The movement of opening a can of beer when on Sunday afternoon we are watching a football game at home on TV or uncovering a can of sardines a day of hiking in the countryside, has become a reflex movement of the hand, as normal as tying shoelaces or brushing teeth. We have all learned to pull an automatic ring from the lid of a container.
However, it has not been many years since we had to go through the drawers of the kitchen to make this operation the classic opener. The contribution of this ease of opening to tin cans has its small history.
Ermal Cleon Fraze – Ernie for friends – he lived in Dayton (Ohaio) and was a former technician of the most important aluminum production company in North America, also spread all over the world. Well versed in the properties of this metal, he mastered the technique of building tools and was also very skilled. In the garage of his house he had a small mechanics workshop where he liked to spend his leisure hours. For his head was the idea of facilitating a task as common as is to open a can of food or drinks and for a long time worked on it with their own means. It was elaborating a series of prototype tools based on the concept of delimiting a part of the central panel of an aluminum lid, defining it by means of an incision in the material, so that it could be torn following this incision using a riveted ring on this area of the lid.
In the year 1959 he had ready a first model of a lid with ring to place in a container to contain liquids that could be opened simply by hand. When the ring was pulled, a tongue of material was detached, resulting in a drop-shaped slot of rainwater through which the contents were easily poured. The easy opening lid was born. In 1963 it patents its development under registration number 3,349,949 in the United States. He soon sells his license to Alcoa – an aluminum manufacturer – and to the Pittsburg Brewing Company. The latter puts the first cans equipped with this system on the market for the first time. The first containers for carbonated drinks equipped with this type of lid – manufactured entirely in aluminum – appear in the year 1964 with the “RC Cola” and “Diet-Rite Cola” brands, both of the Royal Crown company.
Later, he sought to transfer this idea to the containers destined to contain solid or pasty products that can not therefore be emptied through a small opening. He found the solution by drastically modifying the design of the surface bounded by the incision. He gave him the approximate configuration of a triple C, successively inscribed one inside the other. When this surface was torn, a spiral zone was given off, which was given the name of “pig tail”, because of its similarity to it. It was the first “full opening top” design that appeared on the market. Later the appearance of the area to tear changed progressively, until arriving at which at present we know.
Since then, this improvement has caused consumption habits to change and metal cans to substitute other types of containers and have promoted the consumption of cola in the world.
The use of easy-open covers in different designs and materials spread quickly allowing the already old metal can to live a second youth in the market. Thus, in Europe, it soon begins manufacturing in non-round shapes (rectangular and oval), first in aluminum and then in the first years of the “eighties” in tinplate. In 1989, the design of the beverage was improved, keeping the tongue and ring attached to the lid (non-disposable ring) to improve the ecological aspect.
The easy opening lid is in good health, its future seems clear and its use is more common every time. Men like Ernie Fraze who make Humanity take great steps in the simple things of each day with their work and initiative deserve to be known so that they serve as a stimulus to all entrepreneurs.