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Engineering for excellence and recycled content

T3 Plastic Packaging was the most enthusiastic team at the Gold Pack Awards ceremony and celebrated its pack and development projects, which received a bronze medal and two finalist certificates, with unbridled passion. 

The team won a bronze medal in the Household Products category for the 750ml APC bottle that it developed for Spar South Africa. The brief from the retailer was that the cap must incorporate a spring hinge that ensures a good tight fit when the lid is closed, snaps backward when lifted up and snaps forward when pressed down. This design improves ease of use because consumers don’t physically have to pull the lid out, up or down, notes T3’s co-owner Leonard Rovetti.

Leonard reports that the development process took three to four months because most of the engineering lay in the flip-top cap – the orifice, for example, is designed with the viscosity of the all-purpose cleaning cream in mind – and T3 hadn’t produced this type of step hinge before. ‘We understood the complexities and potential shortcomings prior to developing this cap, which allowed the team to resolve any issues relatively quickly.’

They also had to overcome a few engineering challenges when creating the mould so that it accommodated slip grip on the sides of the bottle, ensured strong base stability, made the split line invisible and provided a maximum dart line area plus a spring hinge for the flip-top cap that pulls to the side for ease of use. 

He explains that Spar also wanted to improve the recyclability of the 750ml extrusion blow-moulded bottle and relaunch the range as a more environmentally responsible option. ‘We changed from PET to a 50% post-consumer recycled HDPE material and managed the colour variances to maintain an overall white look,’ Leonard states. ‘Consumers have responded well and Spar has seen a definite increase in sales volumes.’

T3’s 500ml trigger spray bottles for Pick n Pay’s Live Green range achieved finalist status in the Household Products category. 

The sleek, slim and tall bottles, which maximise the label area and shelf presence, are made from 100% recycled HDPE for the cleaning product formulations that Pick n Pay didn’t want visible through the bottle and 100% recycled PET for the formulations that the retailer did want visible through the bottle, without compromising the integrity or stability of the products.

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According to Leonard, this development project was rolled out in two weeks and allowed Pick n Pay to be more proactive in terms of its packaging basket offering for consumers wanting to purchase more environmentally friendly alternatives.

The judging panel praised Cecil Vinegar Works for moving away from a standard heavy 500ml glass bottle to a lighter PET bottle for Safari Balsamic Vinegar because it has resulted in much shorter lead times and improvements in distribution, material costs, a reduction in breakages and an overall change in consumers’ perception of plastic.

They awarded finalist recognition to the bottle in the Non-Perishable Food category, and Leonard points out that the project took around about six months from start to finish and included seven revisions for the cap drawings, 3D printed samples and high-cavity mould production.

The brand owner’s high-speed filling lines required a snap-on cap design with a pull tab for enhanced tamper evidence protection as well as two pouring options – a smaller dosage at the front of the cap and a larger dosage at the back of the cap. The pull tab created mould engineering challenges for T3 because the team had to incorporate slides that are spaced within a couple of hundredths of a millimetre from each other in order for the pull tab to break. 

The in-house tool room, which is equipped with three CNC machines, made the R&D process much shorter and the supply chain easier to control in terms of machine sampling and tweaks to the cap and blow mould designs. 

Leonard ascribes T3’s success and ability to offer customers a wide product basket as well as engineering expertise to teamwork, a strong supply chain and an understanding of customers’ needs. ‘When you understand your team and your supply chain’s capabilities, you can execute exceptionally quickly. This starts from the design, 2/3D models, 3D printed samples and approval on PDF, and carries through to mould drawings, mould making and product sampling.’