Canadian Plastics

Rib-less, panel-less PET bottle quenches beverage industry thirst for new design

To modify an old saying, there was water, water everywhere but hardly a drop to drink from a rib-less, panel-less hot-fill polyethylene terephthalate (PET bottle) -- until now....

April 1, 2006   By Mark Stephen, associate editor



To modify an old saying, there was water, water everywhere but hardly a drop to drink from a rib-less, panel-less hot-fill polyethylene terephthalate (PET bottle) — until now.

That’s because Amcor PET Packaging, in Ann Arbor, Mich., has found a way to manufacture a smooth-walled PET bottle that looks very much like glass.

Amcor expects its new panel-less hot-fill PET bottle — called PowerFlex — to be a hit with beverage bottlers because the ribs and panels in the sidewalls of traditional PET bottles made them difficult to label, the company said.

Ribs or panels had always been necessary, however, to absorb the distortion that occurs when a capped hot-filled (between 182 and 192F) beverage cools to room temperature. “This was a difficulty that plastic PET converters have been trying to overcome for years,” Ruth Ann Church, Amcor’s marketing director, said.

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And it wasn’t just a difficulty, but a race. Among the companies working to solve bottle distortion was Graham Packaging, which unveiled its own rib-less Active Transverse Panel (ATP) bottle in mid-2004.

While preferring not to comment on the costs involved, Amcor hit on a bottle designed with an inverted cone-shaped base to absorb the vacuum distortion, allowing the sidewalls to be molded smooth to achieve the aesthetics, performance and feel of glass.

PowerFlex was released in March of last year and Amcor is hoping the many beverage manufacturers that stayed away from PET bottles for their premium brands of teas and juices will give the process a second look now the technology meets their hot-fill and aesthetic requirements.

And the company hasn’t been disappointed with the response thus far. Last August, Cincinnati, Ohio-based Tradewinds Tea began selling its single-serve teas in the PowerFlex 16-ounce bottles. Two months later, Trinity Springs, in Boise, Id., did the same with its lines of organic flavoured water. “We did not like the non-flat sides (of hot-filled, paneled PET bottles),” Andy Mitchell, Trinity Spring’s president, said when explaining his firm’s reason for the switch.

Right now Amcor offers PowerFlex in 16- and 20-ounce versions and is considering adding further sizes, ranging between 8- to 32-ounces additions, to the product line.

So don’t blame Amcor or Graham Packaging if you still can’t find that same drop of water to drink.

Amcor PET Packaging (Ann Arbor, Mich.)

www.amcor.com; 800-666-7741


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