From star designer Philippe Starck we know that he has his best ideas for designs for baths, fittings and the like during his morning ablutions in his own bathroom. But how is it for Claudia Schulte who works as a designer with the PET experts in the Bottles & Shapes™ program at KHS? What acts as her source of inspiration? “I try to think like the people who are later going to buy the product,” she says. “Are we talking about active, sporty young men, who are to be encouraged to buy an energy drink, or of young families choosing a yogurt drink? What’s their environment like, their home? It’s often about shape, color, fashions and trends.” The product to be packaged of course also dictates the general getup. On the beverage market concepts such as organic, home-made and – right up to the minute – crafted and traditional are still very much in vogue. This is naturally reflected in the design, especially those which adorn premium PET bottles. “Here, we’re seeing more and more shapes which remind us of Grandma’s glass juice bottles,” adds Schulte, “or caps and crown corks which we’re actually only used to seeing on glass bottles.”
Experienced and reliable
It goes without saying that developing the perfect PET bottle, which not only considers various aesthetic and psychological aspects but also has to satisfy many demands as to its function and economy, isn’t the result of a sudden stroke of genius. It’s a long way from what the customer wants to the finished bottle and the expertise pooled in the Bottles & Shapes™ program makes it an experienced and reliable source of information. After all, it’s this knowledge which originally went into the development of the world’s first PET bottle around 40 years ago. Today, with their extensive knowledge and inexhaustible creativity designers, engineers, technologists, lab scientists, product specialists and service experts ensure that individual ideas are first turned into a unique product – and then into a success on the shelves.
Bottle development starts with the design which gradually takes form in various sketches. Even at this stage it’s important to effect an optimum combination between the demands made of aesthetics and uniqueness on the one hand and functionality on the other. This is the only way to make sure that the bottle is not only visually attractive to the consumer but also convincing in its handling. The next step is to visualize the bottle as realistically as possible in 3D drawings using cutting-edge CAD technology. This allows a first assessment of the bottle’s shape to be made and this to be gradually perfected. The data gleaned at this stage also forms the basis for the blow mold which is then constructed after the final decision on the bottle design has been made. Once production and marketing are agreed on what the future bottle should look like, prototypes are produced with the help of ultramodern 3D printers which are rapidly available as a plotted model.
Professional process for optimum results
In order to identify any critical areas in the design and improve these, computer simulations of the bottle are carried out. All relevant influences on the bottle are simulated in virtual trials. This saves time and costs and the resulting suggestions for optimization of the bottle design can be quickly evaluated and implemented.
Choosing the perfect thread and suitable closure is also part of the design process. Besides not leaking there are other bottle factors that are also important; for example, if the bottle is under pressure, this must be released slowly on opening with the help of vent slots. A sports cap may be useful for cyclists enjoying their beverage on a bike, with a trigger sprayer handy for cleaning agents. When the design is complete, the PET experts at KHS then recommend an ideal preform. Under certified laboratory conditions testers expose the sample bottles to all factors which later play a role in production, during transportation and at the hands of the consumer.
Before the optimum bottle finally goes into production, the Bottles & Shapes™ team demonstrates another area of its expertise in manufacturing a wear-free blow mold of first-class, Made-in-Germany quality. Even extremely complicated milling contours and individual textures are precisely implemented. Bottle shrinkage factors on cooling after stretch blow molding, individual venting holes and the perfect release of the bottles from the mold halves all make a big difference in mold design.
The ensuing preparation stages for the production process enable every possible saving in costs and resources to be realized while ensuring maximum line efficiency and high process stability. Important influencing factors in this context are the selection of the right materials, determination of the optimum blowing pressure and minimization of the amount of heating energy required.
Focus on line compatibility
The Bottles & Shapes™ concept thus stands for the creation of an exemplary balance between economy, market acceptance and product quality. Arne Wiese, product manager at Bottles & Shapes™, explains the fine but oh-so-important difference between mere packaging design and the KHS approach. “With each new bottle development and bottle optimization, in our holistic view we naturally always aim for optimum line compatibility. We suggest solutions here which satisfy our customers’ requirements right down to the last detail – or even exceed them. However, our work focuses on the consumer. It’s the consumer who, in deciding to purchase the product, ultimately determines whether our efforts to create a balanced and brand-specific bottle design were successful or not.”
Light, lighter: now also for milk
The lowest possible weight, maximum individuality and stability, less use of raw materials and lower costs: all this also applies to dairy products.
KHS is also a pioneer when it comes to bottle lightweighting. The aim here is to scale the weight of PET bottles down to the absolute minimum without compromising on stability and safety. At the end of 2013 the experts at the KHS factory in Hamburg, Germany, developed a 0.5-liter PET bottle with a screw cap for highly carbonated beverages. Weighing in at just 10.9 grams, this is one of the lightest bottles available on the market. Compared to its predecessor, the 12.5-gram bottle, beverage producers can save over €200,000 a year on materials alone at an annual production of 100 million of these lightweights. The bottle is also manufactured using less energy and the lower weight cuts CO2 emissions during transportation.
The milk industry has also realized that light PET bottles pose an interesting alternative to the carton. They can be filled aseptically, protect the product, cut manufacturing costs and are fully recyclable. Consumers are also convinced by the 1-liter bottle recently developed by KHS; thanks to its intermittent rib structure it has an especially good grip. At 20 grams it’s very light and thus helps to save on resources and reduce production costs. The PET milk bottles can be packaged as shrink packs for easy shipping. Trays which generate much higher material and transportation costs are therefore superfluous.