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Container Glass Stands up to Legal and Brand Challenges

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Thursday 4 April 2013

GTS experts utilise traditional glass chemistry and material sciences combined with the latest technologies to help design, troubleshoot and optimise both production and product performanceThe container glass industry is meeting the challenge of increasing legislative burdens and pressure from brand owners, according to leading independent experts. Glass Technology Services, which is helping clients across the container supply chain meet stringent and fast-changing quality assessment and performance testing requirements, said that the sector was embracing change and in many cases that they were surpassing client and regulatory demands.

“Container glass manufacturers are increasingly using independent product testing to demonstrate due diligence and compliance or, in the absence of specific standards or best practice guides, to assess its fitness for purpose,” said Dr Malcolm Glendenning, GTS Commercial Director.

“The industry uses a number of agreed standards for minimum performance such as TEC-7 and TEC-9 for annealed beverage bottles, for example, but general product and food safety regulations, which apply across the European Union, have as much legal weight and associated responsibilities and liabilities, so it is vital to show good practice.

“Increasingly, before bringing products to emerging markets, major globally recognised brands are turning to recognised independent testing and assessment providers to ensure that their glass suppliers are producing ware which is fit to bear their name.

“This can benefit both the company – which faces significant risk to its established global reputation if clearly-branded glass containers fail to meet relevant regional or international standards – but also the manufacturer, who may not have the advantage of a long track record of producing glass to those standards and would be able to use reliable, independent test results to demonstrate its quality credentials.

“Designs which incorporate brand logos and distinctly identifiable shapes are creating specific challenges. It’s vital we’re brought into the design discussion at a very early stage. It means we’re able to work with brand owners and product developers to meet their exacting specifications, colour, performance criteria or achieve innovative new shapes while meeting all appropriate quality standards.”

GTS also troubleshoots particular issues, such as composition, defect and raw material analysis and works in a range of in specialised areas, such as pharmacopoeia testing, colour analysis and UV resistance testing. The ability to address problems goes further than testing of individual samples in the laboratory. GTS experts regularly undertake audits of glass production and filling lines on behalf of glass manufacturer customers, such as international pharmaceutical companies and spirit and beer brand owners, to ensure that their primary packaging is manufactured to exacting requirements and actively troubleshoots problem areas to assist the manufacturer overcome production issues.

GTS is seeing increased demand across the container glass industry for its design critique, consultancy and new product development services.

“We work with highly innovative glass manufacturers and suppliers across the world,” said Dr Glendenning. “They face new challenges every day, in terms of quality standards and regulations, but also from new product developers, who want to push the boundaries in specialised and technical glass as well as in containers.

“They demand prestigious products, particularly in the realm of perfumes and cosmetics packaging, with exotic shapes and sharp radii, where product weight is not an issue, but at the other end of the spectrum need mass-produced, lower value products, with lighter, yet stronger bottles. It’s essential we design our processes to meet both challenges.”

Finite element analysis simulating stress in a glass bottle

One of the ways in which GTS supports the development of new containers is by the use of Finite Element Analysis (FEA) to provide computer-simulated performance data in areas such as resistance to internal pressure, impact and vertical load resistance. Brand owners are increasingly using the service at the pre-prototype stage, in order to iron out any design issues before major costs are incurred.

In addition, if trial production samples are available, detailed mapping of the glass thickness can be carried out to build accurate models with wall thicknesses representative of the final produced items. Models of this type can be to compare the pure design aspects of the container with the average or worst case glass thickness distribution, providing a clearer understanding of how variances in the thickness of the glass may realistically cause problems in use.

When a foreign object is found in a product, the glass container supply chain is too often the first to be blamed. Fragment analysis and related testing of container products can be used to identify the most likely

source. Not only is it often the case that a glass can be shown to differ from the container in question, it is also not uncommon for complaints of glass in products to arise from non-glass materials such as plastics, salt crystals or naturally occurring minerals.

“Given the huge financial and reputational cost related to recalling or withdrawing product, it is vital that any decisions are based on the best possible information,” said Dr Glendenning. “The ability to analyse a wide range of different types of material in a rapid turnaround is essential in terms of ensuring that complaints are responded to appropriately.”

GTS has also been helping the industry meet its emissions targets since the early days of monitoring and control, through its dedicated Stack Emissions Monitoring team. The Climate Change Agreement, Emissions Trading Scheme, general environmental policies and product safety regulations are now key legislative drivers for the sector.

On new product development, the GTS team is collaborating with leading universities and businesses, to create new coatings for glass products, bio materials, photonics and optical devices. With many programmes supported under the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) and the UK Government’s Technology Strategy Board (TSB) – both of which aim to boost research and innovation across Europe and the UK – GTS is increasingly working in the biomedical and pharmaceutical sectors as well as across the container and domestic glass supply chain.

“The container glass sector is one of the most vibrant and dynamic parts of our ever-changing industry, where new products are being introduced and existing ones are evolving all the time,” said Dr Glendenning. “But it also faces some of the greatest challenges, in terms of global quality standards and brand reputation. One thing is certain - there is no time for any of us to stand still.”

As a team of independent specialist, GTS works across the glass supply chain providing laboratory and on-site testing and analysis for glass manufacturers, processors and manipulators, fillers, brand owners, retailers, architects, building contractors and consulting engineers. Its international client base is drawn from a wide range of markets including architectural and automotive, food and drink, pharmaceutical and technical, defence, photonics and biomedical.

For more information please visit www.glass-ts.com, email enquiries@glass-ts.com or telephone +44 (0) 114 290 1801.

Reproduction of this published material is provided courtesy of Glass International. Published in Glass International April 2013.

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