The Ingenious Design of the Aluminum Beverage Can
April 15, 2015 11:24 PM   Subscribe

 
Eleven whole minutes about aluminum cans, huh?

[watches video]

WHY MUST THIS BE ONLY ELEVEN MINUTES LONG
WHY CAN HE NOT PLEASE CONTINUE TALKING FOREVER ON THIS TOPIC
posted by DoctorFedora at 1:16 AM on April 16, 2015 [36 favorites]


This was... I mean... It's like...

I'd watch an hour of this if it got really detailed. And now I have learned about engineerguy and if anything else he has done is nearly this amazing my work will suffer tomorrow.

Only one tiny point of contention -- he left out the intermediate step between the pull-tab can top and the lever tap can top, which was the two-button top (or whatever it's called).

But yes, wow. Really, if you're one of those who reads comments to see if you should watch, and you think the description of the FPP is even VAGUELY interesting... 11 minutes. Awesome.
posted by hippybear at 1:39 AM on April 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've never heard such a potentially dry topic be utterly fascinating. This guy should explain everything. Very nice presentation.
posted by zardoz at 1:57 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I do wish that everyday factual TV programs could be anywhere near as good. Their producers start off with good intentions - a well researched and interesting show presented by a passionate expert. Then they find that the presenter they are assigned is somebody trained in Media Studies or as an actor. People in marketing demand that the draft script is cut short and stripped of anything challenging. They then use this as an excuse to cut research budgets. Budget preference is given to the CGI people.

Internet based shows have helped all of that - but they have tended to be done on the cheap. What is interesting here is that EngineerGuy is not only an engineer - but that he has reached out to other engineers to help to crowd source the content. And the overall result has been polished after an earlier draft that was circulated amongst these peers.

I also liked the fact that he appears in the same red shirt in many of the videos; I'd like to bet he bought a dozen of them at the same time so as to speed up the process of choosing which to wear.
posted by rongorongo at 3:01 AM on April 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


all starting up a secondary YouTube channel called engineerfashionguy

all just one video posted there, ever

on purpose
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:03 AM on April 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


The tab itself continues the ingenuity: The brilliant redesign of the soda can tab.

Pull tab history and futures.

Consider the miracle of engineering that goes into the top of the can. There are precision thickness variations, ridges, alloy selection, and score lines so precise that allows it to seal the can yet easily rupture when the tab it pulled.

Also, the rivet that holds the tab on is not a separate piece of metal, but is integral to the can lid itself. Some of the details are discussed here.

Finally, Dr. Drang has a bone pull tab to pick with EngineerGuy on the lever classifications.
posted by buzzv at 3:11 AM on April 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


WHY CAN HE NOT PLEASE CONTINUE TALKING FOREVER ON THIS TOPIC

At least he links to two other videos and four animations of the manufacturing process and its various steps.

This video was fascinating; I'd never heard of The Engineer Guy but I'll have to watch the rest of his stuff...once I'm done watching Rexam's video of the manufacturing machinery.
posted by Gelatin at 3:17 AM on April 16, 2015


When the captive riveted tab was being introduced, a friend of mine refused for some time to buy any drinks in such a can because the outer surface of the top of the tab got dunked in the liquid when you opened it and this was "unhygienic". You could point out that even with the older removable tab, you still had to pour out the drink over the outer surface of the lip of the can, but he seemed to think the extra surface area made all the difference.

Then he compromised by rigorously polishing the top of the can before opening, and then he just stopped bothering.

This is how they get you.
posted by Devonian at 3:55 AM on April 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Uh oh. I went to his YouTube channel and now I'm down the rabbit hole. His focus on commonplace, ubiquitous stuff is like a siren's song for me. Sort of a Watch Mr. Wizard for adults...
posted by jim in austin at 5:25 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


If any of you ever has a chance to go to a Rexam or Ball can plant, I highly recommend it.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:38 AM on April 16, 2015


I spent a summer when I was in school working at a plant that did this. I mostly painted equipment and cleaned floors, but it was fascinating learning about how they made the cans.

I also learned that they had to coat the inside of the Coke cans to prevent the Coke from eating through the aluminum. I stopped drinking Coke for a long time after that.
posted by sauril at 7:11 AM on April 16, 2015


OMG now I know why soup cans have corrugations and soda cans don't. This is a great day.

I can't want for my 13-year-old to see this. He and I watched a Great Courses class on structures and he says it changed the way he sees the whole world. He's going to be really into this.
posted by not that girl at 7:30 AM on April 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Wow. I love this guy. His delivery is engaging and his voice is smooth, and I want him to teach me about everything ever. Do you suppose he knows much about Property Law?
posted by jacquilynne at 7:39 AM on April 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


They coat the inside of all cans, not just Coke cans, or even just soda cans.
posted by gilrain at 7:45 AM on April 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


The engineerguy is fabulous, I'm a long-time subscriber. I love his Hard drive teardown.
But my god his 4 part series on the 100 year old fourier analysis machine is hypnotic. It's like a nerdy ASMR.
posted by Theta States at 7:58 AM on April 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Only one tiny point of contention -- he left out the intermediate step between the pull-tab can top and the lever tap can top, which was the two-button top (or whatever it's called).

That was pretty much an exclusive Coors design. I remember some bartenders had a punch tool similar to the old style can opener, except it had a cylindrical punch. And even worse, the two openings were different distances from the rim, so the tool had two different punches, one on each end.

There is good reason to forget this design ever existed.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:10 AM on April 16, 2015


Did I miss how nitrogen is kept in the can during the sealing process? I don't understand how that is done. Also, I'd be interested in seeing how the old style welding process looks in detail.

But, I'm picking nits. That was fascinating.
posted by Phreesh at 9:17 AM on April 16, 2015


I watched also the "how it's made" video he links to, and it ends with empty uncapped cans. "And then they are sent to another factory where they are filled and capped! Good night!"

I'll just assume the entire capping factory is pressurized and the employees have to wear oxygen masks, and that's why it's a logistical nightmare to record footage of that part of the process.
posted by RobotHero at 9:41 AM on April 16, 2015


Yeah, How It's Made is a great show, but is occasionally infuriating in handwaving away important parts of the process. Sadly, similar shows are generally even worse in that aspect.

(How It's Made is one of my go-to shows for time wasting)
posted by wierdo at 10:03 AM on April 16, 2015


Previous post about Engineerguy's Analog Fourier 4-parter.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:12 AM on April 16, 2015


Only one tiny point of contention -- he left out the intermediate step between the pull-tab can top and the lever tap can top, which was the two-button top (or whatever it's called).

That was pretty much an exclusive Coors design. I remember some bartenders had a punch tool similar to the old style can opener, except it had a cylindrical punch. And even worse, the two openings were different distances from the rim, so the tool had two different punches, one on each end.


Not true about being only Coors, I don't drink beer and well remember the "two-button" tops on aluminum pop /soda cans here in Canada. They were tough to open with your fingers, I vaguely remember using whatever was handy, the end of a knife, a pen, pretty much anything sharp. Here's a pic of a Pepsi can in this style...
posted by acroyear at 10:16 AM on April 16, 2015


The two hole "Push Button" lid was introduced in 1971, apparently. Here's a link to a great can collector's blog (well worth a look around for the aluminum can fancier) showing a demo can introducing the new fangled contraption...
posted by acroyear at 10:27 AM on April 16, 2015


The article about the new tab design linked in the Slate article linked above says the following:
“Women won’t ruin nails trying to open it, which is why most women don’t drink out of cans. I’ve had several people with disabilities say that my tab would allow them to open it themselves. Even senior citizens with tired fingers would still be able to do a simple thing like open a beverage.”
I would like to see a citation on this "most women don't drink out of cans" claim.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:43 AM on April 16, 2015


I subscribe to his channel, and I've watched his entire video catalog at least once. Can't get enough!
posted by xedrik at 12:12 PM on April 16, 2015


I bought a two-punch Pepsi can in Canada in 1986 and thought it was so noteworthy that I brought it home as a souvenir.
posted by enf at 4:22 PM on April 16, 2015


I might have said this before, but this time it's objectively true: this is the best thing I have ever seen on the Internet.

When the aliens come and say 'who is your leader?', we should just say 'that guy over there, talking about cans.' And the aliens will watch the can video and they'll say 'finally, somebody we can trust to share our FTL and immortality technology with everybody and not fuck it up.'
posted by obiwanwasabi at 10:27 PM on April 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


I'm watching it again guys
posted by obiwanwasabi at 10:29 PM on April 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is the kind of professor you want for your first year physics or intro to engineering class. Sadly, they're too few and far between - most of the profs I had in my first year at college almost seemed insulted that they were stuck teaching freshmen.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:00 AM on April 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


The former engineering student in me was enraptured by the whole video.

The former beer can collector in me was momentarily aghast at violating an unopened Schmidt can, until I realized it was empty. I gotta figure it was a replica/throwback like the flat-top Keystone can. Even if it were original it's probably not rare enough to be actually worth much (although don't tell my parents who are still storing my early 70s collection), but still it brought back memories of trying to get decent condition cans among the relics that I pulled from creeks in my youth.
posted by NumberSix at 9:09 PM on April 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


@NumberSix We got the Schmidt can -- and the other vintage cans -- on ebay for about a buck each.
posted by bill-engineerguy at 2:39 PM on April 19, 2015 [10 favorites]


This is terrific, and yes, I'm now down the rabbit hole. Welcome to MetaFilter, bill-engineerguy, and kudos on your extremely clear and compelling videos!
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:13 PM on April 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


acroyear: "Here's a pic of a Pepsi can in this style..."

That's a steel can (or at least steel can style) that I remember seeing back east as a kid; BC cans were standard aluminum size and ya for a brief window Pepsi cans were the two hole style.
posted by Mitheral at 12:13 AM on April 20, 2015


HOLY SHIT GUYS BILL HAMMACK JUST JOINED METAFILTER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by Theta States at 6:15 AM on April 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


(and he did it so he could tell us where he got the beer cans?)

Bill, keep being awesome!
posted by Theta States at 6:17 AM on April 20, 2015


Welcome to Metafilter, bill-engineerguy.

Your lucid explanations in your videos seem to be admired here. I hope that if you have similar lucidity to share in conversations here (about any topic), that you will share them.

We treasure knowledgable people with a gift for communication. :)
posted by hippybear at 8:17 AM on April 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the kind welcome. I've been a reader of MetaFilter for a bit -- oddly heard about it from old media (an On The Media podcast -- a few years ago). I hadn't paid my 5 bucks until recently, though -- no objection to it and in fact like the idea ...
posted by bill-engineerguy at 11:41 AM on April 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


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