Have you ever wondered how the softgels that people rely on for daily doses of supplements and pharmaceuticals are made? If you’re in the process of launching a product line, you may suddenly have questions about the softgel production process. Softgels are different from tablets and standard capsules because they provide a soft, clear shell filled with liquid. What’s more, consumers enjoy the way that transparent gelatin-based shells make it possible for them to see the contents of what they’re consuming. Softgels also ensure quality because they are fully closed units that use hermetic sealing to preserve freshness and bioavailability. This offers peace of mind compared to traditional capsules that feature two interlocking halves. Many supplement brands choose softgels when manufacturing vitamin D, fish oil, hemp oil, multivitamins, and pet supplements. Here’s an inside glimpse at the softgel capsule manufacturing process.
The Technology Behind How Softgels Are Made
The softgel capsule manufacturing process starts with the right ingredients. When you work with a contract softgel producer, you’ll be able to design a custom formulation that meets your brand standards. However, some components of the softgel manufacturing process are universal.
First, the shell of the softgel is created using gelatin that’s derived from animal collagen. If you’re producing a vegetarian-friendly supplement, plant-based options that use tapioca, seaweed, and other substitutions can be discussed. A softgel shell also consists of a plasticizer that helps give the shell its flexible, “plastic” texture. In most cases, glycerin is the additive used to achieve this.
Once the shell has been formed, the filling that consists of your own unique formulation is added. Your custom formulation is then blended into a carrier solution consisting of water, oils, or solvents. Some brands chose to add coloring agents to make softgel contents stand out. Others will actually add gentle flavoring to help make a softgel more pleasant. For example, brands often add the essence of mint to make fish oil more palatable. Finally, preservatives and additives are added to extend a product’s shelf life and enhance stability.
The Softgel Manufacturing Process
The softgel capsule manufacturing process should only be completed by a softgel producer with the credentials, quality assurance (QA) team, research and development (R&D) team, safety standards, and facility required to create safe, high-quality products that are appropriate for consumer use. The main step in the softgel manufacturing process is something called encapsulation. During encapsulation, a specialized encapsulation machine is used to fill large batches of gelatin capsules with liquid. These machines are capable of creating airtight capsules with precise dosages. The hermetic seal that is applied to the capsule prevents contamination, spoilage, and product degradation.
For new supplement brands, investing in an encapsulation machine requires a large financial responsibility. All encapsulation machinery for commercial production must meet all Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements. In addition to investing in the procurement and maintenance of this machine, a brand must also invest in a production facility that is appropriately zoned and licensed.
Step 1: Liquify Ingredients
The first step in the softgel manufacturing process is the creation of the product’s shell. In order to create a softgel, all of the gelatin ingredients must be melted until they become liquified. Liquification makes gelatin ingredients pliable enough to be shaped into molds.
Step 2: Prepare Filling Content
Step 3: Add Filling to the Encapsulation Machine
Next, the filling for the softgel must be fed into a part of the encapsulation machine that’s referred to as the hopper. Once in the hopper, the filling content will be pushed into the injection mold by an automatic pump. The content is then shaped into the traditional softgel form by die cavities. Finally, gelatin ribbons envelope the filled material. All of these steps happen in a matter of seconds as part of a quick, large-scale assembly process that allows contract softgel producers to complete high volumes of custom batches.
Step 4: Drying
Once the assembly process is complete, excess moisture often lingers on the finished product. Fresh capsules must be given time to dry. In a state-of-the-art facility, softgel encapsulation machines have built-in dryers that uniformly dry all units before depositing them into drying trays.
Step 5: Quality Control
Quality control is an essential step in the softgel production process for preparing products for consumers. First, products must be manually inspected. While modern production machinery produces uniform quality, it is possible for softgels to become damaged or misshapen during the production process. Any softgel that does not meet production standards should be discarded. During the final preparation step, softgels should be cleaned and polished to ensure that no residue remains. While polishing can be done manually, a special machine for polishing softgels can be more efficient. Contract manufacturers can also get finished softgels “retail ready” by adding branding elements. Finally, softgels are packaged using an automated capsule-packing machine.
Get All of Your Questions About the Softgel Manufacturing Process Answered
If you’re exploring ways to develop your own softgel manufacturing process, speaking with an established, highly rated contract softgel manufacturer is a great starting point. NutraPak USA is a nutritional supplement manufacturer offering custom formulation and production. Your products will be made in a state-of-the-art softgel manufacturing facility in New Jersey that holds multiple certifications from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), United State Department of Agriculture (USDA), and more. Contact us today to learn about our world-class softgel production process.