Unveiling technology to 3D-print customised tablets

Unveiling technology to 3D-print customised tablets

Assistant Professor Soh Siow Ling (right) and Ph.D. student Ms Sun Yajuan from NUS Faculty of Engineering have designed a novel system of tablet fabrication that can make customisable pills that release drugs with any desired release profile

NUS Engineering researchers, from the Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, have found a way to use 3D printers to produce low-cost tablets that can be customised to a patient’s needs. Developed by Assistant Professor Soh Siow Long and Ph.D. student Ms Sun Yajuan, this new method of tablet fabrication can make 3Dprinted pills that control the dosage and release rate of the drug according to the patient’s treatments. In addition, this can be done without any complex computations, and the tablets can be produced immediately.

“For a long time, personalised tablets have been a mere concept as they were far too complex or expensive to be realised. This table fabrication method is a game changer – it is technically simple, relatively inexpensive and versatile. It can be applied at individualised settings where physicians could produce customised pulls on the spot for patients, or in mass production settings by pharmaceutical companies,” said Assistant Professor Soh.

Instead of manufacturing the tablet by printing layer by layer, the new customised pill consists of three distinct components, including a polymer containing the drug in a specifically designed shape that will determine the rate of release of the drug. For instance, a 5-prong shape will allow the drug to be released in five pulses over time. By adjusting the shape of the drug-containing polymer, it is now possible to release drugs at any desired rate.

The drug table designed by the NUS team consists of three distinct components: a casing, a non-drug-containing polymer, and a polymer containing the drug in a specially designed shape (shown in photo) that determines the rate of release of the drug. The shape of the drug-containing polymer can be adjusted to allow drug.

With the system developed by the NUS Engineering duo, a doctor only needs to draw the desired release profile in a computer software to generate a template for making tablets specific to a patient’s treatment, which can then be used to produce the desired pills using a 3D printer. This system is easy to use; it does not involve any complex mathematical computation whenever a new release profile is needed, and it is able to create a template to print tablets for any release profile. The fabrication method designed by the team can also be modified to include multiple types of drugs loaded within the same tablet, and each drug can be customised to be released at different rates even within the same tablet.

The NUS Engineering team has filed a patent for the fabrication method. Apart from exploring commercial possibilities, they are also looking into exploring the various combination of materials for the  polymer-based components in the tablet to cater to various types of drugs and illnesses to increase the efficacy of this method.

NUS Engineering team develops novel technology to “print” customised tablets for personalised medicine:

Customised tablets: http://news.nus.edu.sg/highlights/10441-printable-customised-tablets