What's the Process for Manufacturing Capsule Supplements?
Whether you’re an entrepreneur looking to enter the supplement manufacturing industry or an existing brand owner, knowing and understanding how supplements are made is essential. This article will give you a detailed explanation of the manufacturing process of capsule supplements. Understanding the process we've laid out will help you optimize your supply chain and properly structure your supplement business for long-term success.
Process of Manufacturing Capsule Supplements
Generally speaking, an experienced capsule manufacturer should be able to offer a 12-16 week lead time to create a new capsule supplement product and an 8-12 week turnaround time for an existing product/re-order. Of course, these ranges should be considered averages as a host of factors can increase the amount of time it takes to manufacture a product.
With that said, a variety of factors can affect this time frame, including:
- the type of product you're looking to manufacture
- the amount of bottles you're looking to manufacture
- the availability of raw materials
- and much more
In any event, the process of manufacturing capsule supplements can be broadly divided into the following steps:
Step 1: Blending
The first step of manufacturing capsules is to ensure that your supplement’s formula is blended correctly. This is done to confirm that ingredients are distributed evenly in each capsule before the encapsulation process commences. It usually takes two days for this process to be completed and can be carried out in the following ways:
- Wet granulation process
As the name suggests, during the wet granulation process, the supplement blend is kept ready, and water is added to it. This is done to wet the powder and create an immovable layer of water between the particles. As more water is added to the mix, the immovable layer gets wider and eventually passes through the pores of the particles. Then the water is evaporated out of the mix to create a strong level of adhesion between the particles causing them to become larger. The size of the particles will depend on:
- Type of binders used
- Amount of binders used
- Granulating fluid velocity
- Droplet size
- Spray rate
To finish the wet granulation process, the mix is dried depending on the size of the batch. Small batches are dried using a tray drying oven. Larger batches require more automation; hence fluid bed dryers are used. A stream of warm and dehumidified air is run through the base of the drying chamber, and a fine mesh is placed to ensure the powder is kept together.
- Dry granulation process
The dry granulation process is preferred when the supplement blend operates well when in contact with moisture and heat. As the name suggests, liquids are never introduced in the blend – hence, “dry” granulation. The blend is put into a machine that applies massive pressure and force for making the powder compact as well as increasing the bulk density. The intensity of the force applied depends on the blend, the required density, and ingredients. This process leads to a dense and stable formulation, that’s used for filling the capsules
Step 2: Encapsulation
After the blending process, the product is mixed with hot demineralized water by using a vacuum, in a machine. Hot water is periodically added along with any dyes and opacifants that may be needed. This mixture is then molded around steel pins into the desired size and shape, and both ends of the capsule are dried simultaneously. Depending on the blend, the temperature and humidity are monitored to ensure the capsules dry off optimally.
Following the drying and preparation, the capsule, along with the cap and body are trimmed. Finally, the capsules are ready to be put together, filled, and sent out. There are two types of capsules you can choose from:
- Gelatin Capsules
Since gelatin is made from animal by-products, derived from bovine or cows, it carries a host of benefits due to the presence of protein, glycine, and proline. Gelatin comes from collagen – the soft protein that connects the skin, bones, muscles, and tendons of the animal. It’s readily absorbed by the body and easily digested too. This quality makes gelatin ideal for children as well as consumers with sensitive stomachs.
- Vegetarian Capsules
When making vegetarian capsules, hypromellose is used as it doesn’t contain:
- Animal by-products
Another option for vegetarian capsule shells is Pullulan, a water-soluble polysaccharide produced by fermenting starch/sugar from the fungus named Aerobasidum pullulans. It is 100 % natural and free of:
Step 3: Polishing and Inspection
A polishing machine is used after capsules are filled to ensure fast and accurate checking and sorting of the capsules based on their defects. An inspection machine examines the entire surface of tablets for any visual defects by using a 360-degree inspection of the capsule from the rear, front, and side surface to guarantee consistency.
Step 4: Testing
Capsules undergo in-process quality control tests at predefined intervals during the manufacturing process – commonly, the following 10 tests are conducted:
- Permeability and sealing
- Potency and impurity content
- Weight variation test
- Uniformity of content
- Disintegration time test for capsules
- Dissolution test for capsules
- Moisture permeation test
- Microbial content
- Shelf-life test
- Stability testing of capsules
Final Notes on the Capsule Supplement Manufacturing Process
The complicated nature of capsule manufacturing requires new brand owners to partner with an experienced contract manufacturer who can guide them through every step of the way. Usually, as stated above, an experienced manufacturer will take approximately 12-16 weeks for new orders and 8-12 weeks for existing/re-orders.
These timelines are something we closely follow at NutraScience Labs. With over 50 years of nutraceutical industry experience, we would be happy to assist you in contract manufacturing your capsule supplements.
If you have any questions about the dietary supplement manufacturing process, our team is here to assist you. Call 855-492-7388 to speak to one of our knowledgeable representatives or send us your request to receive a free manufacturing price quote if you already have a formulation in mind!