How Sports Bottles are Made

You may think talking about sports bottles isn't my cup of tea—especially because sports bottles usually hold water, and tea has nothing to do with it. But how could I resist discussing processes like thermoforming and injection molding? As you can see, I couldn’t, and I hope you’ll have just as much fun learning about them!

Sports bottles are very similar to water bottles. However, these bottles are designed specifically to be shatter-resistant, lightweight, and convenient to carry. They're also made to hold plenty of water (or Gatorade, or anything else that fuels your workout) and to let that water flow freely, thanks to their push-pull spouts. This makes them ideal promotional items for fitness centers, sports team fan nights, and charity marathons.

But what goes into the great design? How are sports bottles made? Well, as with most manufacturing, it involves taking a base material and molding it into a really nifty (yet practical) shape.

The Materials!

In general, sports bottles and other water bottles are made from light, durable plastic. It's a pretty smart choice, considering that physical activity sometimes results in bottles being knocked onto the ground.

With a few exceptions, the sports bottles on the Quality Logo Products website are made out of one of these types of plastic:

Polycarbonate – This is a broad name for several sturdy plastics with high heat tolerances that can be molded into various shapes. The polycarbonate often used in sports bottles is called bisphenol A, or BPA. BPA came under controversy several years ago when research suggested that some of it potentially could seep into food and drink if it was used in packaging materials. Later research, however, stated that polycarbonate is safe for use in food and drink containers.

Tritan - Tritan is often used as an alternative to polycarbonate containers containing BPA. Like BPA, Tritan is a strong, clear plastic that can be molded under extremely high temperatures.

PET or PETE - PET is a plastic with a fabulous long name (polyethylene teraphthalate ester). It's pretty flexible and generally not as hard or rigid as either BPA or Tritan. It's also usually less expensive than either of those high-quality plastics, and it's easy to recycle. PET generally isn’t used to hold hot beverages (except for a special kind of PET that’s made to withstand high temperatures).

All plastics are resins. Resins are materials that are viscous in their liquid form, which means they're thick and sticky. And when they dry, they harden into a solid material.

The Processes!

The trick with making plastic products like sports bottles is to mold the resin into the desired shape, usually while the plastic is warm, and then have it cool quickly to harden. There are two processes used to manufacture most of the bottles we sell:

Thermoforming

This process involves making a three-dimensional mold of an item (which can be made of materials like plaster and wood for limited production runs or metal for longer runs) and then heating a large, thin sheet of plastic so that it’s a little more pliable. With the help of a super-strong vacuum (or in some cases, using both a vacuum and some pressure), the pliable sheet of plastic is made to conform to the mold’s shape.

Injection Molding

This process involves producing a two-sided mold of an item (usually from steel, because it can withstand high temperatures) and then melting a bunch of tiny plastic pellets to form a thick goo (to use the most informative term). The goo is pumped into the two-sided mold, where it takes on the item’s shape.

If you’d like to see injection molding in action, we’ve made a video all about it!

Injection molding allows for a lot of customization in making items (for example, with injection molding, items can vary in thickness at different spots on the item). Thermoforming, however, often takes less time, and for thinner items like the straws on some plastic sports bottles, it’s the best choice.

For years, sports bottles have been a durable and viable promotional product option. They’re most often made from plastics like polycarbonate, Tritan, and PETE, which are known to stand up to use. Thanks to current manufacturing processes, sports bottles continue to be safe, almost unbreakable, and incredibly useful for people around the world!