A surprise announcement revealed a deal between AMCM and Merck Group to develop 3D printed tablets for medicinal use.
You’ve likely heard of Merck Group, the global pharmaceutical and chemical giant. They’ve been around since 1668 and have annual revenue of over €14B (US$15.35B). Note that this company is different from the US & Canada based Merck & Co. I didn’t realize this, but apparently in 1917 the USA nationalized Merck Group’s US subsidiary. Subsequently it was re-privatized and is now a separate organization. In other words, Merck & Co serves North America, while Merck Group serves the rest of the world. The tablet partnership is with Merck Group.
That aside, you may not have heard of AMCM. This company is a sister company to EOS, the well-known manufacturer of metal and plastic 3D printers. EOS (the 3D printer manufacturer) is a subsidiary of EOS Group, as is AMCM. It’s all under the same management, ultimately, but different companies for different purposes.
The purpose of AMCM, which stands for “Additive Manufacturing Customized Machines” is to literally customize EOS equipment for clients. A client with unusual needs could purchase a machine from EOS, and then have the ingenious folks from AMCM to make modifications to the equipment to meet the requirements.
In this case, Merck Group wishes to create a device that can 3D print medicinal tablets. The infographic at top shows the difference between traditional tablet manufacturing and the proposed 3D printing alternative. It seems simpler.
But there will obviously be considerable work required here. For one, the equipment and materials would have to be made food safe, as tablets are taken internally. EOS equipment typically uses lasers to fuse powder granules together, and this would have to be tested in some way to ensure this does not affect the potency of the ingredients.
Normally thermoplastic powders are fused in EOS equipment, as they are meant to be. However, drugs typically do not have thermoplastic properties. Thus it may be that AMCM may have to identify some type of food safe thermoplastic-like binder to mix with the actual medicinal ingredients.
It’s an interesting challenge that we’ll be watching.