs, decreased space and utility costs and production of tighter specifications products with higher and more consistent product quality. The application sheet linked below outlines the roles of Coperion K-Tron LIW feeders for proportioning each ingredient in the continuous mixing process and also the key principles of accurate feeding and refill operations.

Download the application sheet for more information:

Coperion K-Tron feeder with Hosokawa Alpine UPZ pin mill in isolator

Size reduction mills and micronizers are used widely throughout the pharmaceutical industry for the reduction of active ingredients as well as bulk pharmaceuticals and excipients such as lactose. In most milling or micronization applications, the feed rate into the mill is an important factor in determining and controlling resultant particle size distribution. The application sheet linked below outlines the requirements of both volumetric and gravimetric feeders for milling applications, and also examines their principles of operation in the milling process.

Download the application sheet for more information:

Flow diagram of a refill operation for a continuous blender

The mode of refill of product to a LIW feeder in a continuous pharmaceutical process can be almost as critical as choosing the right feeder technology, since the objective of LIW feeder refill is to refill as quickly as possible to maximize the operation in gravimetric mode. Pneumatic receivers that operate under a dilute phase vacuum transfer principle are often used as refill devices. The application sheet linked below defines the use of pneumatic receivers as refill devices and outlines the operating and design principles necessary to ensure optimum refill.

Download the application sheet for more information:

Comprehensive Product Range

Pharma Extruders

High efficiency with optimal dispersion twin-screw pharmaceutical extrusion

The Coperion line of ZSK pharma extruders is ideally suited for both hot melt applications or wet granulation of pharmaceutical formulations. Whether producing solid dosage forms, specialty adhesives, subdermals, or medical devices, the Coperion pharmaceutical line of ZSK extruders provide the highest efficiency and product quality. Coperion's ZSK extruders include a modular design and availability of a number of screw element configurations for optimal flexibility.

Pharma Extruders

Feeding Equipment

Superior Accuracy for powder and liquid feeding of continuous pharmaceutical operations

Coperion K-Tron’s dry powder and liquid loss-in-weight feeders are ideally suited for even the most difficult flowing excipients and API’s used in continuous processing. Our wide range of feeding technologies, including loss-in-weight single screw or twin screw, vibratory tray and microfeeders continue to be the choice for feeding due to their high accuracy and reliability. The Coperion K-Tron feeders of the PH line of pharmaceutical design feeders are available in a variety of design configurations and can be easily adapted to meet the strictest requirements of the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical industries. Our Micro Screw Feeders are also designed with the hygienic requirements of pharmaceutical applications in mind.

Volumetric and gravimetric feeders

Material Handling

Easy clean and completely integrated pneumatic conveying refill systems for continuous processes

The Coperion K-Tron P-Series line of pneumatic conveyors are ideally suited for the quick and efficient refill of our loss-in-weight feeders. Designs are available for a variety of product pick up options, including drums, IBCs or supersacks. In addition, options are available with retractable spray ball assemblies and/or swing-out filter heads to permit total ease of disassembly and minimized downtime for cleaning.

Process Equipment
Coperion service technician


Superior Global Service

Our global service personnel possess extensive material handling and process design knowledge for these special hygienic applications and are available 24/7 to assist you with your continuous and semi-continuous process needs.

After Sales Service

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I improve my loss-in-weight feeder accuracy for pharmaceutical operations?

Loss-in-weight (LIW) or gravimetric feeders are devices which directly measure the material’s weight to achieve and maintain a predetermined feed rate that is measured in units of weight per time. The Pharmaceutical design LIW feeder consists of a hopper, refill device, weight-sensing device (typically either a digital or analog load cell), feeder (typically a volumetric screw feeder powered by a variable-speed motor), and controller. An operator programs the controller to discharge material at a predetermined feed rate (or setpoint) measured in units of weight per time (such as pounds per hour).

In the pharmaceutical industry, LIW feeders are used for a number of unit operations including continuous extrusion, milling and mcronization, batching into mixers or reactors, and continuous operations such as blending, coating, and granulation. LIW feeders can either be used to batch pre-blends into a process or indidivual components of the formulation including API’s and excipients, many of which are non free flowing. In all of these cases, the accuracy of the LIW feeder greatly affects the outcome of the process below. For example, in the case of continuous direct compression, second-to-second feeder accuracy of each component can be critical to the end blend uniformity. The article linked below outlines several key areas where the performance of the feeder can be optimized. It is critical when evaluating LIW feeders for both your batch or continuous processes, that all of these factors be considered in detail.

Read more in our article published in Tablets & Capsules Solid Dose Digest.


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Coperion K-Tron pharmaceutical loss-in-weight feeder

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