Designing bottles for big brand beverages
“I use Shapr3D to create fast concept designs. The app allows you to design anywhere. You can start creating a design, even if you’re mid-flight when an idea strikes. With the iPad, the customer can rotate bottle designs on screen, instead of just looking at a 2D drawing. After the customer confirms the shape, we use Siemens NX to rebuild the final model for industrial production.”
Shape, volume, handle, shelf presence. These are all things that Cheng Feng thinks about on a daily basis when at work.
Cheng is the packaging design and development manager of the Chinese branch of SIPA Solutions. Leading his team of 30 designers, he designs bottle concepts for PET bottles, working with brands from Pepsico, Coca-Cola and, Northspring to Chinese water brands Nongfu Spring and Jinlongyu.
SIPA covers the entire PET packaging process from design to production. The company’s official software of choice is Siemens Nx, but Cheng and his colleagues have incorporated a few new tools, including Shapr3D, into their toolset to improve their workflow.
Designing a bottle starts with a customer conversation. Cheng gets an understanding of what audience the beverage is aimed at, what it will contain and how much of it, and what kind of characteristics they are looking for in the shape.
What is the level of elegance they’re going for? Is the beverage high-end or economical? Are there any special themes or characteristics that need to be reflected in the design?
During the initial conversation, Cheng is already at work, creating fast sketches on Shapr3D to show to the customer on the spot. Within an hour, he and the customer can go through several different designs, validating the direction and providing a base for strong concepts.
“What’s interesting is that the customer can take the iPad, touch the screen, rotate the bottles and see different views. Shapr3D is really very useful for client communication.”
Once the initial curves are down, the team goes 3D. Cheng gives the outline shape and shares it again with the customer.
With legacy software, you can’t use an iPad to show different views. This can lead to confusion, the customer might not understand if the joint is straight, or what exactly it would look like if the design was modified in a particular way.
For Cheng, this often resulted in a time-consuming flurry of emails back and forth -- sending new views, implementing feedback, rinse and repeat. With Shapr3D the days-long feedback process boils down to hours, allowing the team to move from idea to prototype in record time.
The other advantage is flexibility. Working with clients across China, travel is a necessary part of Cheng’s role. But unlike Cheng, his desktop software license can’t leave the office. Being able to sketch concepts in meeting rooms and modify them on the plane has been really useful for his workflow.
Communicating with marketing in 3D
In the meantime, clients aren’t the only ones that Cheng is aligning the bottle’s design with. He’s also in touch with the marketing department, to match the physical body of the bottle with the brand’s overall identity.
Modifications to the bottle shape can be implemented immediately, regardless of the size.
“Sometimes, the client wants to alter the fundamentals of the model, changing the entire outline of the base. With Shapr3D, I can edit the model and add modifications immediately, right there in the meeting room.”
From models to bottles
The final design gets moved into Siemens NX, where Cheng will design the official joint. He exports an XT or STEP file and imports the shape as a reference onto his desktop software. Once the official joint is ready, he hands it off to the molding team using the company’s PRM system.
Cheng hopes to integrate another of Shapr3D’s features into his workflow to develop a new use case.
“Shapr3D gives you the 3D model’s volume -- this is really useful info. With this volume we can calculate another business model that we underestimated.”
When the bottle design is complete, the customer cares a lot about its volume in relation to its dimensions. If it’s a 500mL bottle, it must hold precisely 500mL. The diameter helps to balance the volume and the final shape, to make sure that the bottle’s height is designed competitively for grocery store shelves.