Belvac's manufacturing innovation in aluminium bottle and can-shaping technology is forging new market opportunities for creating distinctive packaging.
For decades, global brand managers have been driven to distinguish their products through package design and point-of-purchase advantage. Brand managers and can-makers alike are therefore excited about Belvac's new shaping technology for aluminium bottles, cans and aerosol containers that allows the production of distinctive aluminium products with Belvac machinery at high speeds and volumes, and at reasonable container costs using proven technology. Belvac has been the world leader in high-speed continuous-motion rotary die-necking technology for more than 30 years.
Shaping and aluminium-container lightweighting innovation from Belvac production machinery is changing the way companies look at aluminium packaging for distinctively shaped bottles and cans, opening up new opportunities to use aluminium in packaging styles that would previously have been cost-prohibitive.
Glass has traditionally been the best choice for bottles, but Belvac machinery now provides a cost-effective alternative. Aluminium bottles produced using impact extrusion (IE) have shown up in several markets - largely as promotional products - but the amount of material required to produce a container has meant the cost of production is high. Belvac's new technology is changing that.
Belvac machines are using drawn and ironed (D&I) preforms to produce bottles with nearly 40% less aluminium than traditional IE methods can. A 16oz aluminium bottle produced by IE weighs around 50g, but 16oz D&I bottles in supermarkets today are only 31g. This has created a better financial model for branded aluminium containers and allows the creation of mainstream offerings for branded beverages.
For a bottle, the reduced weight also means reduced logistical costs: a glass bottle weighs around 180g - equivalent to an entire six-pack of D&I aluminium cans. This makes a big difference in terms of shipping costs, while breakage costs are also eliminated with aluminium.
These factors bring the overall life-cycle price of aluminium and glass close, but another factor in the drive to replace glass bottles with aluminium is the premium price consumers are willing to pay for the latter - research has shown that across the globe, they will pay a premium for aluminium, even when the bottle is smaller. In some cases, this equates to a price three times higher per ounce.
Consumers pay this premium because aluminium packaging has user-experience advantages: it chills faster and feels colder to the touch, making the drinking experience more pleasurable in the heat of summer. Aluminium containers are also building momentum in many traditional venues while providing additional benefits in non-traditional ones, such as pools, beaches and sporting events, where broken glass is a significant safety hazard.
D&I aluminium bottles are also a very green technology. Not only is less material used than in traditional aluminium processes but aluminium packages in general are also almost twice as likely to be recycled. According to the Glass Packaging Institute, in 2013, 34% of glass packages were recycled compared with 65% of aluminium packages, as reported by the Can Manufactures Institute.
Belvac is confident its Shaper and Bottle Can Manufacturing System (BCMS) can deliver the highest-quality shaped aluminium cans and bottles at a low cost. The ability to deliver cost-effective aluminium containers with high-speed, high-volume throughout, low spoilage rates and less material use has been Belvac's boast for decades.
The company is investing heavily in this young market because it believes these breakthroughs will establish long -term and increasing demand for these containers, and it is taking the lead in new shaped D&I aluminium can lines by partnering with can manufacturers from the design process and installation to commissioning and beyond.
The modularity of the Belvac machines accommodates container design changes without having to buy a new machine, while existing standard bottle lines can also be easily converted to a shaped bottle line by adding a Belvac Shaper.
Belvac makes no compromises when it comes to speed. Its shaper can run at speeds of 1,200 cans a minute, and the BCMS has proven reliable at speeds of up to 600 cans a minute in multiple global installations. The Belvac Shaper and BCMS can also produce D&I aluminium bottles and shaped cans up to 254mm, and can shapes 200mm from the top edge of the bottle or shaped can.
The breakthroughs in lightweighting shaped cans are changing the financial models associated with producing branded shaped cans, and this new technology is making aluminium a very attractive alternative in the glass-dominated bottle market.