Our vitamin and supplement manufacturing process has nine basic steps. These steps are:
- Preliminary Check
- Wet Granulation
- Weighing and Mixing
- Encapsulating Machine
- Polishing and Inspecting
Raw Materials Certification and Testing
To ensure the raw materials for the vitamin supplements are exactly what the distributor states, to confirm their level of purity (potency), and to test for any possible contaminants, vitamin supplement manufacturing performs testing as the first step in the production process. A complete Certificate of Analysis from the ingredient distributor aids in verifying the authenticity of the raw materials.
Dry Blending or Pre-blending
Like when baking a cake, the vitamin supplement manufacturing process requires the dry ingredients to be blended together first. These ingredients typically arrive in some form of powder. If the powder has already been blended/crushed very fine, this step may be bypassed. However, if the powder is still grainy, it needs to be blended or milled to reach the necessary consistency for further processing. Pre-blending also is the stage where certain fillers may be added if required by that particular supplement.
Wet Blending and Extrusion
The manufacturing process can and does vary depending on the vitamin form, whether the final product will be a tablet or capsule. The typical tablet produced by vitamin supplement manufacturing does travel through the wet blending or wet granulation process, in particular if the raw materials need special processing for tablet formation. Wet blending simply is the mixing of the finely milled vitamin powder with cellulose and then water. The final step in this process is drying this new blend to develop a solid product. The product then is milled and extruded into the manufacturer's desired granular size.
Weighing Before the Mixer
Again like baking the perfect cake, the ingredients must be properly weighed on a calibrated scale. Too much or too little of any one ingredient can have disastrous results. Following the weight requirements for the batch, the raw materials that have been through the blending processes are weighed. Once verified and approved, the product is placed into a mixer. According to How Products Are Made, "The volume of a typical mixer may be from 15-30 cu ft (0.42-0.84 cu m), though in a large manufacturing facility, it may be many times that large."
Mixing times vary, but on average the process takes approximately no more than 30 minutes. For quality assurance, samples are taken and analyzed by laboratory technicians. The samples are tested for ingredient uniformity and other standards. With a large batch mix, multiple samples may be taken and tested. Once the product has passed its sample testing, it's ready to be formed into capsules or tablets.
Capsules are a popular choice among consumers when purchasing vitamin supplements and over-the-counter medications. When vitamin manufacturers process supplements into capsule forms, it must flow through an encapsulating machine. This stage begins in the machine's hoppers. A test-run of the machine is employed to ensure that the final capsules will conform to quality standards (no cracking or dimpling of the capsule), including uniform weight. When the test batch passes the quality checks, a full batch run can begin.
The vitamin mixture is in one hopper, while a second hopper contains the gelatin capsules. The encapsulating machine splits the capsules in half, opening each to allow the vitamin mixture to fill the capsule's bottom half. The mixture flows through a funnel and into the open capsule, before a tamping pin pushes the vitamin mixture firmly into the gelatin capsule. The top is set into place, and the capsule is whole.
Capsules: Polishing Before Final Inspection
A polishing machine removes any lingering vitamin powder from the capsules, using soft brushes so as not to damage the exterior. This process leaves each shining and ready for inspection. The capsules are moved onto a special table that features rotating rods. As the vitamin capsules fall in between the rods, they rotate. This maneuvering allows the inspector to see every aspect of each capsule. If any capsule appears to have a crack, is the wrong length, or is otherwise unable to meet the standard quality protocols, it is removed.
Formation of Vitamin Tablets
The vitamin mixture, after weighing and mixing, can be processed into tablets instead of capsules. This requires a machine specifically for tablet production. The tablet process, like capsules, begins in the hopper. The mixture flows through the hopper into molds fitted on a rotating table. The molds vary depending on the type of tablet being formed. The forms may be a basic round tablet, an elongated oval, or even shaped like tiny animals or characters when children's vitamins are being created. The vitamin supplement manufacturing has multiple molds, also called dies, that can be interchanged on the table depending on the batch being processed.
How Products Are Made offers a detailed explanation, " The rotating table may be two to four feet (0.6-1.2m) in diameter, or even bigger... When the table rotates, the filled die moves into a punch press. When the upper and lower halves of the punch meet, 4-10 tons (3.6-9 metric tons) of pressure is exerted on the vitamin powder." Without that intense pressure, the vitamin tablet couldn't be formed or hold its desired shape. The tablets then move onto a vibrating belt to shake free any loose powder before entering the final coating process.
A coating generally is needed for any vitamin supplement tablet. The coating simply makes it easier to swallow and, therefore, more consumer-friendly. Coatings also eliminate any unpleasant tastes the supplement powder may present during consumption. Some coatings are designed to keep the tablet from dissolving too quickly; instead, they provide a slow release that allows for better absorption of the vitamin. The coating will vary depending on the vitamin supplement and its function for the body. Coatings are sprayed onto the tablets and then allowed to air-dry.
Packaging Vitamin Capsules and Tablets
The packaging process for both capsules and tablets usually is the same, but with variations in machines depending on vitamin supplement manufacturing. The key factor is that the vitamins are only moved through packaging by technology, keeping human hands from the finished product. A machine counts the correct amount of vitamins (tablets or capsules) into each container before it is safety sealed and labeled before the final packaging wrap is added.
The very last step in the process of how vitamin supplements are manufactured is the boxing process and distribution. While the details of each vitamin supplement manufacturing process vary, the overall basics are the same, including the attention to quality control and safety checks throughout the complete procedure.