Additive Manufacturing Strategies

Craft Health’s Pharma 3D Printer Powered by ViscoTec’s Print Head

ST Medical Devices

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Personalized medicine is one of the most exciting verticals in the 3D printing industry, especially since the technology can seriously impact customized drug development and targeted therapeutics. Ever since the first 3D printed drug received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval in 2016, several firms began exploring additive manufacturing technology to help create on-demand pills, reduce costs and make easier-to-swallow drugs for patients. One of them is Craft Health, a Singapore-based research and development stage pharmaceutical and nutritional supplement delivery business that relies on 3D printed solutions to simplify drug dosage.

Focused on solving the challenges of complex medication regimens by streamlining how drugs are delivered to patients, Craft Health revealed its proprietary 3D printer uses a specially designed print head for viscous two-component materials by German firm ViscoTec. Craft Health is leveraging ViscoTec’s vipro-Head 5 print head for 3D printing of nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals. The solution is ideal for accurate and precise personalized tablet manufacturing since it complies with the regulatory requirements that this type of 3D printed product demands.

The ability to produce small batches of carefully tailored drugs with the dosages, shapes, sizes, and release that each patient needs has tremendous potential. When pharma and 3D printing converge to create a chemical compound that can be easily produced on-demand and on-site (at a hospital, pharmacy, or even remote areas), it’s easy to see the benefits of this healthcare segment. By simply streamlining the production process of drug manufacturing with 3D printing technology, companies can save time, reduce waste, and eventually accelerate the creation of a custom formulation for a patient. As the potential of this healthcare segment emerges, more companies will follow suit.

Funded in 2019, Craft Health is an early-stage startup that uses a proprietary blend of formulations–called Craft Blends–corresponding to different controlled release profiles, all 3D printed into a single tablet using a specialized 3D printer called CraftMake. For their drugs to work, the required active ingredient is simply mixed with the formulation and the desired controlled release profile before 3D printing.

According to Craft Health co-founder and COO Seng Han Lim, the brand’s CraftBlends must be printed in the desired volume or geometry, based on the individual requirements of the active ingredient. But precision and accuracy of dosing during 3D printing is the main challenge due to the compressive nature of paste or semi-solids being used.

In fact, the company’s founding duo, who happen to be two pharmacists, learned early on that formulating the pharmaceutical material for 3D printing was not easy. The first time they set out to try their idea on a 3D printer, the material failed to come out from the print head and shot out from the nozzle tip, causing a mess in the entire machine. This material clogging was subsequently fixed, and today, the company relies on the ViscoTec vipro-Head 5, which allows precise and accurate dosing of the material being 3D printed, and the final product to have high uniformity.

“We are using multiple print heads, and so the Craft Blends containing different active ingredients can also be combined onto a single tablet, depending on the individual’s requirement. Different Craft Blends can also be employed to control the rate of release of active ingredients into the body. Hence, a unique and personalized tablet can be 3D printed for the individual, considering the combination, type, dose, and release profile of active ingredients required. The end product is a personalized tablet for the patient, for both nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals,” highlighted Lim.

Craft Health 3D Printer for nutraceutical and pharmaceutical applications.

Craft Health 3D Printer for nutraceutical and pharmaceutical applications. Image courtesy of Craft Health.

The ViscoTec print head transports two components separately from each other to the static mixing tube. They are then mixed together in a correct mixing ratio and applied layer by layer. Several advantages of ViscoTec include a stepper motor version in the print head that allows easy integration to already existing gantry systems for 3D printing. Also, the wetted and non-wetted surfaces could be clearly separated and cleaned accordingly.

Always on the lookout for collaborations and partnerships, Craft Health worked with the ViscoTec team in Asia on new ideas to modify the print head to comply with any regulatory requirement for manufacturing of nutraceuticals or pharmaceuticals, said Lim. So to meet Craft Health’s needs, the wetted surfaces of the vipro-Head 5 were customized and refabricated using a low-carbon alloy of stainless steel (SS316L) material to comply with FDA regulations for a non-reactive, non-absorptive print head.

Craft Health 3D Printer for nutraceutical and pharmaceutical applications.

Craft Health 3D printing process of personalized tablets. Image courtesy of Craft Health.

Whether reducing the frequency of medicine intake or combining multiple medicines into one single polypill, Craft Health is on a mission to change the status quo of pharmaceuticals. Today, the company offers customers on-demand personalized medicine production, drug development research, and clinical trials for patient acceptability and taste evaluation. To further extend their work, the company recently moved its operations from Bukit Batok industrial park to the prestigious Singapore Science Park in the country’s south-westernmost area of Queenstown. There, the company has set up its very own R&D laboratory and clean room to produce 3D printed nutraceuticals and pharmaceutical products and remains at the forefront of innovation.

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