Art, Science, Soda Pop

You’ve probably seen the work of the Wyeth family. Andrew’s iconic Christina’s World portrays a woman lying on the prairie, looking toward a distant house. Andrew’s father, N.C. Wyeth, was a beloved illustrator of books and magazines.  But even if you never stepped into a gallery or cracked an art textbook, you could not have missed the work of N.C.’s other son, Nathaniel.

Nathaniel Wyeth (1911-1990) cared more about science than art. According to MIT’s Inventor of the Week:

After wondering out loud at work why plastic was not used for carbonated beverage bottles, Wyeth was told that they would explode. He promptly went to a store, bought a plastic bottle of detergent, returned home, replaced the detergent with ginger ale, sealed the bottle, and put it in the refrigerator. The next morning, the bottle had swollen up so much that it was wedged solidly between the refrigerator shelves. Wyeth intuited that there was a way to make a stronger plastic container; and after a great deal of experimentation, he found it.

What Nathaniel found (and patented in 1973) was the PET bottle. That is, a bottle made from polyethylene terephthalate using a two-step process of forming and blowing/stretching plastic into a lightweight, clear, and recyclable container that can hold carbonated beverages.

That’s right; your bottle of diet root beer is a Wyeth. Congratulations.

Now let’s go to Barcelona, 2013. Meccanoplastica Iberica is building the machinery that produces those same plastic bottles today. With just 12 employees, the company enjoys €2.1M in sales annually.

The process starts with a test tube-like mold that already has the finished threads for the cap on one end. Then, the preform is heated, stretched, and blown to shape the bottles. Years of innovation in this basic process has led to a fully featured flexible manufacturing cell.

Like Nathaniel Wyeth before them, the team at Meccanoplastica Iberica asked, “Is there a better way to do this?” For them, the answer was PTC Creo Parametric and PTC Windchill PDMLink.

Even for smaller companies, this combination of design and data management software has proved indispensible. Meccanoplastica Iberica can quickly turn concept designs into production models, work with multi-CAD data, accommodate late design changes, test virtual prototypes, and ensure data is secure and easy to find.

The results? The team at Meccanoplastica Iberica now creates drawings 20% faster and brings machinery to market 50% faster. Plus, errors have been significantly reduced. And the company will only profit more as it works with new suppliers, partners, and customers in the near future.

So today, we raise our soda bottles to art and innovation past and present. Cheers Meccanoplastica!

*We’d be remiss if we didn’t point out one more bit of Wyeth family history: N.C. Wyeth, father of Andrew and Nathaniel, was born right here in Needham, Massachusetts—home of PTC headquarters. If you ever come visit, make sure to seek out the collection of his drawings at the Needham library!

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