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Articles from 2020 In October

Packaging Design

Why Does Halloween Packaging Look Different This Year?

In the United States, Halloween is a big deal. It’s now almost a month-long event. Candy, costumes, corn mazes, pumpkin carving, hayrides, haunted houses, and more combine to create a billion-dollar industry.

But with the COVID-19 virus lurking behind every get-together, this holiday is a little spookier than in previous years. Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn that traditional trick-or-treating would be higher risk than other ways of celebrating the holiday.

According to The National Confectioners Association, “Across the country, this Halloween will look a little different for many people. Whether this means socially distanced trick-or-treating, more candy bowl moments at home with family and close friends, or just more time celebrating the season throughout the month of October, one thing is for sure — Halloween is happening.”

So, parents are looking for new ways to entertain and observe this kid-favorite time of year.

Brands have noticed! And their products and packaging reflect the current reality of continued social distancing and hygienic practices to prevent the spread of the virus.

Take a look.

Packaging Design

Dual Packs Double Down on Innovation

Photo supplied by FORCEpkg Newmaster-Clear-Plastic-Cleaner-ftd.jpg
Invisible Glass opted for a bottle-in-a-bottle packaging concept for its new Clear Plastic Cleaner and hand sanitizer product combo, to meet the need of COVID-19 cleaning tasks for companies setting up Plexiglass barriers.

Ketchup has evolved beyond the bottle. There’s the upside-down plastic container in a host of sizes. There’s the peal-top dipping packet and the squeeze packet, but Heinz thought something was missing. Through research, they discovered that consumers wanted more versatility in their single-use packs. So, Heinz came up with a Dip & Squeeze container that allowed the consumer a choice — you can either tear off a corner and squeeze or rip off the seal and dip. When the new product packaging was introduced at fast-food restaurants, it was reported that people were hoarding the new packets.

Here’s another dual package … Chamber Pouch. A Canadian company with seven decades in the packaging industry. They decided to reimagine the stand-up pouch — actually design a way to pair products together in a dual pack. Chocolate and vanilla, gin and vodka, Bordeaux and Chablis are now available together in a single combo-pack.

And talk about multi-use convenience, WD-40 came up with EZREACH, a cleaning product with an 8-inch flexible straw that allows consumers to reach tight, hard-to-reach places, and provides the user with the standard spray cap as well.

All these packages offer dual function benefits, and that’s what makes them unique. The innovation at its core was simple and, in some cases, obvious, but not necessarily easy to see. Was this a response to consumer need or complaint? Was it simply adding improved product functionality and brand differentiation through the packaging and/or deliver system?


Combine complimentary products into a packaging system.

My design firm FORCEpkg is in the process of developing similar dual-chamber and dual-function packages for our client Stoner Inc. The Stoner brands include Invisible Glass, Stoner Car Care, Motsenbocker’s Lift-Off, and Little Joe. The challenge was to combine similar products into one package, add convenience, and/or improve the overall user experience. We immediately began to explore ways to leverage the packaging to solve the problem — using existing products — rather than attempting to suggest completely new products or formulations.

One of the many uses of plastic to emerge out of the pandemic has been plexiglass. A Bloomberg report estimates that the demand for the product tripled starting in March 2020. We are seeing plexiglass protective shields everywhere: in nail and hair salons, banks, grocery store check-outs, hospitals, and almost anywhere humans come in close contact.

Keeping plexiglass clean is essential. That’s why you see store clerks use glass cleaner and hand sanitizer to clean surfaces and hands before each new customer steps up. So, the question for our team was this — how can we help Invisible Glass respond to this need? What if you could design one bottle/package that could hold and allow the user to dispense two products? You’d not only make the process easier and faster for the user, but you’d save shelf space.

FORCE teamed up with Duet Innovations. Their bottle patent fits an array of product-inside-product concepts such as:

Bottle of red wine inside a bottle of white wine
Powdered baby formula inside the baby bottle
Laundry detergent and fabric softener
Vodka and cranberry juice

We had been working with Duet Innovations for several months fine-tuning different versions of its patented bottle, when the opportunity with Invisible Glass presented itself. Invisible Glass formulated a new Clear Plastic Cleaner in response to consumer need. But we had an opportunity to take this to the next level …. put its Clear Plastic Cleaner in a larger (15 ounce) outer bottle and provide a smaller (4 oz.) bottle of its hand sanitizer inside.

Now both new products are in a single package — easy to use, easy to store, and dual use/function. The whole idea quickly evolved into other dual-use/function concepts for its Stoner Car Care brand.

Photo supplied by FORCEpkgNewmaster-Cleaner-Wax-web.jpg

Travel and Convenience: What if the consumer could purchase a cleaner wax for their car, and have a smaller travel-size bottle (inside) for their motorcycle? A single product facing on the retail shelf, but actually two packages giving the consumer added convenience and use occasion.

Photo supplied by FORCEpkgNewmaster-Carpet-cleaner-web.jpg

Product Combinations: What if the consumer could purchase an automotive upholstery and carpet cleaner, and have a bottle of protectant and refresher inside? Again, a single product facing on the retail shelf, but two products that work together, producing a better end result.

In the words of John Goldbach, vice president of sales, Stoner Consumer Brands, “This packaging system will also give us the opportunity to put trial products in the hands of the people who currently use our brands. Their feedback will help us improve the product before we launch in larger formats.”

Examples like this demonstrate that innovation is happening in spite of a pandemic. In fact, such radical challenges tend to spur creative thinking and expand potential market opportunities. When it comes to market disruption, all brands want to be there first with the best idea,” says Jeff Campbell, marketing director at Stoner. “By pairing up products, brands can test line extensions and combinations to see how consumers respond.”

So, next time you’re faced with a problem, remember the solution may be right in front of your eyes. If you’re willing to take a step back, clear your mind, the next big idea may be hiding in plain sight.

Is Carbon Neutrality the Next Big Sustainable Packaging Thing?

Christian Horz/Adobe Stock Carbon footprint

You’ve probably recently read about carbon neutral rPET or about new forms of carbon negative deodorant packaging

Are these types of carbon claims becoming a trend? In my opinion, the answer is “Yes”.  

Is it primarily marketing hype, and not a significant opportunity to reduce carbon emissions? In my opinion, the general answer, once again, is “Yes”.

Let me explain.

Carbon neutrality is generally accomplished through the purchase of carbon offsets from certification organizations such as Verified Carbon Standard, Gold Standard, and Green-e Climate Standard.  The carbon dioxide and methane your company produces is “neutralized” by an equivalent reduction of CO2 generation by another organization that is paid through the offsets that you and most likely others have purchased. These organizations can be Amazon rainforest owners, tree planting groups, windfarm operators, solar power generators, etc.

Some of these carbon-offset projects never exist or deliver on their promises. For example, the Vatican was presented with offset certificates for millions of trees that were never planted.

Other programs have provided returns similar to the Broadway show The Producers, in which more than 100% of the shares are sold to unsuspecting investors. Thus, your investment will not deliver the return you need to claim the offset. For reference, a 2016 European Union study  indicated that more than 80% of offset projects studied cannot truly be called “incremental” or “additional”. The study also found that many offset projects overestimate the emissions reductions resulting from their work.

A 2019 report concluded that carbon credits for forest preservation may be worse than nothing.

There’s a philosophical issue here as well. Even if you buy high-quality offsets, you are basically buying a license to pollute: You are paying another organization to cut their emissions so that you don’t have to cut yours!

Finally, keep in mind that while greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction is extremely important, many of those groups paid to plant trees or crops are using that money to also purchase and consume water, fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, energy, etc. So, both the math and the results may not add up to the zero sum benefit you were expecting.

Robert (Bob) Lilienfeld has been involved in sustainable packaging for 25 years, working as a marketing executive, consultant, strategic planner, editor, writer, and communications expert. He’s President of Robert Lilienfeld Consulting, working with materials suppliers, converters, trade associations, retailers, and brand owners. Reach him at [email protected].


Robotic Palletizer Stacks Up at Arrowhead Mills Bakery

Arrowhead Mills, a trusted organic baking brand for more than 50 years takes its grains from farm to table with a little help from a friendly Fanuc robot integrated into this Staxx palletizer. See it in operation from this video posted by BEX, integrator and system builder of industrial, collaborative, and mobile robot solutions. This system is positioned as a cost-effective solution, being an off-the-shelf system that’s easily custom-adapted to a range of applications.



Are Paper Bottles Sustainable and Practical?

Frugalpac Frugalpac Paper Bottles Group
Is the move to paper packaging sustainable for beverage bottles?

Until the last couple years the concept of a paper bottle would seem at best an oxymoron, but innovations continue to break barriers in the pursuit of packaging that offers sustainability benefits, ideally aligned with recycling.

Thus, there’s renewed interest by major brands in paper bottles, which though not new, are experiencing increased activity, undoubtedly sparked by the anti-plastic sentiment sweeping the globe.

A historical sampling of Packaging Digest features uncovered a mix of the new and old among these paper bottle citations across various markets from spirits to beer to detergent starting in 2015 and extending through last month; the links appear at the end of this report.

In light of the news that Diageo, the parent company of the Johnnie Walker brand, will package the spirits brand in 100% plastic-free bottles starting in 2021 (see Paper Bottle Coming Soon to a Liquor Store Near You, published August 2020), Lux Research released this commentary: "Diageo has formed a [joint venture] called Pulpex with Pilot Lite to develop the paper bottle technology and will manufacture the paper bottles in-house. The company has always used third-party suppliers for its glass bottles, so it is unclear why the company decided to produce the paper bottles internally; it is very unusual for a brand owner company to vertically integrate itself to produce packaging along with its core products. Clients should note that it is better to partner with startups or converters to obtain sustainable packaging solutions rather than trying to do it all themselves." 

The writer is market analyst and Lux Research Associate Drishti Masand, who responds to our questions about paper bottles in this exclusive interview.

Carlsberg BrewingCarlsberg's

A year ago, Carlsberg unveiled two new research prototypes of the Green Fibre Bottle, both made from sustainably sourced wood fibres, fully recyclable, and with an inner barrier to allow the bottles to contain beer. One prototype uses a thin recycled PET polymer film barrier, and the other a 100% bio-based PEF polymer film barrier.


What’s behind the recent announcements about paper bottles in beverage markets?

Masand: The paper bottle for beverage markets is not a new innovation; it has been under development for a few years with other brands like The Coca-Cola Company, Carlsberg and a start-up company called Paboco. Carlsberg was the first company and launched calls for a pulp-based bottle in 2016 to replace its glass bottles. It has sought different partners to realize this goal. While the concept of a paper bottle is not new, it can be considered as an emerging trend as the popularity and awareness of it is on the rise at the moment with more brand and industries, for example personal care brands like L’Oreal, also adopting paper bottles.

Packaging DigestPaper bottles group

A line-up of paper bottles not to scale from left-to-right: Diageo Johnnie Walker, Frugal Bottles for wines, and Absolut vodka.


What are the differences in the paper bottles from Diageo, PepsiCo, and Frugalpac?

Masand: Diageo founded Pulpex, in partnership with Pilot Lite (a venture management company). The announcements for Diageo’s paper bottles for Johnnie Walker, and PepsiCo’s are the same technology and application: to replace glass/plastic bottles with paper bottles for drinks. Frugal Bottle is also a very similar technology and is targeting the same application as Pulpex. 

Loss of transparency is a major downside in a move away from plastic packaging. What are other shortcomings?

Masand: Paper is frequently suggested as a substitute for plastic packaging, even more so than bioplastics. Several companies are shifting to paper-based packaging to reduce the use of plastics.

However, current available data suggests that paper packaging generally requires several times more mass to fulfil the same function as its plastic counterpart. As a result, the overall environmental impact tends to be higher for paper, except in its carbon footprint. Additionally, replacing plastic with paper could lead to a serious supply problem. Paper is a short-term solution and will simply shift the burden for packaging problems.

The 750mL Frugal Bottle made by Frugalpac is made from 94% recycled paperboard with a food-grade liner and, at just 83 grams, is up to five times lighter than a glass bottle. An independent Life Cycle Analysis by Intertek found it has a carbon footprint up to six times (84%) lower than a glass bottle and more than a third less than a bottle made from 100% rPET.


Are paper bottles at a cost premium to plastic?

Masand: All paper products for packaging typically have a 10-20 cents per piece premium. This is a big challenge that hinders paper packaging adoption. To overcome the issue, the industry has been moving to adopt a wider feedstock by using agricultural waste fibres along with hardwood and softwood fibres. The hope is that by using waste fibres, companies can achieve more sustainability and reduce costs to then lower the price premium for products.

What other beverage markets may be vulnerable to a plastic-to-paper bottle change?

Masand: The bottled water is another beverage market facing potential penetration from alternate materials like paper bottles. However, aluminium bottles and cans seem to be dominating as an alternative to plastic rather than paper. Some start-ups include Open Water, Reign Water Company, Wallaby Water, and CanO Water.

Should plastic bottle suppliers be nervous?

Masand: No, it is highly unlikely for paper bottles to disruptive plastic bottles on a significant scale, at least in the near-term. In the long run, I think recycling technologies will improve considerably, allowing for a higher recycling rate for plastic bottles and other plastic packaging to enable a circular economy for plastics. With that, it is unlikely for any alternate materials to disrupt the plastic industry.

What are the technical challenges to the paper bottle?

Masand: Paper bottles need a coating or plastic liner on the inside to provide moisture barrier, and resistance to other environmental factors. While companies claim the layers can be easily separated for recyclability, we are sceptical of those claims given the challenges in recycling plastic-lined paper today and the likelihood that the companies aren't using any technology to allow for that separation. 

Also, the cap and closure for these paper bottles is aluminium- or plastic-based, so it would need to be separated and sent into different recycling streams — that is highly dependent on efficient collection and sorting, and so again makes us sceptical of the end-of-life processing success rate.

Final thoughts?

Masand: Many companies are adopting solutions that solve the issue of plastics waste; however, they create a new set of sustainability challenges. All the alternative materials solutions have a separate set of problems associated with them; thus, they simply shift the packaging problem. With that, paper packaging will continue to grow for adoption, but will never be a substantial threat to plastics.

Previous paper bottle articles at Packaging Digest

Absolut is Perfecting Paper Bottles for Spirits, published September 2020;

L’Oréal’s Paper Bottle: Easy on the Earth but Tough in Showers, published May 2018;

Seventh Generation Reinvents Detergent Packaging with New Paper Bottle, published March 2015;

Carlsberg Supports Biodegradable, Wood-Fiber Beverage Bottle, published February 2015. Note: You’ll find updated information at the Carlsberg site.

Omnichannel Retailing is Changing the Packaging Landscape

Montri/Adobe Stock Omnichannel AdobeStock_128122888

The past five years has seen a continual consumer purchasing shift toward ecommerce and away from brick and mortar stores. However, what was supposed to be a slow and steady trajectory upwards has turned into a meteoric rise due to pandemic shopping habits.  We’ve seen projections as high as 40% to 50% of purchases currently done online versus pre-pandemic, low double-digits. Many feel those high numbers are here to stay.

On a parallel path, the term “omnichannel” fulfillment has been gaining a foothold. Retailers are being challenged to provide their customers with a seamless purchasing experience regardless of where the product is being shipped from. The objective is to make the right packaging choices which will positively impact quality, speed, shipping costs and the all-important customer.

From a packaging perspective, that’s easier said than done.  In some cases, companies may be shipping from various locations including manufacturing facilities, distribution centers, retail stores, fulfillment houses, etc. What is a desired consumer experience in a retail environment, may not work at all in ecommerce distribution. 

For example, the brand owner’s goal typically has been to create differentiation for their product at the retail level. With regards to the primary container, such as a ketchup bottle, creating a distinctive shape that would facilitate dispensing was the objective.  Label types and graphics were also part of the brand equity, as well as dispensing closure functionality. 

When the mode of transport from the store shelf to the consumer’s home is usually a shopping cart and the trunk of a car, there is no need to further engineer the container. 

However, an omnichannel approach to retailing is changing the game permanently. Now, when a consumer places an online order for that bottle of ketchup, the bottle could be coming from any number of stocking location types. It could be part of the retail store’s local inventory, or it could be coming from a distribution center.

Regardless of the location, that bottle will now have to be placed in a corrugated case or padded bag for home delivery. Invariably that means that the bottle — now separated from the carefully protected partitioned 12-count case load — will be subjected to a bumpy journey via truck, postal vehicle, car, etc. before it gets to the consumer’s home.

Five omnichannel considerations.

Because this is a topic could never be covered in a handful of paragraphs, our objective with this blog is to simply create “food for thought.”  Here are some considerations that should be part of every packager’s dialogue.

  • Primary package needs to be more durable to accommodate vigorous shipping environments.
  • Is there a volume set point where two designs make sense, one for shelf retail and one for ecommerce, or should one package be all things to all consumers?
  • Amazon demands are driving more efficient shapes, less weight, and a move towards refillable products. Plus, glass breaks and metals dents.
  • How is your omnichannel package being informed by your sustainability goals including post-consumer recycled content, barrier and color objectives, as well as recycling commitments?
  • How are resin supply pricing and availability impacting package design decisions? For example, recyled PET (rPET) supply and quality has been disrupted due to COVID-19 while prices for virgin PET and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) resins are at historical lows.

In addition to these considerations, the other critical driver that will determine success and failure is how brand owners communicate internally.   In an environment where functions within a brand owner are increasingly “in a silo.” that means that decisions are being made by one department without consideration of how another will be able to execute.  For example, if marketing pushes a design purely based on aesthetics, but doesn’t consider if it can be produced or filled with any level of efficiency (or at all), the end result will likely be disastrous. 

In order to create next generation packaging that will be successful in omnichannel retailing, it is critical that all functions including marketing, packaging, production, operations, procurement, etc., are aligned in the process.


Author: Craig Robinson is the global vice president of business development and innovation at PTI. He has decades of experience in integrated marketing, concept development and sales management in packaging and branding.

About PTI

PTI is recognized as a leading source for preform and package design, package development, rapid prototyping, pre-production prototyping, and material evaluation engineering for the plastic packaging industry. 





Pop-Up Plastic Bag Store: Where Art Imitates Products and Packaging

Ready for an impressive satirical and humorous take on everyday products  and packaging made of plastics?

Check out The Plastic Bag Store, a pop-up art installation in the heart of  New York City. According to the sponsor, Times Square Arts, the display casts a “critical lens to our culture of consumption and convenience — specifically, the enduring effects of our single-use plastics.” The timing was intended to coincide with New York State’s ban on all plastic carryout bags.

Free and open to the public October 22 to November 7, shelves are stocked with thousands of original, hand-sculpted items — produce and meat, dry goods and toiletries, cakes and sushi rolls —  all made from discarded, single-use plastics in an endless flux of packaging.

All I can add is that it’s amazing.



Record 2.7 Million Robots Work in Factories Globally

Image: World Robotics robot markets

The World Robotics 2020 Industrial Robots report identifies a record 2.722 million industrial robots operating in factories around the world — an increase of 12% year-on-year. Sales of new robots remained at a high level, with 373,000 units shipped globally in 2019. This is 12% less compared to 2018, but still the third highest sales volume ever recorded.


“The stock of industrial robots operating in factories around the world today marks the highest level in history,” says Milton Guerry, president of the International Federation of Robotics. “Driven by the success story of smart production and automation, this is a worldwide increase of about 85% within five years (2014–2019). The recent slowdown in sales by 12% reflects the difficult times the two main customer industries, automotive and electrical/electronics, have experienced.”

“In addition to that, the consequences from the coronavirus pandemic for the global economy cannot be fully assessed yet,” adds Guerry. “The remaining months of 2020 will be shaped by adaption to the new normal. Robot suppliers adjust to the demand for new applications and developing solutions. A major stimulus from large-scale orders is unlikely this year. China might be an exception, because the coronavirus was first identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019 and the country already started its recovery in the second quarter. Other economies report to be at the turning point right now. But it will take a few months until this translates into automation projects and robot demand. 2021 will see recovery, but it may take until 2022 or 2023 to reach the pre-crisis level.”

robot markets

The International Federation of Robotics report predicts that social distancing requirements will boost demand for robots in the electronics sector. It also forecasts strong demand in new applications like healthcare for the production of personal protective equipment. Robots are seen as a key tool in improving the resilience of supply chains.

Asia remains the strongest market for industrial robots: Operational stock for the region´s largest adopter China rose by 21% and reached about 783,000 units in 2019. Japan ranks second with about 355,000 units, plus 12%. A runner-up is India, with a new record of about 26,300 units, plus 15%. Within five years, India has doubled the number of industrial robots operating in the country´s factories.

The share of newly installed robots in Asia was about two-thirds of global supply. Sales of almost 140,500 new robots in China is below the record years of 2018 and 2017 but still more than double the numbers sold five years ago (2014: 57,000 units). Installations of top Asian markets slowed down — in China (minus 9%) and Japan (minus 10%).

In China, the broad majority of 71% of new robots was shipped in from foreign suppliers. Chinese manufacturers still mainly cater to the domestic market, where they are gaining increasing market share. Foreign suppliers deliver some 29% of their units to the automotive industry, while the figure is only around 12% for Chinese suppliers. Therefore, foreign suppliers were more affected by the decline of business in the Chinese automotive industry than domestic suppliers.

Europe reached an operational stock of 580,000 units in 2019 – plus 7%. Germany remains the main user, with an operational stock of about 221,500 units. This is about three times the stock of Italy (74,400 units), five times the stock of France (42,000 units), and about 10 times the stock of the UK (21,700 units).

The US is the largest industrial robot user in the Americas, reaching a new operational stock record of about 293.200 units, up 7%. Mexico comes second with 40,300 units, which is a gain of 11%, followed by Canada with about 28,600 units, plus 2%.

New installations in the United States slowed down by 17% in 2019 compared to the record year of 2018. With 33,300 shipped units, sales remain on a very high level representing the second strongest result of all time. Most of the robots in the US are imported from Japan and Europe. Although, there are not many North American robot manufacturers, there are numerous important robot system integrators.

The adoption of human-robot collaboration is on the rise. Cobot installations grew by 11%. This dynamic sales performance was in contrast to the overall trend with traditional industrial robots in 2019. As more and more suppliers offer collaborative robots and the range of applications becomes bigger, the market share reached 4.8% of the total of 373,000 industrial robots installed in 2019. Although this market is growing rapidly, it is still in its infancy.


Article courtesy of Packaging Digest's sister publication Design News.

New Products

Spirits Leader Sazerac Revolutionizes Packaging Inspection

Sazerac Sazerac Bottle Cork Xray Combo
Sazerac's offline system provides unprecedented QA inspection capability.

Who can claim that a visit to the dentist resulted in a major, positive impact on a brand’s quality assurance processes?

An employee of spirits brand owner The Sazerac Company had such a eureka moment.

That happenstance along with subsequent research within the field of metrology inspection led to the company adapting computerized tomography (CT) technology to address its packaging engineering needs.

CT is trusted within the medical field to provide high-level detail using X-ray technology to assist doctors in making accurate and informed decisions. Sazerac is benefiting in a similar way by implementing the use of a CT scanner paired with trusted engineering software. With a portfolio of more than 450 brands, the 200-year-old company claims combining the two entities provides a powerful tool with measurement and vision capabilities far beyond the industry’s current state. In fact, Sazerac calls it “a revolutionary method to assess and measure packaging, components, and assemblies.”

How revolutionary? The time to appropriately identify an opportunity or issue has been reduced from weeks or longer is now done in minutes.

SazeracSazerac CT with Hagedorn Marfleet

Alex Hagedorn, PhD, senior packaging engineer (left), and Terry Marfleet, VP procurement & contract manufacturing operations, who jointly developed the system shown between them, address Packaging Digest’s questions.

Describe the setup and process.

Sazerac: The system comprising a CT Scanner and PC are located in a laboratory. This concise setup eliminates the need of multiple pieces of equipment. 

The two dissimilar systems, scanner and software, are plug-and-play and interface nicely.

The software configures the CT scan into workable 2D or 3D output which allows for component interactions (bottles/closures) to be seen and measured. Additionally, the software allows for comparisons to be overlaid and measured.

How is it used and what does it do?

Sazerac: The system can be used in the design phase comparing current to proposed as well as to root cause quality issues and/or machine setup struggles on-line. The system has shown success throughout the manufacturing and filling process.

The ability to dissect packaging without ever opening or destroying it physically, overlay multiple designs, cross-section, measure and incorporate Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing (GD&T) and physically see interactions to assess material quality and machine setup are now possible with speed and accuracy using one system.

How much of this was off-the-shelf and what was customized?

Sazerac: The scanner is common to the medical/dental industry. Custom fixturing transposes its use from humans to packaging and components. 

Engineering software is common to the aviation/auto industry. Combining engineering software with a CT scanner results in a powerful tool for the spirits industry.

How long has this been in development?

Sazerac: Significant research into existing equipment used and outputs obtained was conducted, as well as an in-depth study of metrology and inspection. Feasibility and precision testing moved quickly. The complete system was available and in place and ready to use in 30 days.

SazeracSazerac Blantons Bottle and Scan

What's the range of containers and defects that can be detected?

Sazerac: The system doesn’t have limitations to size that we’ve encountered, however common use thus far has been on components and bottles ranging from 50mL to 1.75L. 

Uses include identifying thin material, material distribution, fit for purpose vision and measurement to quickly define if material, set-up, or both are compliant and within specification. This is the first nondestructive system allowing user to interact, measure, cut, slice—without opening the bottle. 

How was this done in the past?

Sazerac: Previous approach relied heavily on vendor to take individual components and analyze with the many tools. 

In what ways is this better?

Sazerac: The new system is built and driven by two simple principles, truth and speed. The previous approach was time consuming and failed to consider the system of components and how the two reacted or complimented one another. 

The days of laboriously dissecting various forms of packaging to obtain basic measurements are gone, as is the use of comparators, calipers, and other equipment. At best, the results obtained from these time and equipment intensive traditional methods were costly and incomplete.

How fast is it?

Sazerac: A complete analysis of component, bottle, or both including digitally slicing, measuring, and seeing component interaction, and conducting material overlays can be conducted in 30 minutes. 

Can you quantify how much the system reduces line stoppages or increases uptime?

Sazerac: The time to appropriately identify an opportunity or issue has been reduced from weeks, months, or longer to minutes.

The speed of the machine and ability to analyze all packaging components together quickly provides the complete answers to make sound decisions. 

What is the projected return-on-investment?

Sazerac: The system provides immediate results.  Depending on severity, ROI could be immediate through detection of components not fit for purpose.

Who operates the system?

Sazerac: Trained packaging engineers utilize and maintain the system.

What was the biggest challenge?

Sazerac: Since implementation, the system continues to solve difficult challenges. Seeing the fitment of a closure applied to a bottle and how threads engage with the finish is amazing, as well as measuring, cutting, slicing without ever cutting the bottle or utilizing an additional tool — and if desired can determine headspace, cork compression, etc.

SazeracClose up of bottle neck and cork Scan

Any surprise during development?

Sazerac: It was unchartered territory of shooting a bottle and closure system with a CT scanner. Considering this novel approach and partnering it with engineering software which immediately provided the answers was sought. It worked! The quality, resolution, heatmapping of thickness and ability to identify differences is now possible.


What safety precautions are needed?

Sazerac: As with any CT scanner, the unit should be qualified and registered. Placement and use should be verified. Adequate training should occur as well as routine maintenance.  

What’s the current usage status? And what's the next step?

Sazerac: One system supports all plants with results provided faster and more accurate than ever before.

Immediate plan is to use the system for gold standard development of design and material optimization.  That said of course, a couple really great additions in play to further change the industry—those to be disclosed at a later time.

Would the company consider licensing or partnering with other companies to market the technology?

Sazerac: The intent is that the industry will adopt the concept to revolutionize current practices to accelerate the improvement of quality, customer satisfaction, and reduce cost by defining with truth and speed.

Final thoughts?

Sazerac: The trusted system used in the medical/dental industry provides answers quickly while considering the entire system—allowing for fit for purpose packaging design, which is a definite advancement to the industry.

For further information, contact Alex Hagedorn, [email protected], 502-269-2826; or Terry Marfleet, [email protected], 502-815-2415.

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