A 3-L PET bottle with a molded handle has been successfully launched in North America as a result of the collaboration efforts of three progressive packaging companies. The “T” handle technology developed by SIDE (sopladoraspet.com) , located in Barcelona, Spain, has brought long sought after innovation to the market.
The application was edible oil and the challenge was issued by one of Canada’s largest grocery retailers to its Canola oil supplier: Richardson Oilseed, Canada’s largest privately owned agro-business. The challenge was a market demand for a value priced 3-L clear bottle with a consumer friendly grip feature. Richardson invited their partner IntraPac, a Canadian division of the privately owned IntraPac Group (intrapacgroup.com), to develop packaging alternatives to meet customer objectives.
The need for clarity narrowed choices to polypropylene or PET. PP can be blow molded with a handle for larger bottles, but the clarity, impact resistance and oxygen transmission rate for PET is much superior. PET technology has so far only been able to offer indented “easy grip” features for 32- and 64-oz juice bottles, but this design is insufficient for larger bottles. Some larger bottles have a “snap in” or “molded in” handle normally made from PP. This technology has improved to a reliable commercial state, but is considerably more expensive for tooling, specialized equipment and particularly the unit price of the package itself.
SIDE developed a unique machine that offers the patented ability to compression-mold a “T” handle (SIDE designates it as the “T-hanDle”) into PET during the molding process to meet the required functionality and has sold numerous machines in the European market. This automated equipment will produce up to 1,000 bottles per hour per cavity oriented at the exit for easy palletizing. Richardson required a specific design for compatibility on their existing line and cartons at a price point that would be attractive to the competitive grocery retailers. They also required minimum weight and maximum top-load capacity targeting not less than 35 lb.
This became a challenge for IntraPac as preform design, optimum stretch rations and top-load requirements needed to be force fit into restricting design parameters with very little allowance on dimensions. The 43mm thread finish developed by Pano Cap (panocap.com) specifically for this application worked extremely well, but did place some limits on preform design. After nearly one year and several iterations on both preform and bottle design, the 90g “T” handle mold made by Compact Mould (compactmould.com) was ready for production and market trials.
Subsequent consumer acceptance, performance and cost effective structure has resulted in substantial sales for Richardson and growth opportunities for a package that will open new markets in North America and abroad.
SIDE has since continued to innovate and evolve the T-hanDle system to apply to other market sectors, such as detergents, juices and bottled water. In these sectors, container weight is of critical importance in order to reduce the total cost of the package. SIDE has managed to produce T-handle for 2.5L bottles with only 54g.
It has also expanded the applicability of the T-handle system for up to 4 cavity machines and can provide an output of up to 4000 bottles per hour, depending on the size of the containers.
For more information contact: Craig Lucas, IntraPac Canada Ltd,403-207-7701; Bo West, Richardson Oilseed, 204-934-5633; Gaston Petrucci of Compact Mould who also represents SIDE in Canada, 905-851-7724 x241; and Hugh Sendel, Pano Cap, 519-893-6055.
David Birkby is a freelance writer with a degree in polymer chemistry and a certificate in business from McMaster University. He spent 17 years with Shell Oil Co. in various research and business development functions followed by 10 years with Graham Packaging as manufacturing manager of the Canadian operations. For the past 15 years, he has been the owner operator of Westbridge Containers in Calgary, a manufacturer of plastic bottles that was sold to private equity two years ago. He can be reached at [email protected]