Herb Capsulator
Answered by: Richard Alan Miller
Question from: Emily Bairn
Posted on: July 20, 1998

I am looking for a machine to capsule herbs. I already have a ‘Cap’m’quick’ and am needing something faster and bigger. Any information you could send on how I can get a capsuling machine would be greatly appreciated.

Processing takes on many faces, taking crude farm products and somehow putting them into a format for marketing and eventual consumption. Before expanding from a "Mom-and-Pop" operation, some other considerations MUST be considered. For example, to capsulate with larger machinery very often now requires a closer tolerance to particle size, and the possible need for an excipiant (or binder) that holds tablets and capsules together.

Milling crude material so that it can properly enter a larger capsulating machine requires more sophistication. That’s why I titled the milling chapter "The Art of Milling" in Potential of Herbs As A Cash Crop. Art is a "process," not a final product. You are always striving for a more perfect form on your cut. Some individuals simply do it better or more efficiently with the same tools and machinery.

For most large capsulators, usual material sizes must be about 60- to 70-Mesh USS (US Standard). This means there are 60 particles per inch, with an over/under margin of 10%. There are also losses, like some of the resulting powders at 120-Mesh USS, too small to be possibly used. These will not flow easily down into the machine for loading into capsules, and vibrating tables and/or other alternatives are sought to turn potential losses into marginal profits.

Now that you know what you can do in this regard now determines what level of capsulating machinery you can buy. And, this is directly related to your market needs. Most small companies that own a larger capsulator are usually capsulating more than 20 products, with volumes in excess of 1,000 lbs. each. There are smaller capsulators, but are generally not competitive for overhead and expenses.

After each run, or process of capsulating , the machinery (including the milling/sifting) must be stripped down and cleaned thoroughly before another herb can be used. Because of the time and expense involved, most smaller businesses run between 250 and 600 lbs. Larger runs generally are in the 2,000 to 4,000 lb. category.

To purchase capsules require a decision on whether to use capsules made from animal fat (gelatin), or non-gelatin (for the organic/vegetarian markets). And, you will need bottles, labels and seals for the bottle, boxes, and labels for the cases. When shifting from capsulating for a local group of friends to the larger sales outside your community now requires a bunch of decisions and serious consideration to capital outlay.

Okay. You have now made that decision, so where do you find all of these different materials for expansion? Your best bet is to begin with the Drugs & Cosmetic Industry’s annual Catalog (Edgell Communications, Inc., 7500 Old Oak Blvd., Cleveland, OH 44130). They list address and phone numbers for vendors in such categories as Bottles, Capping Machines, Capsule Fillers, Capsule Machines, Capsule Polishers/Cleaners, and so on. You get the idea.

There are many people doing this, like the diet pill markets, herbal steroids for weight-lifting gyms, and the multitude of "smart drugs" and "life extension" foods for mail-order. To be competitive, however, often means you want to start out with used machinery, rather than new ones. This is where most people can make a "Go" for their business, where the old adage is "I don’t want to spend money, but I want to make it."

There are "Bone Yards" (used machinery businesses) in almost any farm community, or major city. Some of my best times was walking one of these yards, and letting my imagination go for innovative machinery and designs. (My current project, for example, is a Flower-Head Harvester). The Little Nickel, and larger tabloids often have adds for these types of machines. Most likely, so will your new machinery vendors.

I like the OPD and "Chemical Buyers Directory." This bi-weekly tabloid (mentioned in POH) has a list of used machinery vendors in the back section, with lists of what they have for sale. This would include used capsulators of all sizes and condition. You might also want to look into milling, and how you plan to get your product into a format for larger capsulating schedules.

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