Chicago — Pete Piscopo has been around the plastics caps and closures business long enough to know that what's old can become new again.
And a modern take on a classic closure design resulted in Piscopo and his peers at Plastek Industries Inc. winning the second annual Plastics Caps & Closures Innovation Award recently in Chicago.
Piscopo, manager of research and development at Plastek, leaned on his experience from more than 30 years ago to design a new closure for an Arm & Hammer concentrated laundry packs container. The closure keeps little hands out while still providing access to adults.
"My first experience with these types of closures came after the Tylenol scare," he remembered. "I was designing single and double lug squeeze-and-turn child-resistance caps. ... This background on how to do these types of formulary child-resistant closures is strong in my background."
So when Church & Dwight Co. Inc. wanted a new child-resistant closure for a laundry pack rigid container, Piscopo knew just what he wanted to do. "We were given the platform to make the system robust, make it hold up to the rigors of what's being expected of it and allow it to be safe for children and senior-friendly as well. That was our charge," he said.
The resulting two-part closure features a 5-inch outside diameter with an inside thread size of 110 millimeters. The two-part closure features two squeeze tabs on the outside that adults squeeze together to open the container.
"They must take the offset squeeze tabs and squeeze and turn at the same time. So it's a simultaneous action that will achieve success in getting into the container," Piscopo explained. And that's just too much for small hands and minds to handle.
The idea was to create a system to keep young children safe but also easy enough for older people to use.
"We were 100 percent successful on all of the tests we put in front of children. They were not able to get in. And the seniors, we were 88 percent successful, and anything over 85 percent is a pass of the senior population. So Church & Dwight made a conscious decision to be safe for children even if they lost sales on the older bracket of seniors."
The closures, with an inner wall and an outer wall formed on the same mold, is made from a copolymer polypropylene that includes some polyethylene. The PE content is included to "give you the softness and the pliability and the squeezabilty," Piscopo explained.
The container's large opening is designed to give adult hands enough space to reach into the container to gain access to the product.
The thread depth also is deeper than typical to help guard against young children prying off the closure, Piscopo said.
He sees the potential to use this type of approach for other applications. "The potential is huge. There can be many other products that can go into this. It just doesn't have to be detergent," he said.
The closures are made by Plastek in Erie, Pa., and the container is made by Plastipak Packaging Inc., Piscopo said.
Piscopo estimated it took about three months to develop the closure.
Plastek was one of three finalists for the award.
Another finalist was Hoffer Plastics Corp. of Elgin, Ill., for its Trust-T-Lok, an injection molded closure for flexible pouch packaging that is tamper-evident.
Pan Pacific Manufacturing Inc. of Haywood, Calif., also was a finalist for its Seal-2-Go tamper-evident plastic delivery bag for meal delivery companies such as UberEATS and Grubhub, for example. The bag features a permanent adhesive seal to protect the food from tampering or pilfering. There also are two vent holes.
All three companies were honored at the recent Plastics Caps & Closures 2017 conference in Chicago organized by Plastics News.