Aspirin Production Process Control

1          Assessment objectives and outcomes

The objective of the continuous learning assessment is to ensure the ability of the students to apply the concepts of control systems in industrial level and to give the student the opportunity to use their critical thinking in proposing a design for the process control in industry.

MLO 4: Evaluate the parameters of the final control elements and process transducers /transmitters for given process control applications.

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MLO5: Demonstrate improved generic skills (e.g. teamwork, communication, critical thinking skills) and personal attributes (e.g. respect for others, work ethic) that will prepare them for a variety of purposes (e.g. projects, internship and working careers).



2          Case study: Aspirin Production Process Control

Aspirin is a common over the counter painkiller that has a range of other medical uses as in cerebral thromboses; general pain or fever (such as rheumatic fever, gout, and rheumatoid arthritis). It is used to prevent heart attacks and stroke. Aspirin is a nonsteroidal anti- inflammatory drug (NSAID) unknown as acetylsalicylic acid (ASA). The use of aspirin should be restricted for patient that has platelet disorder function as it may cause adverse side effect including prolonged bleeding. The dosage of aspirin should be administered with proper consideration of the patient health status. Aspirin can be prescribed as tablet with specific size, shape, and hardness. The production of aspirin must be controlled to the specified dosage.

Hard aspirin tablets are produced in batch process. Starting with the production of raw material (acetylsalicylic acid) from the reaction of salicylic acid (C7H6O3, Mw. 138.12), acetic anhydride (C4H6O3, Mw. 102.09), and a proper solvent in a reactor at temperature 70- 80 °C. During this process Acetic acid (C2H4O2, MW 60.05) is produced. The produced liquid phase of aspirin is crystalized in crystallizer where water is added to separate aspirin from acetic acid. The crystallization process is controlled using a refractometer that measure refractive index of aspirin to control the concentration of crystalized aspirin. The crystalized aspirin flows into a filter where it is separated from acetic acid and the solvent which is drained into a recovery unit. The filtered crystalized aspirin flow into a drier then it flows into a mixer where other additives are added to form a granular mixture called slug. This process is known as dry- granulation or slugging. Corn starch and water are added to the active drug (aspirin) to serve as a binding reagent and filler. The binding agent hold the tablet together and the filler act as dilutant to get the adequate size. A lubricant is added to avoid materials sticking into the machine. The produced slug is filtered to remove air ad lumps and then compressed into tablets in rotary machine. The tablets are transferred into an automated bottling assembly line where they are filled into polyethylene or polypropylene plastic bottles or into glass bottles.

The production process should be maintained at high degree of quality control. All stages of production and reagents quantities should follow the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As a process engineer sketch an automated control process diagram for controlled aspirin production. Here are hints to help you

  • Divide the steps of the production in stages: synthesis of aspirin from raw materials, crystallization, filtration, dry- granulation, compression, filling & bottling
  • What type of controllers should be used in each step to ensure the composition, size, and hardness of the final produced tablets with respect to the FDA specifications and regulation?
  • Explain your selection of the controllers with reasoning




Aspirin Crystallization [online]. Available at: (Accessed: 8 January 2021)


Aspirin Tablet [Online]. Available at:,certain%20pharmaceutical%20companies%2C%20completely%20computerized.&text=In%20particular%2C%20the%20production%20of,%2C%20water%2C%20and%20a%20lubricant. (Accessed 8 January 2021)


El-Magbri, M. The Synthesis and Analysis of Aspirin Journal of Chemical Education, [Online]. Available at: (Accessed 8 January 2021)

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