Extrudability analysis of drug loaded pastes for 3D printing of modified release tablets

The rheological characteristics of pastes for 3D printing of tablets may not be described fully by the traditional rheological tests generally used for other pastes. In the present study, extrudability testing of carbopol based 3D printing pastes was performed to establish a constitutive rheological model for micro-extrusion. This model was developed for pastes that exhibit a non-linear plasto-viscoelastic behavior and follow the generalized Herschel–Bulkley flow rule. An analytical model was applied to extrudability data obtained by micro-extrusion through nozzles of 0.4 and 0.6 mm diameters. For this purpose, nineteen pastes were prepared per a fractional factorial design using various concentrations of the active ingredient and soluble and insoluble excipients. Critical material parameters (σ0, k and n) of the pastes were then calculated by analyzing extrudability data using a constitutive equation relating flow rate, nozzle and cartridge diameters, printing pressure and slip-flow angle. The accuracy of the constitutive model to predict paste yield stress, consistency and flow indices was evident by low RMSE values of 0.0691 bar, 0.034 and 6.3 bar/sn, respectively. Yield stress, flow and consistency parameters of the pastes were significantly affected by percentages of soluble and swellable excipients. The nozzle diameter had significant effect on flow index (n) but not on the consistency index (k). Hence, this study provides a mechanistic model to characterize the complex rheological behavior of pastes for 3D printing of tablets by a micro-extrusion process.