Container with a bite
Exploring the limits of materials and machines – this was the driving force for Krones Container Design in its latest development project: the team headed by Timo Janssen used a standard stretch blow-moulding machine to bring a figure-shaped asymmetrical PET bottle to series maturity. Even though there were all sorts of technical imponderabilities to master, the final result has totally satisfied the designers’ stringent functional and aesthetic requirements.
“Being involved in the whole process from designing the bottle all the way through to actually seeing it manufactured was incredibly exciting and enriching”, reports Milena Huber, “at college, you see, you mostly stop when the model’s been constructed.” Milena Huber and Andrea Müllner are taking a first-generation degree course in industrial design at the East Bavarian University of Applied Science (OTH) in Regensburg. Besides typical design contents, this interdisciplinary course also has a technical focus, dealing with material science, production processes or technical mechanics, for example. The two students are delighted at the opportunity that their hands-on internship at Krones Container Design offered them: in just four months, they designed a drinking bottle in the shape of a crocodile, based on their surveys of children’s drinking behaviours. They then accompanied the bottle’s evolution process through all the technical development stages involved, to series maturity.
A balancing act between design, functionality and financial viability
But the reptile definitely showed its teeth. The material distribution, in particular, for an oval, asymmetrical basic shape in the blow-moulding process of a standard stretch blow-moulding machine demands a lot of intuitive sensitivity: “We went to the uttermost limits of the material here”, to quote design engineer Gerald Hüttner, “one tenth of a millimetre or one degree Celsius more or less can be crucial to ultimate success.” The avoidance of what are called “undercuts”, i.e. projections that may cause damage to the bottle when it is removed from the mould, is also an art in itself. In the case of a figure-shaped bottle, particularly, it demands a lot of experience, though even experienced container development experts frequently have to make compromises in terms of design. For the saurian’s eyes and the Krones lettering on its stomach, the team utilised tried-and-tested aids: what is called the “digging trick” creates maximised clarity of the graphical elements involved, and optimum light refraction. All these challenges had to be met and mastered within a tight timeframe: “At college, within a design process you often go back to a certain point and start again. In reality, this isn’t always possible”, says Milena Huber. “We learned a lot of valuable lessons from the balancing act between design aspirations, technical requirements and time-efficient working.” After all, the“Kroki bottle”, named after its visual resemblance to Krones’ kindergarten mascot “Kroki”, is only one project of several on which the budding industrial designers have worked.
From the bottle design to the stretch blow-moulding machine
Though Krones is mainly known as a machinery manufacturer, it also scores highly in terms of container design and development, thanks to long years of experience and the concomitant in-depth competence. This is why many clients, especially from the beverage industry, take advantage of the option for purchasing everything from a single source here, for optimised harmonisation. The company designs several hundred PET bottles every year – and has already walked off with quite a few prizes, not least the “German Packaging Prize” and the “iF design award”. “Our clients approach us with highly disparate ideas”, explains container designer Timo Janssen. “Sometimes the main priority is to ensure the technical feasibility of a particular design. And another time there won’t be any stipulations at all apart from the bottle’s capacity, and we support the client from the initial design work all the way through to the mass-production bottle.”
Receptive to young ideas
Krones is a broadly based company not only in terms of its product portfolio, but also in the options it provides for fostering young talent: in 2013, 526 trainee slots and 259 dissertations were assigned, and twice a year the trainee programme for project management is started. In addition, eight different specialisms are offered as sandwich courses. Timo Janssen emphasises that in creative work, particularly, Krones attaches high priority to collaboration with career entrants as well: “We benefit from the fresh ideas of tomorrow’s designers, and they in turn profit from our long decades of expertise and the opportunity to get involved in the entire process from beginning to end”, he says. “This is a classical win-win situation.” A view shared by Andrea Müllner and Milena Huber, who will be staying with the company a bit longer: following this project, they will be writing their theses at Krones.