By Dr Kevin Moroney
The pharmaceutical industry like many others is undergoing a technological revolution as we enter the much vaunted era of Industry 4.0. This is of particular strategic importance to Ireland, home to all of the world’s top 10 pharmaceutical companies and one of the largest exporters of pharmaceutical products in the world. One key area that this is manifesting itself is in the introduction of continuous manufacturing lines for drug products, such as tablets, instead of traditional batch processes. This transition poses a number of technical challenges in terms of process understanding, modelling and control as well as regulatory challenges. Unsurprisingly, the pharmaceutical industry is highly regulated to ensure safe and consistent products. Replacing tried and trusted processes with new ones requires modernisation of regulations and proof that previous standards can be matched or improved upon. Researchers from MACSI in the University of Limerick have been working on some of these issues with collaborators from SSPC and industry partners in a project called MOMEnTUM (Modelling of Multi-Phase Transport Processes to Enable Automation in Manufacturing).