Bottle technology ‘makes aluminum act like plastic’

New blow-molded aluminum bottle technology is introduced at The Packaging Conference that lets CPGs create bottles in an array of shapes previously possible only with the use of PET.

Patented uShape technology can create aluminum bottles with shapes previously possible only with PET.
Patented uShape technology can create aluminum bottles with shapes previously possible only with PET.

The Packaging Conference, sponsored by PTI (formerly Plastic Technologies, Inc.) and SBA-CCI, has become known as the go-to event to hear about the latest launches in packaging equipment and materials. This year’s event, held in Orlando Feb. 5-7, has been no exception.

On the first day of the event, Betty Jean Pilon, President of Montebello Packaging, provided an overview of the company’s new uShape blow-molded aluminum bottle technology, which has been in development for 10 years. Montebello has traditionally been known as a supplier of collapsible aluminum tubes, aerosol cans, laminated tubes, and all-plastic tubes. However, Pilon said when the company saw a downturn in its market, it looked to new packaging innovation. One of the largest drivers of uShape: the tremendous opportunities presented by the beverage market.

“We know that Canada, the United States, China, and Brazil are the largest beverage markets in the world,” said Pilon. “They singlehandedly produce 100 billion bottles each year. The Europeans consume about 63 billion, the South Americans about 32 billion, and the rest of the world, approximately 20 billion. So that’s why we got into it.”

The advantage of the patented uShape technology is the ability to create aluminum bottles with shapes previously possible only with PET, with the features and functionality of aluminum. To create uShape, Montebello partnered with Novelis, taking their patented technology and building upon it. The bottle is made from impact extruded aluminum that is turned into a preform and blow molded “in any shape you’d like,” said Pilon. This includes flutes and asymmetric shapes.

She added that the process is very quick, and the molds are inexpensive. Another advantage is that Montebello can produce minimum runs of 30,000 pieces versus the hundreds of thousands required by traditional can manufacturers.

The bottles can be dry offset printed by Montebello in up to nine colors and can include matte and gloss finishes, metallic and specialty inks, and a variety of base coating options. The bottle can also be embossed or debossed and can accommodate ROPP, crown, and ring-pull closures.

“It’s fun that we’ve been able to create something that allows people to use their imagination to innovate something they want to see on the shelf,” said Pilon.

Montebello has taken the concept out to the market in the last six months, receiving technical innovation awards in both the U.S. and Europe. According to Pilon, several customers are now in stability testing with the new bottle.

uShape is suggested for a range of applications, including energy and sports drinks, dairy beverages, iced tea and coffee drinks, and carbonated soft drinks, among others. “Craft brewers love it,” said Pilon. “They can do short runs and it is very cost effective. The biggest cost is not the process, it’s the aluminum.”

Read more about the event at "The Packaging Conference answers, 'What's New?'"

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