Introducing Fiber-Assisted Colorimetric Measurements as a Quality Control Tool of Hot Melt Extruded Filaments

Pharmaceutics. 2022 May 14;14(5):1055. doi: 10.3390/pharmaceutics14051055.


Pharmaceutical and medicinal printing technologies allow personalization and on-demand manufacturing of drug and medicinal products. Being able to manufacture patient tailored dosage forms or medical devices in a pharmacy, medical office, dental laboratory, or hospital at the point of care raises new demands on quality control procedures. For Fused Deposition Modeling, for example, it must be ensured that the starting materials, the (drug-loaded) filaments, are not accidentally exchanged by the operator. This study investigated the potential of colorimetric measurements for direct and indirect determination of the identity of extruded filaments consisting of polymer matrix, different API and/or coloring agents. Since reflection measurements were affected by surface properties of the filaments, a self-constructed filament holder was utilized with an optical fiber positioned in a 180° angle to a white light LED to perform transmission measurements. It was possible to distinguish filaments with different API concentrations by their color values, taking into account that transmission partially decreased by increased API concentration. Therefore, the intensity of the light source had to be adjusted depending on the transparency of the filament. It was shown that colorimetry can be used as a quality control tool to detect differences in drug-loading and is able to distinguish various extruded batches. Additionally, if differences in API/polymer concentrations do not lead to significant changes in L*a*b values, coloring agents were used as additives in low concentrations to color code filaments. In future studies, the setup must be supplemented with a standardized light source and obscuring filters for light intensity adjustments.

Keywords: CIELAB measurements; FDM printing; analytics of extruded filaments; color-coded filaments; colorimetry; fixed-dose combinations; hot melt extrusion; personalized medicine; pharmaceutical filaments; quality control.

Grant support

Eirini Mangiorou’s stay at HHU was financially supported by the ERASMUS program (no. 1179/2020).