A novel lab-scale screen extruder for studying extrusion-spheronisation

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A novel apparatus, the laboratory roller screen extruder (termed the LRS), was developed to replicate key aspects of the geometry and shear strain rates generated near the screen of industrial screen extruders. The configuration of the LRS is reported alongside a commissioning study employing a cohesive 45 wt% water/microcrystalline cellulose paste. The key operating parameters which controlled the extrudate mass flowrate, force on the screen and roller torque were (i) the size of the gap between the top of the roller blade and the screen, and (ii) the roller rotational speed. The data suggest that the apparent shear rate, based on the blade-screen clearance, provides a quantitative criterion for scale-up. The amount of screen flex showed good agreement with a simple bending deformation model. Spheronisation of the extrudates gave pellets with a narrow size distribution and acceptable sphericity which would be acceptable for capsule filling. Optimisation of the pellet shape was not performed. The results indicate that the LRS can be used to assess formulations for industrial screen extrusion-spheronisation.

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