There’s nothing wrong with rapid innovation – the sudden leap from black and white to color TV 50-odd years ago comes to mind – but most products improve gradually. It’s not particularly sexy but it definitely works.
A recent example is the North American introduction of the T-Handle bottle. Developed by Side SA, the Spanish maker of linear stretch reheat blow molding machines, the T-Handle is a new way of molding an integrated handle on a PET bottle – a method that comes closer than ever before to providing the characteristics and feel of a blown handle without the window being punched through.
Way back when, the introduction of blown handles on large-size extrusion blow molded containers made them more user-friendly, especially where the total weight of the package reached several kilos in household product containers, and where larger weights of five- to 20-litre containers were involved. Problem is, the formation of a handle with an open window in the centre is difficult when using PET due to the inability to fuse the material together at the blowing temperature. The traditional alternatives for PET bottles have been pinch grips – which aren’t great for the heavier end products – or handles added through a secondary step.
“The Side T-Handle is formed by internal mold action bringing the window webs to within 10mm of each other just after the initial expansion of the perform,” said Gaston Petrucci, executive vice president at Toronto’s Compact Mould, which represents Side in Canada. “The result is a deep recess that assures easy gripping and secure handling of the package with minimal gripping force. Additionally, the technology ensures good wall thickness uniformity especially in the area created for hand access.”
The T-Handle works in just one step, Petrucci continued, preblowing the handle at the same stage. In the end, he said, the system reduces production costs, cuts cycle time, and reduces power consumption because the machine reheats the preform in a standard process.
The T-Handle bottle can be molded on Side’s Maxi-blow one-cavity machine at up to 900 bottles per hour; its 2002e-G two-cavity press at up to 1,800 bottles per hour; and its three-cavity 20033-G at a rate up to 2,700 bottles per hour.
“It’s the next big improvement for the manufacturing of PET bottles, and will probably make the pinch grip obsolete,” Petrucci said. “Until there’s a revolutionary development that makes PET much easier to mold, this is the best way to create a functional handle without requiring an extra production step.”