More Interesting Than You Think: How A Cycling Water Bottle Is Made

(logo swooshes) – I’m lucky enough to be here in Croatia, because the kind folks at
Elite have invited me out to check out their water bottle factory. And they know a thing
or two about bottles, because they’ve been
making them since 1983. And, well, most of us actually, we probably take water bottles
for granted, let’s face it. But today, I’m going to
find out just exactly how this is turned into this. (mellow electronic music) What is a bottle made from then? Well Elite, they actually
make water bottles out of two different
types of plastic here. So a standard bottle, like the CORSA, that’s made from some of this. Low-density polyethylene. Now this bag itself weighs about 25 kilos, and it can make, get this,
about 400 of these bottles, which is mind-blowing to think about it. Talk about good use of volume. What about those lightweight
FLY bottles then? Well Elite actually
developed their very own special compound, which took
about a year’s worth of time to actually refine, in order to be used inside of a water bottle. More on those lightweight
FLY bottles later though, but back to these ones. Well, first up, these pellets,
they’re loaded into that, and it’s pumped around into the factory, as you can hear right now. Let’s go and check out those machines to see just how it’s done. (smooth hip hop music) So the pellets, they’ve been pumped in to the back of the machine,
and they’ve been heated up to 175 degrees centigrade,
and pushed forward, before it starts to extrude, like so. As you can see there, that’s really hot. But also really pliable, too. So then this part of
the mold moves across, and it clamps it inside, and
a load of air comes in there, essentially blowing it into shape, and it forms the whole bottle, including the thread
at the neck there too. At this point, the mold also determines the various thicknesses of the bottle. So the side of it, as well as the base, as well as the top, too. ‘Cause obviously, you want
to have a nice, solid base, so it doesn’t collapse
under its own weight, and a nice, strong neck, so
that when you screw the lid on, it’s going to stay in place. The screen here actually shows
you the different thicknesses of all those various parts. Now it doesn’t stop there, though. Once that’s actually been
blow-molded into shape, it moves along, and then
the tooling phase happens. So essentially, it’s making
sure that there’s no rough edges or anything like that
on the top or bottom, and also that the threads
are nice and precise. Then, it moves on to a pressure test. So that actually tries to
put some air into the bottle, to check for any pinholes
or anything like that. If there are, the bottle’s
rejected and recycled, as are any of the off-cuts
that you’re going to see too, from the top and bottom of the bottles, when they’re actually being formed. They then simply follow
through on this conveyor belt, they get ground up into little bits, and remade into another bottle. There’s literally no
waste of this whatsoever. And this machine here can produce about 8,000 bottles a day, because it can come out of both sides, and whilst one’s having a process done, the other one can slowly begin its life. Whilst we come all the
way down at the end here, we’ve got a dual blow mold system, which means that essentially, you can fuse or blend two
different materials together, like this bottle actually in my hand, which has got a clear stripe there, meaning you can have a colored bottle along with that, so you can, well, see how much liquid you’ve
got left out on your ride. Speaking of colors, if you’re wondering how they get turned into these
bright little beauties here, well it’s a pretty
simple affair, actually. Because remember those
white polyethylene pellets that get melted down into a bottle? Well, you just need
1.5% of a little pigment or a little pellet
there, which is colored, and that’s enough to give you one of those brightly colored bottles. Right then, let’s move
on to the FLY bottle. Named so because of its low weight, and a bottle which I
was first introduced to a couple of years ago at EUROBIKE. And believe me, I put it on the scales, and it did in fact blow my mind. Because this is just 54 grams, compared to the CORSA bottle we’ve been looking at previously, that’s 87 grams. So the cost per gram saving is
probably one of the best ways you can actually lose
some weight on your bike. But how do they do it? Well firstly, it’s a different
manufacturing process. And it did take about three
years of the total project. Of course, I’ve already mentioned, about developing the secret
formula inside of it. They did run into a few
challenges along the way. The first one, obviously,
developing the right compound, as well as making sure it was odorless, and importantly, nice and
soft to the grip, too. Now that secret formula
compound is actually stored up there, and dried out for
a minimum of four hours, otherwise it simply will not work. When it’s ready to be processed, it comes down, travels along
here at 220 degrees centigrade, before then it’s injected into the mold, and then the following
magic starts to happen. The plastic used in these bottles can be made incredibly thin where the extra strength is
not necessarily required, such as throughout the soft
grip, like on the sides, and then beefed up where it is needed, so the neck and the base, just
like the other water bottles. It’s also pressure tested
and left to cool down. These FLY bottles actually
take a little bit longer. They take about 20 minutes. Oh, that’s that special
mix of the FLY bottles. Better not take any. Right, okay, we’ve made our bottles, but how are we going to stop the liquid from flying out the top of it then? Well firstly, the CORSA bottle lids, they’re still actually made in Italy. But soon, they’re going to
be moving here to Croatia, because Elite have just made
a factory just next door. But right now, the FLY
bottle lids are made here. And actually, the lid
is one of the reasons why the bottle is so light, because it’s really minimalistic. Now this machine has a
double injection mold, and actually combines
two materials within it. So the bottom row of molds there, that actually accepts the
molten plastic if you like, and then forms the basis of the lid. When that’s done, it rotates around, and then this top, almost
rubber-like substance is pressed into place, and it’s simply the heat of the two make it join together. Now there’s two reasons for this. The aesthetics, and also, this has got a slightly grippy feel to it. So when it gets a little bit wet, it becomes just a little
bit sticky there, too. Now the rubber nozzle,
or valve if you like, that’s actually pushed
into place using a machine, but it does require some
human assistance here. So a human actually has
to line up the bottle top underneath the machine
before pressing a button and it gets pushed into place. Now this process, again,
currently isn’t here, but in a month’s time it will be, so it’s going to be an almost
one-stop-does-all type facility. Artwork. This is the part I had literally
no idea how it was done. At first, I thought, “Oh, maybe the bottle “is laid out flat, and then they print it, “and then they fold it into
position, I don’t know.” I didn’t want to ruin the surprise, I’m here now, I’m going to find out how they get extremely
cool-looking bottles. So this machine, extremely
advanced, I’ve been told, it can print up to six different
layers onto a plain bottle. Let’s have a look at the
process from start until finish. Now first up, the bottles,
well they’re chucked into this big container here, and then they go up this
almost escalator-type machine. They drop down into a big sorting wheel, then they go on to a conveyor belt. At that point, if a bottle is not facing in the right direction, a laser detects it, picks
it up by a little sucker, turns it around, drops
it back on the conveyor, and it heads towards the painting machine. The bottles are first
cleaned with a brush system, to make sure there’s no dust. And they then continue to a
flame, for a split second. This, again, makes sure the surface is best for paint adhesion. The paint of the graphic
design is then applied, and is then put through
a UV light quickly, to dry it before moving
on to the next color. The bottle eventually reaches a camera that quickly scans the bottle,
to make sure that, again, it matches up perfectly
with a design file, and is precise to 0.2 of a millimeter. If it doesn’t match, it’s
rejected, but don’t worry. The rejected bottles are collected and will be broken down and recycled to be remade into a future bottle. There is no waste whatsoever. Sticking with recycling,
you’ll be pleased to know that the bottles are made
of a corn-based plastic, as opposed to an oil-based product. Meaning that the bottles
are 100% biodegradable. How cool is that? But I’m not finished
with artwork just yet. Oh no, this is the latest bit of the kit. It’s about two weeks old, and this can loosely be described I guess as a ginormous ink jet printer. It’s full of cables and
wires inside of there. But the great advantage of this is that very soon, consumers like you and I will easily be able to, from
the comfort of our own home, upload our very own image
or slogan, whatever, and it get printed onto a water bottle. Now it uses four different colors, so cyan, magenta, yellow,
and key, or black. And each layer is printed in turn before it simply heads on down
over on the conveyor belt. It can print up to 5,000 of those an hour. That is simply incredible. I love this machine. It’s like the Rolls-Royce of printing. Right, there we are. How water bottles are made. I had literally no idea, now I do, it’s one I’ve ticked off of my list. Let me know, though, what you would like to see being made too. Also, if you were going to have a picture printed onto a water bottle,
what would it be and why? Let me know down there
in the comment section. Don’t forget to like and share
this video with your friends, give it a big thumbs up. Tell everybody about it. Don’t forget, check out the GCN shop at, for a whole heap of goodies, and now, to see Si, when he visited the Elite Turbo Trainer
factory, click just down here. And well, me, I’m not go
thirsty with all these, am I? Oh, no.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. #askgcntech not water bottle related, but have you ever heard of ultegra 6800 crankarm breaking off? seen a rider broke his while riding in a group this morning, googled "ultegra 6800 crankarm failure", seems a lot of people had experienced it, even saying it is because it is "hollowtech". maybe you guys could look into it. thank you!

  2. The picture i would go with, just for a laugh would have to be a classic page 3 photo of Linda Lusardi, Do you think Elite would do it. Ho Ho

  3. What the hell do you do with hundreds of John Canning water bottles? Have a sale in the GCN Store.

  4. That was very interesting indeed. I use Elite bottles and I love them. Also, my 2 year old loves them more than her own bottles, and so now she drinks from Elite bottles too 🙂

  5. That was actually awesome! Cheers Jon for presenting such a fun video! Fingers crossed some lucky viewers may possibly win one of your limited edition bidons! Do a giveaway!!!

  6. I want to see how/who developed million dollar machinery to make $10 water bottles. Very cool and interesting. It would be neat to see how other components are made. Next "How are bottle cages made". Got to keep in order.

  7. Chemist here. Did Elite really tell you their bottles are made from bio degradeable plastics? If so, that's great. But not all corn based plastics are bio degradeable by definition (many are, but not all – if anyone want an in depth explanation, that's fine, but I guess most of you here wouldn't want it)

  8. I got a couple Elite bottles they are excellent. Seeing the manufacture process and, specially that they are corn based and biodegradable, I'm sticking to this brand.

  9. Love these plant trip/ how-it's-made videos. Plant trips were my favorite part of college when I was taking materials classes. Jon, you've got a whole series to do… just start at one end of the bike and go to the other seeing how each pieces is made.

  10. weight saving tip: drill a hole in the bottom of your bottle – saves you 500-1000 gramms per bottle

  11. Good video – as always. But why the hell is the design of all waterbottles on the market so bad? Just horrible. These companies just habe no taste. 😉

  12. Those 'biodegradable' bottles will only be broken down in a very specific set of parameters. In reality plastic usually ends up in landfills or in marine animals stomachs. I switched to durable stainless steel bottles. Environmentally friendly, no chemicals to filter into my water or sports drink and it tastes better. Once you're used to drinking out of metal (or glass, for that matter) bottles, you really notice the plasticky taste. Can't be healthy.

  13. I guess the person and the photo of whom I want to get printed on would be Marco Pantani and his Victory of 1998 Giro and Tour double

  14. I would have StarMan riding a Canyon Aero "Cycling in to the future." Printed on to a white bottle with Falcon 9 landing legs on the bottom

  15. Have a bottle sitting in my cupboard from the Specialized 40th Anniversary with the classic Gorbachev ad on it. Some day I ought to get that reprinted!

  16. The most advanced and variously technology to protect and keep comfort for our eyes —— cycling sunglasses,hope GCN will pick this topic for a run😊

  17. This couldn't have been more underwhelming. I'm amazed at how uninteresting it is!

    The only thing I found interesting is that people are stupid enough to buy a special bottle to save 40g when it holds 1000g worth of water!

  18. The corn based plastic really surprised me. Now I'm inclined to get elite bottles. Their ad worked this time.

  19. I’d have a picture of my son, Jacob (people who know me know why) & my youngest Gregor. Both on their bikes, hill climbing

  20. Great to see the bottles are bio-degradable. Makes me cringe seeing all those bottles ejected to the roadside on the tours! Great video Jon!

  21. Wow. Another informative video produce by GCN. Next i want to see how it build is anything about the group set of a bike? Like a RD or FD or the lever itself? Thanks gcn!

  22. What this video really means….. GCN will now have and be sponsored by Elite Water bottles. Probably are running out of their first giant CamelBak order. Pretty cool video!

  23. Really interesting.. will there be a Cannings Giveway comp soon? Love that the bottles are Bio degradable too.

  24. When Jon make double big thumbs up would be nice at a bottle and of course the bottle should be in celeste!

  25. I have an Elite Iceberg bottle and it's really horribly made. It's leaking all the time, and it's hard to drink from it. How did they managed to make it so badly?

  26. even though it is a corn based plastic it is still polyethylene. And Polyethylene isn't biodegredable. The Precursor may be but as soon as you chain the molecules together it is not possible to degrade it by throwing it into the landscape.

  27. How do you save weight on a bottle? Ditch the bottle. If you worry that much on weight then you shouldn’t even use a bottle or a bottle cage or even a saddle and seatpost for that matter

  28. Not biodegradable bottles, Bio based PE, biodegradable plastic is only a good idea for stuff that must be thrown away. Otherwise as the owner of Team Ineos says, we must lean to recycle everything not throw valuable resources in the bin.

  29. If Elite can make these out of corn based plastic and they are 100% biodegradable and food safe then why isn't supermarket food packaging made out of the same plastic?

  30. This is awesome! I've always wondered how water bottles were made and I'm happy to hear that elite is so on point with the recycling and using corn based plastics vs petroleum based. I wonder if camelbak does the same.

  31. GCN is going to be hugely popular eventually because of the depth and breadth of the topics covered, appealing to a much broader audience, not the elite crowd alone ( to which I belong, in a way ) . Always inspiring me to get out on the bike. toodle-oo !

  32. Love my fly bottles, not just because weight, I can remove the top rubber cap and clean the whole cap, allowing a good hygiene practice. Unlike other bottles, Camelback included, that after 6 months is so dirty that smells! I have broken these and other bottle caps when trying to clean them.

  33. Who wakes up one morning and decides "You know what? I'm going to invest millions of dollars into some large machinery to sell plastic water bottles with a retail price of around $15."

  34. Great video!
    I worked in injection moulding for several years in the factory as a mechanic. And i've got to say: from my perspective their factory looks pretty good. I know how it is when they want to film something or customers come by etc. everything gets cleaned more than usual. With time working in the industry you know where you've got to look at to know if a company does it properly or just like "dang, they come to film tomorrow and it should be clean, usually it's a mess". On a scale from 1 to 10, i would give them probably a 9. If you want, there's always room to improve 😉

  35. We can tell you from personal experience that it's surprisingly difficult to design and manufacture a water bottle. We'd love to be considered the next time you put together a top water bottle list. Check us out at @t

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