The Customer’s request
‘Develop a paper straw for us that is 180 degrees bendable,’ requests Arend van der Sluis, CEO at Tembo Paper.
The question he posed to TRICAS arose from the changing legislation surrounding the use of plastics in disposable products and at first it sounded quite straightforward. Yet, up to that point, several manufacturers had failed to create such a product. ‘They all get stuck on a crucial property of the paper straw: its malleability. And that is annoying, because our machines already produce straight paper straws and are ready to make bendable paper straws as well.’
Tembo Paper aims to realize an innovation in the straw industry.
Tembo Paper is part of Tembo Group, a group of companies that develop and manufacture machinery for Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG). In view of the rapidly changing legislation regarding the phasing out of single-use plastics, Tembo Paper aims to realize an innovation in the straw industry in the short term; a paper straw that has the same bending function as the current plastic straws and is future-proof.
In order to build sufficient knowledge on the subject matter, we delve into the history of bendable straws.
Plastic straws are ribbed, making them bendable and therefore easy to carry in smaller drinking containers. For the purpose of an ergonomic drinking position, a 90-degree bending angle is sufficient, but for packaging and transportation, a bending angle of up to 180 degrees is a big plus. Therefore, we are researching methods that also give paper tubes this bending angle. In our research we analyze which forms give the best flexibility. In addition, we will also research which patents have already been registered in this field.
The solution for the bendable paper straw came from an unexpected source.
Subsequently, product developers from different backgrounds participate in a brainstorming session, allowing us to exchange ideas from various angles. Ultimately, the solution for the bendable paper straw came from an unexpected source: the Japanese art of origami, which uses a printing method to create symmetrical ribbed patterns on a paper tube.
One of the most important features of the bendable paper straw is a low unit price. From this point of view, we search for the simplest solution within the set functional framework. We select the best elements to arrive at a final solution.
In our search for possibilities for an automated production process of bendable paper straws, we discuss several options with the machine developers at Tembo Paper.
The technique of giving paper a natural ribbed pattern by applying force to it proves to be a perfect solution. We design a defined ribbing pattern that fits well with the type of paper being used. The ridges are pressed into the straw according to a set pattern.
Of course, we still need to translate this technique into a manufacturable product suitable for high speed mass volume production. Using virtual and physical simulations, we discover the pushing motions needed to create the perfect ribbed pattern in a paper straw. Using a 3D printed hand tool, we test various prototypes until the results meet the needs and requirements.
The unique geometry we develop for this bendable paper straw is captured in a patent so Tembo Paper owns this unique concept.
‘TRICAS managed to use an “outside-the-box approach” to arrive at a result in a short period of time that we could quickly translate into production,’ says Arend van der Sluis of Tembo Paper.
‘Now, with minimal use of glue, we can successfully replace the hard-to-recycle plastic straws with our bendable paper straws that are durable and future-proof.’
‘At Tembo Group, we are aware that legislation will continue to change and that we will have to continue innovating our products. If we want to remain market leaders, we need to adapt quickly. It is good to know that TRICAS can help us to achieve this.