In this first post about glass packaging after a brief look at the history of glass packaging, I’ll review the main manufacturing process, how the different colors are obtained, and some curious examples of glass bottles .
Glass is an ancient material, the first man made glass was in Eastern Mesopotamia and Egypt around 3500 BC and the first glass vessels were made about 1500 BC . However, mass production of glass bottles took off in the 19th century and was significantly improved in 1925.
Here’s a sample form a nice infographic about the history of glass.
Let’s see how glass is made.
In this video the main process steps are described:
To summarize: glass is made from soda, ash, and limestone. Cullet (recycled glass) is added (5-50%) to lower temperature melt. This raw materials are heated at 1500 ºC (2800 ºF) and molten glass “gobs” fall into blank molds where the neck finish is formed. This partially formed bottle or parison is then blown to achieve the final shape. In order to stabilize the glass and eliminate internal tensions, bottles are reheated to 560 ºC (1050 ºF) and then cooled slowly to 200 ºC (390 ºF). This process is caked annealing.
In this other video we can see other info such as shape color or bumps at the bottom:
Color in glass packaging is used for aesthetic and content protection reasons. Colored glass is achieved by adding certained inorganic oxides and salts.
Colorless glass. Clear glass used to be very difficult to make. A very clear and refractive glass was achieved adding calcined flint (pure quartz rock) to his glass formula. T
Amber Glass. One of the most common hues. It absorbs harmful UV radiation. It is often used for beer, certain drugs, and essential oils.
Green Glass. Another very common color. It is is usually made by adding chromium oxide into the glass formula. Other different chemicals can be added to make different shades of green glass.
Cobalt Glass. Achieved by the addition of cobalt oxide to the glass batch.
Beer and wine are typically stored in darker bottles (light can cause oxidation). Beer bottles were green in color until the 1930s when it was discovered that brown bottles filtered out light and prevented the beer from going bad.
For an entertaining explanation of how colored glass prevents unwanted chemical reactions in beer, please watch this video:
Other colors are painted with a special exterior paint. Only the exterior has been painted, allowing the glass to retain it’s non-reactive properties.
Glass packaging provides extensive design opportunities. It can be molded into virtually any shape imaginable, not to mention the various color options and the endless patterns and textures that can be embossed into the glass to give bottles a luxurious look.Personalized packaging will be an importatnt trend in the coming years, and a key part of the glass packaging industry: requests for customized embossment in the form of logos, one-of-a-kind fonts and other types of personal markings have been notably increasing in the last few years.
The most remarkable examples of glass packaging design can be found in luxury products, specially in the perfume sector. You can find some examples here.
As an example of innovation and design, it’s worth mentioning Verescence‘s Arizona bottle.
Verescence (a glass manufacturer) has manufactured an exceptional glass bottle with its for Arizona, the first fragrance by fashion brand Proenza Schouler under a license agreement with L’Oréal.
The Arizona bottle was created using the proprietary SCULPT’in technology,and features an asymmetric distribution of glass. As far as decoration is concerned, the Arizona bottle is magnified by a complex pad-printing in a coral colour that emphasizes the faceted angles and the bottle’s design.
Exceptional bottle designs can be found outside the perfume industry. Luxury spirits can boast of excepcional designs.
There are also some special design for non alcoholic drinks (for instance the water brand Bling h2o ). Below some examples.
In 2010 The Macallan 64 Year Old in Lalique was the world’s most expensive whisky sold at auction for US $460,000, and 100 per cent of the proceeds went to charity: water, an organisation providing access to drinking water for underprivileged people in developing nations.
The interesting thing about this decanter, is that it was created using the ‘lost wax’ technique achieving ‘crystal skin’ texture. Here’s a video showing the process:
Beyond the luxury market, there are some curious examples of beverage glass containers.
Some of these can be found in the Heineken Ideas Brewery (btw, the original website at Heineken no longer work, but I found a useful summary here).
So what is the Heineken Ideas Brewery? In 2012 Heineken invited consumers to come forward with their ideas to attract older consumers to its brand, primarily targeting people aged 60-70. The winning idea could earn them a share of a USD 10,000 prize pot.
Most of them are just curiosities, and as far as I know, none of them have arrived to the market. However, I think they are worth showing for their ingenuity, and who knows? maybe they’ll inspire some solutions we’ll end up seeing in commercial products.
This bottle has some tiny spikes on the neck to give an accupressure massage to the user.
One may think it does not make much sense (a health benefit form an alcoholic drink), but the ide to use packaging to give some tactile sensation to the user, may have some future.
2. Bob by James McDermid
No need for a bottle opoener, this design include ones molded on the bottle bottom. I don’t think it would stand more than a couple of openings, but you’d always have more bottles.
3. Turn by George Zervakis and other examples of bottle/glass
This bottle becomes a drinking glass thanks to the detachable bottom that fits into the bottle neck. This is an advantage for a generation not used to drinking from a bottle.
There was also a similar idea developed for Heineken by Florian Kegel from Austria, the Beer Mug:
The last example of bottle- that- turns -into- glass, and maybe the one closest to get to the shelves (I ignore if this is the case) comes from a company called Bottlass. Their products are made in glass and aluminum. A sealing material is adhered to the front end of the main body, in which the cap is fastened. Connection units are coupled to each other by screw tab joining or forced insertion.
Here’s a video showing their products:
The WOBO or”Brick” bottle.
But the oldest example I found is the Heineken World Bottle or WOBO. To summarize it’s incredible origin:
In 1960 Alfred Heineken was in the island of craçao and view ti many Heineken bottles littered (due to the lack of infrastructure for their collection) and the scarcity of building materials. So with the help of architect John Habraken the “brick that holds beer” was born in 1963.
Heineken WOBO bottle. Source: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/when-heineken-bottles-were-square-62138490/
The final WOBO design came in two sizes 350 and 500 mm, both meant to interlock and be laid horizontally as if they were ordinary bricks. One production run in 1963 yielded 100,000 bottles some of which were used to build a small shed on Mr. Heineken’s estate in Noordwijk, Netherlands. One of the construction challenges “was to find a way in which corners and openings could be made without cutting bottles,” said Mr. Habraken.
Despite the success of the first “world bottle” project, the Heineken brewery didn’t support the WOBO and the idea stalled. Interest was reignited in 1975 when Martin Pawley published Garbage Housingwhich included the chapter ‘WOBO: a new kind of message in a bottle.’ Heineken once again approached Habraken who teamed up with designer Rinus van den Berg and designed a building with oil drums for columns, Volkswagen bus tops for roof and the WOBO bottles for walls, but the structure was never built.
Today, the shed at the Heineken estate and a wall made of WOBO at the Heineken Museum in Amsterdam are the only structures where the ‘beer brick’ was used. As to the remaining WOBO’s it’s not clear how many exist, or where, but the idea, even some four decades later, remains a lasting example in end-use innovation.
In 2012 French designer Peit Romain created the Heineken Cube. Romain imagined enjoying Heineken out of a square bottle instead of the traditional round bottle, after he said he was tired of round bottles in six-packs that clink together and are difficult to stack.
Similar to the WOBO bottle, the Heineken Cube concept delivers optimal storage for manufacture, transport, and ultimately consumer use. save space not as a building material
And this is all for this post. In the second part, I’ll comment on glass packaging recyclability and sustainability in general, and we will see some innovations related to glass packaging.
July 2019, Bruno Rey – The Packaging Blog –