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Why Are Cans Made Like That?
Wed Feb 21 2024
Learning of the Month
Learning Objectives
Discuss the aluminum two-piece beverage can design
Explain the use case of steel for food packaging
Compare and contrast aluminum vs. steel cans
Identify the type of adhesive on a steel can
Summarize international labeling standards

Anna: Most beverage cans are going to be made of a two-piece construction. So, this is the one piece, and this is the second piece. 

Kevin: So this two-piece like this, the, I don't know what you call this section and the bottom, like, that's just punched and that is the one piece? 

Anna: Yeah. 

Kevin: Okay. And the second piece is the cap or the top. 

Anna: Yeah, so, that's the typical overall construction of a two-piece can, and they're usually made of aluminum.

Kevin: Or aluminum?

Anna: Yes, depending on how you want to pronounce it. They are useful in containing mostly carbonated beverages because the carbonation expands inside the container and that gives strength and stability to the otherwise flimsy material.

This is steel and these two are also steel. Steel is a stronger material, and it is used for heat processed foods typically.

Kevin: That was gonna be my question—what would cause someone to say aluminum over steel or steel over aluminum? 

Anna: Yeah, like I said, aluminum is sort of flimsy. So, with heat processing, that usually creates some sort of vacuum or changes the air pressure. So, that's why if you look below this hot melt adhesive . . . actually, this is cold . . . nevermind.

Kevin: I'm glad you're here because I have no idea—cold melt, hot melt, patty melt . . . 

Anna: I thought this would be hot melt, but it's actually got a cold type of adhesive here. 

Kevin: So do you go into the grocery store and do this?

Anna: I can neither deny nor . . . 

Kevin: Okay! So, you've been escorted out of a few grocery stores before then. Anna, we don't do that here.

Anna: But the steel, these ribbings here are not just to look pretty. They're actually there so that it allows it to expand and contract with the change in air pressure when the vacuum is created. And most steel cans are going to be a three-piece construction. So, you can see the seam here. This was one sheet, and then it was made into a tube and the top and bottom were added.

Anna: Another point. So this is from Mexico, made in Mexico, but you can sort of tell that it was made for the United States because this here is required by law in the United States.

Kevin: So, if you want to market or peddle your goods in the US, you have to comply with US regulations. So, some of these different regions in the world, if they're wanting to enter into the beverage game in the US, they have to put that information on the cans. 

Anna: Yeah. Kevin: Okay. 

Anna: And you'll see that in different ways. Something I've noticed in lots of European packages, probably because there are so many languages packed together in that continent, they have lots of different languages, like tons of different languages [printed on the package].

Kevin: And that makes sense. I mean, if there's anything that is global and everyone has experience with, it is packaging. I mean packaging is . . . it's everywhere. 

Anna, thank you for giving us the sweeping . . . and this is a very broad overview. I'm sure we could have talked for another hour about all of these different regions and the different types of cans represented here. But, for now, we hope that you all enjoyed this overview of some of the cans in different regions, how they're made, what they’re made of, and even learning a little bit about Anna's obsession. And if you see her in a grocery store, you might want to just give a little space so that you don't get pulled into her obsession and walked out of the grocery store by a manager. Not that that's ever happened. It hasn't happened. 

Anyway, check out more at packagingschool.com. There's lots that you can learn there. We've got courses for not only cans, but plastic, glass, a little bit of everything. We'll see you next time.

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