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associated with a significant increase in chemical, physical as well

as microbial stability challenges.

Inkjet printing offers another solution to provide individualisation

of dosing. The technique has been adapted for pharmaceutical

applications by replacing the ink with pharmaceutical solutions

containing drugs which are then printed on an edible sheet, as

the substrate. The technology, nevertheless, appeared to be more

suitable for drugs with a significantly lower dose, whilst drugs that

require high doses have proven to be impractical when printed

using such an approach.

3D printing of medicines

3D printing of pharmaceuticals is a single step process which

eliminates the stages involved in conventional or mass

manufacturing units. The technology has the ability to fabricate a

product with complex geometries that is impossible to produce

with traditional manufacturing. The major challenge is to convert

the 3D printer into a small tablet-manufacturing unit. Such a

conversion will allow the production of tablets at a fraction of the

cost and size of regular pharmaceutical equipment.

Our research team at the School of Pharmacy and Biomedical

Sciences, University of Central Lancashire, UK, has developed a

drug-polymer filament system that can replace the original

filaments in a Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) 3D printer. It

was possible to dictate the target dose of 3D printed tablets by

manipulating the volume of the tablet’s design.


The team

developed a pharmaceutical ‘ink’ which allowed the team to print

a challenging tablet design with significant improvement of

appearance and high accuracy of tablet weight and dose.

Thermal analysis and X-ray powder diffraction indicated that the

tested drug was in the crystalline form following the 3D printing


In vitro

drugs released from HME produced filament were

decelerated after FDM 3D printing. Owing to this technology, the

invented system can provide medical institutions with a new option

and maintain dosage form properties while accurately adjusting

the dose with a simple command from a computer’s software.

Achieving similar results with traditional methods would involve the

use of large facilities, experienced operators and significant capital

investment. Ultimately, such a dispensing unit can be kept in a

hospital or community pharmacy for patients who continuously

need to change their daily dose or drug combination.

The novel technique developed by UCLan uses a 3D printer to

‘print’ a tablet of medicine with realistic quantities that can be

taken by a patient. The printer can replicate drugs that are already

available in pharmacies and hospitals, but more importantly it can

tailor medicines directly to an individual patient’s needs. Our team

has opened up significant opportunities in the pharmaceutical

world particularly around personalisation of medicines.

Future trends and more applications

Imagine the possibility of having diagnosis to be conducted at

home via a drop of blood sample and the subsequent

manufacturing of the drug at home using a prescribed protocol

based on the individual’s acquired clinical and molecular data.

The dose and choice of therapy are also maximised based on the

genetic and molecular markers identified from the patient. It is

indeed a challenging and an exciting journey to be able to provide

a quick but precise diagnosis and tailored treatment to improve

health outcomes.



D Raijada, N Genina, D Fors, E Wisaeus, J Peltonen, J Rantanen, N Sandler,A

step toward development of printable dosage forms for poorly soluble drugs,

Journal of pharmaceutical sciences,

102 (2013) 3694-3704.


S W Hill,A S Varker, K Karlage, P B Myrdal,Analysis of drug content and weight

uniformity for half-tablets of 6 commonly split medications,

Journal of

managed care pharmacy

: JMCP, 15 (2009) 253-261.


V P Shah, L A Yamamoto, D Schuirman, J Elkins, J P Skelly,Analysis of

in vitro

dissolution of whole


half controlled-release theophylline tablets,

Pharmaceutical research,

4 (1987) 416-419.


J Erramouspe, E J Jarvi, Effect on dissolution from halving methylphenidate

extended-release tablets,

The Annals of pharmacotherapy,

31 (1997)



D Brown, J L Ford,A J Nunn, P H Rowe,An assessment of dose-uniformity of

samples delivered from paediatric oral droppers,

Journal of Clinical Pharmacy

and Therapeutics,

29 (2004) 521-529.

6 J Skowyra, K Pietrzak, M A Alhnan, Fabrication of extended-release patient-

tailored prednisolone tablets via fused deposition modelling (FDM) 3D

printing, European journal of pharmaceutical sciences:

official journal of the

European Federation for Pharmaceutical Sciences,

68 (2015) 11-17.

Dr MohamedAlbedAlhnan

Lecturer in Pharmaceutics

tel :

+44 (0)1772 893590


Senior Lecturer in Pharmaceutics

School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences

University of Central Lancashire, UK

tel :

+44 (0)1772 89 5822

H O R I Z O N 2 0 2 0 P R O J E C T S : P O R TA L




S O C I E TA L C H A L L E N G E S : H E A L T H & W E L L B E I N G

Fig. 2 Controlled release anti-asthmatic tablets with adjustable dose

are possible to fabricate using a bench-top 3D printer (Source: UCLan)