I Holland Tablet PunchI Holland, a leading manufacturer of tablet tooling for the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical markets, has launched a further improvement to one of the most advanced tool coatings on the market – PharmaCote ECxtra.

Unlike hard chromium, the most common tooling form, this unique product boasts improved performance and environmental benefits.

The protection of tablet punches from problems such as corrosion, wear and formulation sticking to the punch tip face is a renowned issue in tablet manufacturing and one which I Holland has worked hard towards solving.

One way of combating the problem is with the use of coatings. Traditionally, electroplated hard chromium is the most popular coating used within the tablet tooling industry but it has serious drawbacks.

When hard chromium is applied to tooling, a certain amount of hydrogen penetrates the substrate, which can decrease the steel’s working load by up to 20%.

To counter this effect, the plated tools undergo a baking process known as de-embrittlement that reduces, but does not totally eliminate, the unwanted characteristic. It is also subject to micro-cracks, which can develop during the plating process when the internal stress exceeds the tensile strength of the chromium. These micro-cracks are problematic because they provide a porous route to the substrate that will allow tablet formulas or cleaning solutions to attack the steel beneath.

PharmaCote ECxtra has been developed to stop the issues encountered by hard chrome, but still provide a coating that provides excellent tooling protection at a competitive price.

Rob Blanchard, I Holland’s R&D Manager, said: “ECxtra is a further improvement to our PharmaCote range. It is a chromium-rich coating that is applied via an advanced sputtering technique. This process causes a very smooth and dense coating that helps to create an anti-stick surface.”

“What is also notable about ECxtra is its environmental credentials. Hard chrome itself is not an eco-hazard, but there are environmental problems associated with the plating process. The main issue is the chromic acid solution used in the process, which generates a waste product containing hexavalent chromium.”

“This has significant implications on worker safety and is under review by several agencies. PharmaCote ECxtra does not have the same environmental implications and is actually one of the most advanced coatings available in the range,” he concluded.