Breaking the mould of plastic bottles

Blue plastic bottles

Credit: Galina Shafran/GettyImages

Ground-breaking technology enables manufacturers of plastic bottles the ability to increase efficiency with material and energy usage.

The technology has been underpinned by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funded researchers at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB).

The most common process for manufacturing plastic bottles is injection stretch blow moulding, which is primarily used to manufacture polyethylene terephthalate (plastic) bottles for water and carbonated soft drinks.

Due to environmental concerns and the volatility of resin cost, there is a continual drive to lightweight these containers.

Stretch blow moulding

Unique stretch blow moulding technology, developed by QUB researchers, has been implemented by leading brands and manufacturers, including:

  • PepsiCo
  • Procter and Gamble.

This has resulted in multi-million-pound savings in materials and process costs, and ultimately in annual savings of greenhouse gas emissions measured in the thousands of tonnes.

The technology enables bottle designers and producers to better understand the materials they are using and developing as well as the manufacturing process.

As a result, they can make informed decisions based on the unique data generated.

Spin out-company

The research has led to the formation of a successful spin out-company, Blow Moulding Technologies (BMT), which supplies software, services and hardware globally across the packaging sector.

The array of technology is a key enabler for:

  • the introduction of recycled materials and new bio-based materials into the global plastics packaging market
  • optimising material and energy usage in plastic bottles.

Professor Gary Menary at QUB said:

Through collaboration with multinational companies, the underpinning research has resulted in new technology, software and knowledge being integrated into the design and manufacturing process of billions of containers, leading to significant environmental impacts.

Last updated: 6 July 2021

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