Shear strength of pharmaceutical tablets: Theoretical considerations, evaluation and relation with the capping tendency of biconvex tablets

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Capping is a major industrial issue during pharmaceutical powder compression, especially in the case of biconvex tablets. Several articles proposed that capping was in fact a failure in shear. Shear strength should thus be interesting to study the capping tendency of a formulation. In this work, the ratio between the shear strength and the tensile strength obtained by diametral compression was first studied from a theoretical point of view considering different failure criteria. Then, a shear test usually performed on bilayer tablets was adapted to monolayer tablets. The shear strength obtained for 5 products, 2 of them having a known capping tendency, were compared with the strengths obtained during diametral compression test and uniaxial compression test.

The results indicated that, for the formulations with a capping tendency, the ratio between the shear strength and diametral compression strength was lower than for the other products. Considering the mechanism of capping, the weakness in shear of these formulations explained their capping tendency. This was also linked with the mechanical anisotropy of the same formulations which was shown in the literature. In the cases studied in this article, the fundamental reason for the capping tendency was the anisotropic strength of the tablets.

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