ATLANTA — Those in the know are lifting the veil, just a bit, on fledgling technology being developed that would fundamentally change the way plastic bottles are formed and filled.
Dubbed LiquiForm, the concept was revealed last summer, but now the principals are providing more detail about the idea to take the blow out of the blow molding process.
The idea, said LiquiForm President Ann O'Hara, is easy enough to understand. Use liquid, instead of air, to form and fill a bottle in one step.
“The technology itself is a great leap forward,” she said.
But replacing the time-honored approach of forming containers with air and then shipping them off to be filled on bottling lines is both a technological challenge and a significant departure from the norm.
“This is a major step change, and quite a simple idea,” she said recently at the Packaging Conference in Atlanta.
Confidentiality still cloaks much of the work being done in the name of LiquiForm, but partners in the project figured now is the time to provide some more details beyond the original announcement months ago. And get some useful feedback.
That announcement was driven by the need for public disclosure of a joint venture between packaging company Amcor Ltd. and machinery maker Sidel Inc. that was formed to pursue the LiquiForm concept.
“I think in our industry, it is time for a change,” said Luc Desoutter, sustainability officer for Sidel. “This is a brand new paradigm that we are opening with this LiquiForm technology.”
LiquiForm leaders said they would talk about the project on a limited basis in both the United States and in Europe, and they chose the Packaging Conference for their U.S. discussion. In other words, they said, don't expect to hear much more talk of the project as it evolves over time.
“This is still a confidential project,” O'Hara said. “Likewise, I'll be honest about this, there are some things we just don't know yet because it's still in the research phase.”
LiquiForm is looking to develop and then license the technology to other companies for widespread implementation. O'Hara expects LiquiForm to be commercialized during the next two to three years, but there's still plenty of work to get to that point.
“It's hard to tell with such technology like this. We could foresee in the next couple of years the first application and then an S curve of adoption. And how long that S curve is remains to be seen,” she said.
Following introduction of the idea last summer, the folks at LiquiForm have heard many different ideas that they did not even anticipate for the technology.
“What we heard from people who are not part of the project, they have come to us with various different applications that we didn't foresee,” she said.