I Holland launch PharmaCote ECxtra for tool coating

The company has launched an improvement to its PharmaCote range, developed to tackle the issues surrounding hard chrome plating for tablet tooling

I Holland, manufacturer of tablet tooling for the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical markets, claim that the product has improved performance and environmental benefits compared to hard chromium, the most common tooling form.

Corrosion, wear and formulation sticking to the punch tip face all negatively effect the tablet punches and is a large issue tablet manufacturing. One way of combating the problem is with the use of coatings.

Rob Blanchard, I Holland’s R & D Manager said:

“ECxtra is a chromium-rich coating that is applied via an advanced sputtering technique. This process causes a very smooth and dense coating which helps to create an anti-stick surface.”

Traditionally, electroplated hard chromium has been the most popular coating used within the tablet tooling industry. However, 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 the unwanted characteristic. However, this does not completely remove the problem.

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 create a porous route to the substrate that allows tablet formulas or cleaning solutions to attack the steel beneath.

PharmaCote ECxtra also has “environmental credentials”, according to Blanchard.

“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,” Blanchard said. “This has significant implications on worker safety and is under review by several agencies.”