Drink beer — in plastic — at the beer garden in the Bottle Zone at NPE2018.
There will be 3,000 amber PET beer bottles at the Bottle Zone beer garden in the South Hall of the Orange County Convention Center.
And it's an all-Canadian effort, except for the beer.
Getting the plastic beer bottles for NPE2018 was a major effort, one that came together in 18 months. The effort is a partnership between two Canadian machinery makers: blow molding press maker W. Amsler Equipment Inc., which designed the bottle, and Athena Automation Ltd., which injection molded the preforms on its machine. Yudo ValuePro Canada supplied the hot runners. Mold-Spec Inc. built the blow mold.
Orlando Brewing Co. filled the bottles with beer in mid-April.
At NPE2018, Amsler Equipment's exhibit will feature a beer bottle blow mold, preforms and Orlando Brewing bottles, both filled and empty.
Heidi Amsler, sales and marketing manager for Amsler Equipment, said the project came together quickly after she and Bruce Coxhead, Amsler's general manager, learned about the Bottle Zone in a presentation at the Packaging Conference in February 2017. Blow molding consultant Mike Urquhart told the audience he hoped to see beer sold in PET bottles in the beer garden.
Heidi Amsler and Coxhead decided to go for it.
"It was a big project," she said. "There's been a lot of running around. The work that's gone into this in terms of design and sampling, and the right material and all that."
Amsler had never targeted the beer market for its PET linear stretch blow molding machines before, Heidi Amsler said. Coxhead's experience was a key. He came to Amsler in 2016 as GM. His past experience includes PET injection molding and blow molding experience from time spent at Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd., Milacron Holdings Corp., and most recently Athena Automation, as vice president of the PET Division.
Bill Droste, a partner of Orlando Brewing, helped get the PET beers into the convention center.
"Orange County Convention Center, certainly they were very cooperative in working with Orlando Brewing to make this all happen," Heidi Amsler said.
Amsler said the machinery company wants to target craft brewers for PET beer bottles. PET is safer than glass bottles at public events.
"It's driven by some customers that we have that sell glass bottles, that wanted plastic alternatives," she said.
And it's been a beer whirlwind for Amsler. The week before NPE2018, the blow molding machinery company is exhibiting at the Craft Brewers Conference in Nashville, April 30 through May 3.
Droste's requirement was a 12-ounce long-neck bottle with a panel diameter the same as a glass bottle to accept the label. Amsler had to keep the same bottle height for his filling equipment but shortened the shoulder to compensate for the wall thickness in a glass bottle. The plastic bottles have a standard metal crown closure. (The partner companies also can make a 500-ml preform, or 17 ounces, but that size will not be served in the Bottle Zone bar.)
The preform was optimized for the required axial and diametrical stretch ratios, as well as core and cavity draft for preform molding.
Amsler officials are now looking at machines to blow mold PET wine bottles as well as kegs in 15-, 20- and 30-liter sizes.