PET bottle handle—N.A. success story
The story of how five companies worked together to solve a packaging conundrum.
May 16, 2014
by David Birkby, freelance writer
A three-liter PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottle with a molded in handle has been successfully launched in North America as a result of the collaboration efforts of a group of progressive packaging companies.
The “T” handle technology developed by SIDE, located in Barcelona, 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 their Canola oil supplier: Richardson Oilseed, Canada’s largest privately owned agribusiness.
The challenge was a market demand for a value priced 3-L clear bottle with a consumer friendly grip feature. Richardson Oilseed invited their partner IntraPac, a Canadian division of the privately-owned IntraPac Group, to develop packaging alternatives to meet customer objectives.
The need for clarity narrowed choices to PP (polypropylene) or PET.
Although PP can be blow molded with a handle for larger bottles, 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 mould a “T” handle into PET during the moulding 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 Oilseed 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-lbs.
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 43-mm thread finish developed by Pano Cap 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 was ready for production and market trials.
Subsequent consumer acceptance, performance and cost effective structure has resulted in substantial sales for Richardson Oilseed and growth opportunities for a package that will open new markets in North America and abroad.
SIDE has 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 2.5-L bottles with only 54-g.
It has also expanded the applicability of the T-handle system for up to four cavity machines and can provide an output of up to 4,000-bph (bottles per hour), depending on the size of the containers.