Canmaker Crown Holdings is this month celebrating the 20th anniversary of what it sees as a revolution in beverage can design.
At the turn of the millennium, metal savings had already been achieved by progressive reductions in the diameter of easy-open ends, enabling the gauge of the industry-standard B64 design introduced earlier by Alcoa to be further reduced while maintaining the critical performance parameter of buckle resistance.
While these incremental changes may be almost invisible to the consumer, they mount up as significant savings in the tonnage of aluminium alloy consumed amongst the hundreds of billions of cans used every year worldwide. And that adds to the continuing sustainability of the beverage can.
At that time, drinks brand owners around the world were increasingly using smaller 202-diameter ends and making cost savings as a result.
But US-based Crown, commanding a huge share of the beverage can market, went a step further, with a development team at its Wantage research centre in the UK coming up with a new easy-open end design that proved to be a gamechanger for the industry.
It would mean more investment on tooling for canning lines, but the long-term benefit of Crown’s patented SuperEnd was that it would offer continuing savings to drinks manufacturers.
The objective of the 10-strong British development team led by Brian Fields was further lightweighting potential. Key to the SuperEnd’s design was the adoption of a new geometry with a smaller panel that delivered more strength and a higher 8-10psi buckle resistance than standard ends, preserving pack integrity throughout pasteurisation, shipping and handling.
This new geometry also enabled 10 per cent less metal to be used, enabling the gauge of the coil from which the ends are made to be cut to almost a fifth of a millimetre.
The visible evidence of the SuperEnd’s new geometry is the use of a distinct 45-degree countersink wall inside the outer seam that is used to lock the end into the seaming machine’s rotating chuck. This, along with a reinforcing bead and the smaller panel, combined to create a modern-looking package for beer, carbonated soft drinks, juices and other beverage categories.
Crown said that the design enhances pourability, increases finger access to the tab by 20 per cent for greater openability and is easier to sip from thanks to a better can-to-mouth fit. Since the launch in 2000, an even smaller version of the SuperEnd, a 200-diameter, has been made available while the Interchangeable version, which can run on the same seamer tooling as other designs and makes implementation easier, has also been launched for Asian markets.
Over the 20 years nearly 700 billion SuperEnds have been produced, piling up substantial material savings, reducing aluminium usage by more than 177,000 metric tons and coatings by more than 3,000 metric tons.
Crown says that the ends have also saved close to 1.4 million metric tons of greenhouse gases and will continue to yield higher savings following more recent lightweighting of the end.
Says the canmaker: “As we look back at this breakthrough, we are reminded of the work our innovation team leads to create technologies that, by serving our customers and protecting our planet, become the new industry standard. In the spirit of the SuperEnd beverage end, we look forward to reimagining what is possible for the beverage can and continuing to connect our customers with cutting-edge capabilities.
“Cheers to 20 more years!”