Design & Services One-handed drinking thanks to dual-handed design

Author / Editor: Eric Culp / Stéphane Itasse

With the help of a rapid prototyping partner, a product design and development company devises an all-new beverage can.

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4Pack is conducting tests of the PET can with consumers of various beverages.
4Pack is conducting tests of the PET can with consumers of various beverages.
(Source: Proto Labs)

German product design company 4Pack GmbH focuses on designing innovative products for the global canned-drink industry. Rapid prototyping is critical for product development in this area, says General Manager Friedhelm Nebel, so when the firm needed its first component prototypes, it searched for a suitable service provider. At a EuroMold show, its representatives encountered Proto Labs and knew they had found the right partner.

Proto Labs offers two services: Firstcut, which supplies CNC-milled prototypes, and Protomold, which supplies injection-moulded plastic parts. Nebel says 4Pack chose Protomold because it suited the design of the CrazyCan parts.

“The service is very easy to use,” he says. “We simply upload our CAD models to Proto Labs’ server, and, within a day, they send us a detailed, fully interactive online proposal called ProtoQuote, which includes an analysis of each part’s manufacturability.” Since ProtoQuote is automatically updated to reflect requested changes in design or quantity, 4Pack can make modifications quickly and easily.

Product faces guidelines in Europe, US

Materials for packaging components for the beverage industry are subject to strict food and hygiene regulations. With 4Pack developing CrazyCan not just for the German market but for the entire EU and USA, it had to make numerous modifications at the behest of both the German risk assessment institute BfR and the US FDA.

“The materials we use must also be recyclable, which is why we use PET and PP,” Nebel continues. “Depending on the material we used, we had to modify our CrazyCan design several times to take account of the pressure density of the cans. Throughout all this, Protomold has given us a real advantage in terms of their rapid response in delivering new prototypes and an attractive cost structure.”

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The CrazyCan seal is a flat PET cap combined with a PET sleeve, which keeps the drinking brim of the can clean and hygienically sealed. Consumers pull off the seal by means of a specified flap, then press the centre of the cap with a finger—a little to lower the valve and degas the can (if the beverage contains CO2) and more to open the closure completely until a mechanism keeps it open and affixed to the can for drinking or pouring. Pressing two fingers on the edge of the opened cap lifts the valve to its original position to close the can securely and prevent either fluid or CO2 from leaking.

Not only does the CrazyCan have to meet the manufacturers’ requirements; it also has to gain consumer acceptance. So, 4Pack is conducting tests of the can with consumers of various beverages. The company will call on its trusted partner if those drinkers are unsatisfied.

“If there are any consumer objections to the closure system,” says Nebel, “we know that Proto Labs will be able to make the necessary modifications at short notice. They use their own facilities to make all the moulds, which means they are both quick and cost-effective.”