Polymer Centre Research Highlight-July 2013

Posted on Tuesday, July 30th, 2013 in Uncategorized| Share this article

University of Sheffield engineer, Prof Roger Lewis, has reported the results of a small-scale study to understand the issues surrounding accessing a rigid plastic container with a peelable lid.

The ease of access to plastic packaging is becoming a major concern for the packaging industry. Society is ageing, with the number of over 85’s is predicted to more than double between 2008 and 2033. With the associated decline in strength, dexterity and cognition, a larger proportion of society will, in future, potentially experience problems of accessibility to everyday items such as food or healthcare products.

Using yoghurt pots as a model, the researchers examined the required opening force, the technique used to open the lid and the force people can apply to pull off the lid, including finger friction measurements. The work demonstrated that dexterity is more important than strength and so improving accessibility of packaging of this type should concentrate on tab shape and design so that less dextrous fingers can locate and manipulate the tab. It also demonstrated that context of use was important since oil or moisture can strongly affect finger friction.

The researchers expect the techniques employed in this study to be applicable to many different types of flexible packaging products.

The work was carried out at the Leonardo Centre for Tribology and the Original Publication was: Investigating openability of rigid plastic containers with peelable lids: The link between human strength and grip and opening forces. Laura A Canty, Roger Lewis, Alaster Yoxall. Proceedings of The Institution of Mechanical Engineers Part C-Journal Of Mechanical Engineering Science, 2013, 227 (C5), pp 1056–1068.

For more information, please contact Dr Joe Gaunt at the Polymer Centre or Rachael Duthie at the Leonardo Centre for Tribology.