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PRODUCTS-PACKAGING  Plastics in Packaging magazine April 2009

Squeeze with ease

A device that ensures all product in a standard tube is dispensed has been developed by a British company, which it claims saves the user the equivalent of up to two extra tubes for every 10 used. The aptly named Squeeze with Ease device is based on an Affinity polyolefin plastomer and is integrated into a tube after filling and before sealing to facilitate easy dispensing of the product and eliminate waste.

After two years of development, Butterfly Technology has the UK patent (global pending) and is at the proof of concept stage with a fully workable prototype from casting. Hard tooling and injection blow moulding of the device will be in collaboration with an industry partner. "We have viewed a tube filler (output of 80 tubes per minute) for example, to see where the device can be incorporated into existing processes, but there is no universal tube filling machine across the sectors," explained Susan Bell, a clinical nurse specialising in renal transplantation and also a founder of Butterfly Technology. "We believe this dispensing technology is more suited to high value products like cosmetics and pharmaceutical creams, where the NHS (National Health Service) and the beauty industry have the potential to make significant cost savings."

At this early stage, Butterfly Technology is in discussion with a number of tube manufacturers and is assessing the manufacturing capability, material selection, actual production tooling, unit costs, materials, and tooling and development time.

Susan Bell is targeting high value products with her innovative device "So far I would say that the smaller, more innovative tube manufacturers are most interested - particularly in the beauty industry. They know their market is predominantly female and they know that the cost of the device in high value products could be absorbed because their packaging is already more costly, and the device is only a minimal additional cost," said Bell. "They have already developed innovations that address this issue but are packaged differently - airless evacuation systems, for example, or expensive pump dispensers."

The company has also investigated how the device inserts and impacts filling times. "According to a tube filling and sealing machine maker we talked to, bolt on arms can do a 1:3 ratio on lines to prevent slowing production. For example, if a tube is filled at three times the speed of insertion, the next station will have three inserting arms to keep up speed."

With European tube manufacturers producing in excess of 10 billion tubes a year, there is certainly a significant market opportunity for Butterfly Technology to fly into.