This is the concept-to-completion success story of meeting the needs of the consumer exactly when they are ready to buy. And, not to spoil the tale, the hero is an internationally known brand and a unique plastic display design.
Mass marketing companies are continually seeking innovative ways to beat the competition and promote product sales. A strategic part of their advertising and marketing includes displays—often designs in plastic—to grab consumer awareness and retail floor space. To be effective, displays must be imaginative, visually appealing and distinctive. Companies with household names like Coca Cola, Pepsi, Budweiser and Heineken are battling for floor space and visibility in stores to gain market share.
This highly competitive niche is a $17 billion industry known as the Point-of-Purchase (POP) display. Thousands of companies specialize in inventive solutions to showcase merchandise and entice consumers to buy the product.
Of course, not all creative solutions hinge on plastic display design, but many do. POP companies typically include creative individuals with a keen understanding of the product as well as strong marketing, design and graphics skills.
One such firm is Merchandising Specialists Inc. (MSI), located in Dobbs Ferry, NY that specializes in distinctive POP products based on their unique combination of creativity, marketing and design talents. This article spotlights the successful design and development of one of their developments for Heineken. It’s a highly distinctive, rotationally molded plastic design—a plastics molding technology—simulating a beer keg for POP display.
A Creative Point-of-Purchase “Kegger-Taste” Inspires Heineken Sales
Typically beer is distributed in kegs, bottles or cans. Most beer drinkers prefer the taste of kegged beer due to its smooth frothy taste and consistency. Until recently kegged beer has only been available in full, half or quarter sized barrel increments, limiting it to commercial distribution. Heineken’s introduction of its 5-liter consumer draught keg offers beer drinkers the taste and consistency of kegged beer in a conveniently sized container.
The new product looked and operated like a conventional keg while also providing customers with brand identity and convenient handling. Since the product was newly introduced and its unusual volume capacity was 15 times greater than conventional cans, it was an ideal candidate for a POP display.
MSI proposed a novel display for this new product. Their concept was based on boldly displaying the new draught keg cans package within a large, floor-standing refrigerated replica of the familiar Heineken can (fig Hein1). This simple yet brilliant design satisfied all the requirements of an ideal POP. It was eye-catching, functional, and prominently reinforced product branding.
In addition, MSI included a glass front refrigerator within the display to sell the 5-liter kegs that were clearly visible to the consumer. Additional storage compartments were provided on the top surface to securely place four draught kegs, further enhancing sales. A faithful representation of the world-famous Heineken logo, as well as the tap, were also included as part of the POP.
The concept was presented as a full-scale 3D functional model that was ultimately approved by Heineken for limited production. MSI’s next challenge was developing a production design. MSI turned to rotational molding as the only viable solution to solve their production requirements. That’s when they were introduced to Integrated Design Systems by Gregstrom, a plastic contract manufacturing company in Woburn Mass. Integrated Design Systems would develop the concept and plastic display design into production design for the rotationally molding process.
The most important phase of any project is the first, during which all relevant information affecting the design is gathered, prioritized and clearly understood. This deceptively simple display required careful consideration of aesthetic, functional, technical and structural parameters. These considerations and their effect on design development will be discussed throughout the remainder of this article.
Appearance is a vital consideration
Since appearance was a major factor, MSI wanted the design to closely comply with the model by maintaining key feature characteristics. Interpretation of the approved model based on molding requirements could not compromise appearance.
Parting lines, draft and overall geometry had to comply with the proposed concept. Many hours were invested in interpreting the features of the full-scale model and actual draught keg within a 3D CAD model. Overall shapes and features had to comply with the stringent aesthetic requirements as well as complex molding challenges. Parting lines locations were planned well in advance to assure MSI that critical visual surfaces would not be interrupted with unsightly witness lines.
Brand Recognition: Color & Graphics
Resin selection was complicated by MSI’s specification of metallic silver color for the main body. Molding uniformly colored metallic pigmented PE has traditionally been difficult due to the swirling patterns on the surface that are caused by the static charge buildup during molding. After evaluating many resin samples, a specially formulated dry blend PE offered by Chroma was selected.
Surface finish, texture, and quality were also evaluated to comply with MSI’s stringent quality requirements. The addition of Heineken’s logo to both sides of the plastic POP added the extra and essential POP visual impact (fig 2).
Since the graphics overall had to accurately conform to a slightly compound curved surface, Integrated Design extracted the surface from the 3D CAD file and flattened it (fig 3). A flattened 2D shape of the decal was sent to the graphics facility as a DXF file and used to create the artwork.
Accommodating the Structural Requirements
During the information-gathering process, it was clear that the POP was required to support a 90 lb refrigerator plus an additional 150 lbs of beer for a total of 240 lbs. Further, the POP was required to rest on five casters for easy transport that concentrated the entire load on five small surfaces.
Concentrated loads on each caster were distributed over the entire base by introducing a low-cost ¾” thick MDF board. The board was cut to fit within a recessed area on the bottom of the main body so it would be concealed from view and protected (fig 4). If the main unit was mounted directly onto the five casters, it could have undergone gradual deformation over time. Including a low-cost MDF board simplified assembly and reinforced the base as well as distributed load over a much larger surface area, reducing stress.
Assembly: Bringing the concept to reality
The refrigerator, which was purchased as a commercially available unit, was intended to slip into the POP from the rear and fastened securely in place. Since the refrigerator had no mounting provisions, IDS designed a pair of easily adjusted sheet metal “L” brackets to mount to either side of the refrigerator. The assembly would be secured to the main base section with four self-tapping screws on either side (fig 5).
Concealed fasteners inserted from the underside of the top surface, retained the spout assembly. Each of the three parts within this assembly was designed to be assembled to each other with two screws in one step (fig 7a & 7b). The entire assembly was attached to the main body with three screws inserted from an opening within the underside of the top wall (fig 8).
The bottom surface was double reinforced with the MDF panel as well as the six kiss-offs bonding the bottom wall to the wall on the opposite side (fig 9). This composite-like design resulted in a very rigid surface that could easily support the 240 lb load in a variety of environmental conditions.
The main body was designed to be molded in a six-piece mold (fig 10a & 10b). Since the depth of each mold section was shallow, machined aluminum was an ideal tooling alternative. One-degree draft was added to three sides of the large rectangular opening for the refrigerator. The bottom surface was designed with zero draft to provide a flat surface for setting the refrigerator (fig 11).
The top ring included four loose pieces to mold undercuts for the snap-on feature. The design of these features was co-developed with the toolmaker since tolerances and fill were critical to its success. The resulting fit was so tight that no tooling modifications were required (fig 14).
Tolerances are always a challenging consideration during plastic design and creating rotationally molded parts. Plastic parts must be designed with enough clearance to assure ease of assembly without compromising appearance or function. Tolerance variation is the cumulative stack up of tolerances in the pattern, mold, and part-to-part variation in production.
The molds in this particular product were machined by Fab Four directly from the 3D CAD files into aluminum billets. Machined aluminum molds yield the most accurate molded parts since the steps for creating the cavities are reduced to one. Variables associated with the multiple steps of cast aluminum molds are eliminated.
The Heineken POP consisted of five rotationally molded parts that were required to assemble together in addition to a refrigerator, brackets, bottom caster panel and mini beer kegs. Our primary design objective was to design parts with maximum clearance within functional and aesthetic requirements. These tolerance ranges were reviewed with the molder and toolmaker early in the design process to identify critical tolerance areas.
After all the design details were completed and checked, 3D CAD files were released for tooling. Within eight weeks, the first set of parts were assembled and fit together perfectly. Not one tooling change was required. Shortly thereafter, the graphic labels were applied and the units were shipped.
A Plastic Display Design POP and Thirst-Quenching Product
The POP market offers the rotational molding community a tremendous opportunity for growth. The advantages of rotational molding are a perfect match for the needs of the POP industry. Introduce yourself to POP manufacturers. They are continually seeking innovative POP displays that will encourage the sale of beer and soda. Next time you go out to buy a healthy dose of potato chips, Coca Cola or beef jerky, think Point-of-Purchase.