The Can Files | Snap, it’s open!

Introducing our new guest contributor series The Can Files with Roberto Baroni, sales manager with Italy’s Imeta.

With a career spanning over three decades, Roberto has entertained his large LinkedIn audience (10K and growing) with all things to do with #Ilovemetalcans. In his first article for The Metal Packager, he takes us on a journey from humble beginnings to the worldwide success of stay-tab opening pull tabs for beverage cans.

Imagine a world where, without an opener, it was impossible to open a beverage can.  That feeling of frustration of being at a family picnic, away from it all, with winking beer cans but without the essential can piercer, colloquially known as a church key.

Legend has it that Ermal Fraze’s anger, after struggling to open cans on his car bumper, prompted him to find a solution, remarking: “There must be a better way”. 

Starting his own tool and die company Dayton Reliable Tools and Manufacturing Co., this bona fide genius pursued his dream of coming up with a self-opening can. This is how the Indiana farm boy became an engineer.

There were many designers / engineers and patents at that time, but Fraze was the first to bring easy-opening beverage cans to supermarket shelves.

In 1962, he eventually sold the technology to the Pittsburgh-based aluminium producer Alcoa, which went on to make the first aluminium ring pull lids. 

Its promotional video for this invention, with unbranded cans and a generic beer label, astonished the world.   

Pittsburgh Brewing Company was the first to use the ring pull lid for its iconic Iron City brand, followed shortly by Schlitz and many others. By the end of 1965, as many as three-quarters of beer cans in the US were made with this lid.

Among the many inventors in those years working in this domain, Daniel Cudzik, an engineer at Reynolds Metals Co., Richmond, Virginia, and William Taylor of the American Can Co., once a can-making giant, are worth a mention.

The innovation had defects. The surfaces after the tear had sharp burrs which were removed in the subsequent versions of the lid.  There were also instances of consumers swallowing the tab after dropping it into the can by mistake.  But the main problems were caused by the tabs which, once torn, were discarded everywhere, littering the ground, and causing possible cuts to feet and hands.

These problems were brought to an end in 1975 with the introduction of the stay-tab opening mechanism for cans by Cudzik (patent number: 3967752).

[Images courtesy of Roberto Baroni’s collection.]

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