Lightweighting the can pack - a technical review and recommendations for the can package: performance requirements and lightweighting

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Executive summary

This project has successfully demonstrated that the current beverages aluminium can pack has the potential to be lightweighted further than the industry initially thought possible, not only by reducing the gauge of the can and end but by modifying the design of the can package.

The partnership with WRAP enabled the can makers in Europe (a non-profit organisation - Beverage Can Makers Europe (BCME)) to conduct rigorous, external testing on behalf of all customers of the can pack – for carbonated soft drinks and beer. The external testing was completed using a highly respected industry laboratory, which set up real life challenges for the can. Extreme conditions were created and “performance” measured.

Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc., as the lead project partner, has clear guidelines around lightweighting, the aim was always to achieve the same or better performance from a lightweight can pack. However, with this project, the team took a different approach and tested the boundaries of what the requirements actually needed to be. This project was about finding real market requirements and building a can with those requirements in mind.

The project team, with members from Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc., the BCME, The Coca-Cola Company and WRAP, set out to truly lightweight the can pack by determining the performance challenges of the can pack and then evaluating the components of the specification which would meet those challenges. The relationship between dimension and performance was established, and a “calculator” to aid in future lightweighting opportunities developed.

The project team’s aim was to not only lightweight the can, but to also link the performance requirements to a dimensional specification which would allow the beverage can industry to maintain flexibility. The can pack needed to work well on existing filling lines for the entire beverage can industry. It was recognised that changing the beverage can industry would not be easy, but the team’s aim was “a seamless transition” to the new lightweight can. Therefore, for the purposes of testing the new can pack, filling and seaming processes at CCE needed to be maintained and as much “noise” from the seaming process removed, but nothing significantly altered. Trials needed to happen without significant modifications, and the results would give the project team significant insight for the rest of the beverage can industry. The result of the project indicated that there was no difference filling and processing the lightweight can.

As a direct result of the WRAP support, the BCME initiated external studies to find the actual performance requirements for the beverage can pack. These studies would take a year to complete, so in the interim, the project team targeted an acceptable midwall reduction for the trial period. During the trials, the performance specification remained unchanged, only the dimensions changed. Internal testing showed that even with the dimensional changes, the can pack still met current performance specifications.

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