I don’t think I have to explain the term “interactive bottle caps”, but at the same time I warn you not to think immediately in terms of dispensing caps. There are many forms of interactivity, as you will see. We start with two inventions, which recently are patented.
Senior-friendly, child-proof closure
The first invention (from Gregory Adamczak, patent number US 20130026126 A1 is for a child-proof closure design that can be opened – or closed – by twisting it to the right or to the left to address the approximately 10% of the population that is left handed.
The patent describes the invention as follows: “A child-proof closure cap for containers having an inner cap and an outer cap assembled for tilting with respect to each other. The inner cap includes an outer surface with notches for engagement with internal teeth on an inner surface of the outer cap to facilitate removal of the closure cap from the container with either left hand or right hand operation according to user’s natural ability. The outer cap has a spring that is adapted to spring load the outer cap in a non-tilt arrangement relative to the inner cap”.
This text sounds a bit “abracadabra” and consequently needs some explanation. The inventor argues that the standard for the last 20 years has been a child-proof closure that must be pushed down and rotated to remove it. All too often, child proof closure caps present a significant impediment for adults in opening the containers especially adults lacking the necessary level of hand and finger strength or cognitive ability to cope with the cap design.
Gregory Adamczak explains that at the heart of his concept lies a kind of “ball and socket” joint that can tilt and rotate like a human hip joint. This aspect enables the desired torque to be set by users. The tilt and rotate operation facilitates the left or right engagement.
The closure uses gripping “fingers” within the cap that allow it to be ambidextrous and permit the packager to a custom-set the opening torque to address different markets and target consumers.
Still a bit unclear? Take a good look at the images, the invention is worth the study.
A completely different type of interactive bottle cap is the invention of BASF Corp.
MAP beverage bottle
Plastic beverages bottles are often filled and capped at elevated temperatures. When the bottle has been capped, water in the bottle will have a vapour pressure commensurate with the filling temperature. For example, an aseptic filling performed at a temperature of about 160°F (71°C) would have a partial pressure of water of approximately 4.5 psia (pounds per square inch absolute) or 31 kPa. When the bottles subsequently cool to room temperature the water vapour pressure drops to approximately 0.3 psia (2 kPa). The net effect is a decrease in pressure within the bottle. In other words you get a vacuum, a characteristic used for years in the conservation of fruit and vegetables in glass jars (Try to open one and you will experiment it)
However in hot-filled plastic bottles this decrease in pressure can result in the deformation of the bottle, causing the plastic (PET) bottle to partially collapse if the bottle walls are thin.
For years companies have been developing solutions to avoid deformation of the bottle. We have seen solutions for aseptically and hot-filled products in PET bottles, not only in thicker plastic walls, but also in flexible panels or a specially designed bottom to offset the deformation and keep the packaging intact.
The BASF Corp. addresses this problem in a completely different way using modified atmosphere packaging (MAP). The patent speaks of an insert at the top of the bottle, calling it a “storage vessel pressurization component”, that both absorbs and releases gas in the headspace in a manner that lowers the vapour pressure and thereby the chances of deformation. In other words directly after filling and capping the insert sucks water vapour and with cooling of the content the sucked-in water vapour is released again in the headspace of the bottle.
The patent identifies 28 different ways that the intended pressure control can be accomplished using materials for the insert, such as carbon, activated carbon, a zeolite and a metal organic framework (MOF) composition. These inserts store gasses like nitrogen, argon, carbon dioxide, other gas or mixtures of gases.
The intended benefit, of course, is a bottle structure that requires less material to reduce costs while improving the sustainability of the packaging.
This BASF-design looks very similar to the Vacu Vent system of Wipperfuerth Metallwaren-Fabrik in Hückeswagen, Germany, with the exception that BASF keeps the pressure inside the bottle and Vacu Vent let it escape.
With the Vacu Vent system the reduced pressure, due to cooling after hot-filling, arches the head surface of the Vacu Vent down and presses firmly to seal the bottle mouth. In fermentation, the emerging gas pressures the surface of the cap head to bulge upward, thereby losing its sealing contact between the screw treads of the bottle neck and cap and lets the pressure escape. This process can be repeated several times. If, however, the escape route is blocked a segment of the cap-zipper will open and the pressure finally escapes.
The cap-zipper is punctured from the inside of the cap, which allows the printing of the top of the cap undisturbed.
From the serious developments in interactive bottles caps to the more funny ones.
Coffee with a Wake-Up Call
Nestlé has developed the Alarm Cap, a limited-edition 3D printed lid with powered electronics that wake sleepers in what the company claims is a scientifically researched manner.
Seven different alarm sounds, including a bird song, work in tandem with a gently pulsing light to wake a sleeper in a natural and calming fashion. The user opens the lid to switch off the alarm and in turn is greeted with the refreshing, awakening smell of morning coffee.
The limited edition lids use 3D printing on both sides of the cap. The exterior is printed by Shapeways, an emerging leader in additive manufacturing, using a material called Nylon SLS. The inner piece, which houses the electronics, designed by Eric Brockmeyer, is printed on a MakerBot Replicator, a relatively low-end but reliable printer.
Packaging With Built-In Reminder
We all know that staying hydrated is of utmost importance. To help the consumer not to forget that, Vittel (a subsidiary of Nestlé Waters) invented a simple yet effective bottle cap with an in-built alarm.
Screwing the cap onto the top of a regular bottle of water activates a timer. An hour later a little spring inside the cap then causes a flag on the top to pop up, grabbing the consumer’s attention. The timer is reactivated when the cap is screwed back onto the bottle. In an experiment conducted by ad agency Oglivy Paris, people using the cap drank more water during the day when using a bottle equipped with the reminder cap.
Procter & Gamble developed a low-cost controlled dosing cap, said to be the smallest dosing system in the global market, for cleaning liquid that cuts down on product waste. The smart-dosing cap, made of four plastic parts, uses a timer mechanism activated by one squeeze of the bottle, simultaneously dispensing the product and moving a small piston to cleanly shut off the flow when the prescribed dose has been dispensed. This cap has been adapted and scaled across P&G product lines to vary between 5 and 50 ml with very high accuracy, the company says.
The innovative cap was development for a new 2.5 times stronger concentrated product formula of Mr. Clean. Fearing that consumers accustomed to the non-concentrated formula would pour too much of the concentrated liquid into their cleaning buckets, P&G decided to develop a dosing cap that should rule out any such possibility.
The smart liquid-dosing cap uses a timer mechanism activated by one squeeze of the bottle. The system dispenses the product and, at the same time, moves a small piston forward to cleanly shut off the product flow as soon as the prescribed dose has been dispensed. Consumer simply inverts the flexible plastic bottle, squeezes, and the cap consistently auto-stops product flow when proper dosage is measured, avoiding over-use of product, giving consumers the same pre-measured amount of cleaner with each squeeze.
That’s it for today