Groupe Sidel, the French PET blow molding equipment maker, announced April 29 what it called a major advance in single-layer PET bottles with good oxygen-barrier properties — a machine that coats the inside of the bottle with a carbon treatment.
The target is any PET bottle holding liquid, such as soda or beer, that needs a barrier to oxygen and carbon dioxide.
Sidel ``very soon'' will begin selling the Actis machine in Europe, said Michel Picandet, vice president of sales for Sidel Inc., the company's North American operation in Norcross, Ga.
Sidel will not market Actis Technology to the U.S. market initially, he said. The company will seek a letter of nonobjection from the Food and Drug Administration for the food-contact application.
Sidel issued the announcement from its headquarters in Le Havre, France. Sidel's home factory is making the Actis machine.
Actis stands for Amorphous Carbon Treatment on Internal Surface.
The technology is an alternative to the current way to make PET beer bottles, which requires a coinjection molded, multilayer preform.
Actis uses a standard, single-layer preform, which is blown and then coated inside with what Sidel calls ``a layer of highly hydrogenated amorphous carbon, obtained from a food-safe gas in its plasma state.'' The coating creates a very thin barrier inside the bottle.
The treated bottle is recyclable, Sidel said.
Sidel is pitching the technology as a way to reduce costs — a key stumbling block to PET beer bottles.
Picandet said some applications still would require multilayer barrier bottles. ``We don't necessarily see [Actis] as a competitive package to the multilayer [bottles],'' he said.
Picandet said Actis can make clear bottles.
Sidel said that, after a six-month taste test campaign, testing organizations in Denmark and France concluded that beer in Actis-coated bottles was equal to the taste of beer in glass.
One PET bottle expert, Peter Weggeman, was impressed but wants more details. ``It sounds like an important development,'' he said the day of the announcement. ``What it really proves is the evolution of the commercially viable beer bottle is in motion. ... The tough demands placed on plastic to contain beer will be met, in an evolutionary process,'' he said.
Based in Naples, Fla., Weggeman is president of Innovation in Beverage Packaging Inc., which runs the Bev-Pak conferences.
Weggeman said the oxygen-barrier challenge is a major hurdle for PET beer bottles. Other issues are protecting the beer against sunlight and pasteurization. ``This invention apparently addresses only one of those issues, but it is an important and expensive issue, and this seems to provide an economical answer to it,'' he said.
Sidel officials are scheduled to discuss Actis and other innovations at the Nova-Pack Europe '99 conference, to be held Sept. 23-24 in Neuss, Germany. Schotland Business Research Inc. is sponsoring the conference.