Bernard Lab: The Evolution of Lubricant Packaging

October 16, 2023
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In the relentless pursuit of enhancing motor oils, a perpetual quest unfolds. Companies and organizations year-round work to identify the benchmarks needed to meet the demands of the modern engine, then formulate a product that meets or exceeds those specifications. Scores of groups are also working on the materials that contain those lubricants. The design needs of lubricant packaging, as explored in the source article “Packaging of the Past, Present, and Future,” ranges from ergonomics to sustainability to cost-saving measures.

Packaged engine oil can be traced back to the early 20th century, when it was contained in cylindrical tin cans. By the mid-20th century, oil cans came in all shapes and sizes. Cardboard cans were introduced, the first iterations of which had a cardboard body with a metal top and bottom. Later, these types of containers were fully made of cardboard. Aluminum was also used. At this point, companies were selling their products in cylindrical, square, and rectangular containers, which could range from half a gallon up to five-gallon volumes.

The first plastic containers would come soon after. A Los Angeles Times article from 1985 documented Quaker State’s transition from cardboard cans to plastic containers. Adding motor oil to an engine from a tin or cardboard can require an oil spout to open the container, and possibly a funnel to pour it into the crankcase, the article explained. Meanwhile, plastic bottles have screw-top lids and a long neck for an easier pour.

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Photo and article with all rights reserved, courtesy of lubesngreases.com