SaO PAULO, BRAZIL-Rhodia-Ster SA has designed an unusual, 500-milliliter PET bottle with angled ribbing that it says uses less resin than comparable, traditional bottles. The same project has yielded a process that maximizes machine efficiency while hot-filling bottles at 180§ F. The bottle, which made its commercial debut in Brazil in April as the package for Nabisco's Maguary-brand concentrated fruit juice, took three years to develop.
Rhodia-Ster, created in May 1994 when the Rhodia subsidiary of France's Grupo Rhone-Poulenc formed a joint venture with the Chinese-Brazilian Sinasa Group's Celbras unit, makes the bottle at its Pocos de Caldas plant in the southeastern Brazilian state of Minas Gerais.
The firm, which floated an initial public offering in December, currently has no plans to market the bottle outside Brazil, according to Gina Ann Tedesco, department manager for sales, marketing and business development for the firm's packaging business unit.
In a late-May interview at Rhodia-Ster's corporate headquarters in SÃo Paulo, Tedesco said the company has the capacity to make 5 million of the bottles per month for Nabisco.
Tedesco provided an update in mid-July: ``The launch was better than expected. The initial demand for Nabisco's Maguary in PET has exceeded sales projections and expectations by over 15 percent. Thus we are already planning to increase capacity by the end of the year.''
Rhodia-Ster currently makes more than 500 million PET bottles a year, for products including vegetable oil, soda and liquor, she said. The firm, in addition to injection molding PET preforms, also is the sole producer in Brazil of returnable 11/2-liter PET bottles for Coca-Cola Co.
The new angled-rib bottle uses 1.12 ounces of PET and ``can go down to'' 1.05 ounces, compared with 1.23 ounces for a 500-ml bottle with conventional paneled sides, said Carlos Eduardo Bueno, research and development manager for packaging.
``Our process yields lighter bottles, using less resin, allowing greater machine productivity,'' he said.
Rhodia-Ster can produce 1,000 of the bottles per mold per hour, a significant increase over the rate usually achievable. Tedesco said the hot-fill process normally allows a conventional machine to run at only 80 percent of its normal rate, thereby reducing productivity and boosting costs. This new process allows conventional machines to run at full capacity while filling at 180§ F, she said.
Bueno, who worked for the Braspet unit of Celbras before the creation of Rhodia-Ster, said the new bottle and related hot-fill process use conventional resin and machinery and ``almost conventional'' technology.
``We created our own design, and started with a conventional, paneled bottle - but the customer didn't want that,'' said Bueno, who first began testing a version of this hot-fill process about five years ago in a failed project for Gatorade.
Much tinkering resulted in the bottle's angled ribbing. This, in turn, required an altered mechanical structure, while the other element at play involves the thermal process.
``They work together,'' Bueno said of those two factors, ``and that is the key.''