Spilpak is a product which evolved from humble beginnings to a fully fledged retail product. Literally every single person who tries a Spilpak wants several.


The Beginning

The company supplied vast quantities of paper hand towels on commercial sized 1kg rolls. These rolls were delivered in packs of six for use in the automated towel units. In the customer premises it was not uncommon to see rolls standing on a bench-top or in use for a spill or cleanup away from the dispenser. The client had a number of incentives for creating a standalone dispensing method for the paper towel rolls: From a customer perspective the paper would be protected from being placed on an unclean or wet surface. Being highly absorbent, even a small amount of liquid had the potential to ruin the relatively valuable roll. From the supplier perspective, the dispenser would be provided free of charge, and for every dispenser provided at least one additional roll would effectively be sold. The ROI was such that the dispenser could be recovered within the single roll even if the dispenser was rarely used. As a result for essentially no cost the client was able to provide 'free' dispensers which if found to be useful by the client, would sell more paper, and if not, would be covered anyway.

The initial starting point was a cardboard box with two spindle/bungs similar to what is used for some commercial films and printing supplies. The box would solve most of the practical aspects of the brief, but wouldn't fulfill the value added benefit the client was wanting to provide.

A durable product

After the decision to design a more durable container, I explored the suitability of various molding techniques developing a range of concepts: A clamshell type vacuum forming? a reversible half clamshell injection molded part? A full blow molded container? a co-molded shell? Eventually we settled that a blow molded body with injection molded cap would be not only the safest route, but also provide the least compromise from a design perspective. Blow molded container and lids weren't a new concept, many wet-wipe manufacturers use them to package their wipes. Critically though, whilst those containers dispensed vertically and housed all of the complexity in the injection molded lid, the Spilpak needed to dispense horizontally and provide not only an opening but potentially also a tearing method on the blow mold component.

The basic form of Spilpak was ready, a cylinder rounded at both ends and divided into a body and cap. The cap needed to be shallow, since the paper opening would be in the side of the blow mold, the additional material, and subsequently the lid would all extend much longer than the roll height. A spindle was needed on each end and hence the cap would also need to fit tightly to ensure it provided a solid axle for the paper core to spin on.

Lid: Injection Molded
Body: Blow Molded

The unit itself can accommodate a roll approximately 8 - 8.5 inches wide with a maximum diameter of 6 inches. The core size required is 2 inches. The product accepts both perforated and non perforated paper rolls although the use of perforated paper is recommend to give a more consistent dispensing.


At this stage the Spilpak form was much larger than most similar blow molded containers, the wall thickness needed to thicker but also the side opening would create a huge weakness in the cylinder. Form needed to be added to the body to provide longitudinal stiffening, but without adding too much to the overall diameter of the product.

I began with the reference surface, offset very slightly from the max roll diameter. From here I offset to create the maximum outside diameter of the dispenser. As a complete diameter, this was too large for the handheld nature of the dispenser. To generate the required longitudinal strength I created three even channels, joining the inside and outside reference surfaces. Between these channels I disected the outer radius using linear surfaces which would also intersect the inner surface. In all the structural shape was an inner cylinder with six protruding ribs, but visually these were disguised in an easy to handle form.

Keeping a good degree of draft on the rounded 'channel' sidewalls I was able to maintain a balanced part-line which could be disguised on the more defined surface intersections. The chute or opening would be cut through the one of the inner 'channel' surfaces close to the outer diameter of the roll.

Product Specs:

Number of Components per assembly: 12
Weight excluding packaging and consumable roll : approx 550g / 1.2lbs

Materials :
Body - PE
Lid - HDPE
Ratchet / Lock - ABS
Bracket & Attachments - ABS

Additional Assembly items:
Bracket fixings and wallboard plugs
Instruction Document
Optional individual box (full colour / two colour and matte/gloss options)

Custom branding was also offered for the labels printed on glossy vinyl stock. Additionally laser etching is used for branding of the button cap on the top of the dispenser.

Ratchet Mechanism

The production Spilpak completely fulfilled the brief, and worked exceptionally well with the correct technique, however feedback was unanimous that it could be improved by controlling the paper flow. The second stage of the project was back to the drawing board. How could the existing parts be modified to create a paper control with minimal retooling?

The resulting 'Ratchet' mechanism required only minimal modification of the existing lid part to add the locking gear. An additional family tool of lightweight ABS components included a button part, ratchet, and end cap for the paper rolls. The end cap is press fitted into the cardboard roll core, with sharp teeth to ensure it does not rotate. The button part and spring are inserted into the top recess in the Spilpak lid, with an axle protruding through a hole in the cap. On the inside of the cap, the ratchet is snap fitted onto the axle. In the neutral position, the spring forces the button upwards, engaging the attached ratchet with the matching gear on the underside of the lid. When pushed, the button moves downward against the spring, in turn releasing the ratchet and allowing it to spin freely on the axis. When the lid is assembled with a roll containing the end cap in place, the ratchet part engages loosely with the end cap, permitting the ratchet to slide vertically in the end cap. In the neutral position, the ratchet is locked and transfers this lock to the roll end cap, preventing the paper from moving. When engaged, the ratchet unlocks as it is pushed down into the end cap, allowing the paper roll and ratchet to rotate. When released the ratchet snaps back, instantly locking and braking the roll.
All of the mechanism is hidden, giving a clean and simple appearance to the product. Using a two part button, I was able to completely conceal the required structure and spring. The end caps can be re-used, or fixed into new rolls to create a proprietary consumable.

Wall Bracket

The ratchet mechanism transformed Spilpak into a product with true retail potential but feedback now turned to giving the dispenser a 'home base'. By providing a mounting solution, people would relate the product more to existing dispensers, in addition to creating a more permanent fixture and encouraging enduring usage.

The mounting solution needed to be easy to assemble to the main blow moulded body component without any tooling modification to the existing part.

The resulting accessory component uses a simple wall mountable bracket, shaped to accept and support the outer form of the Spilpak. The bracket can be fixed to any surface using included adhesive tape or fixings, and is designed to resist rotational movement of the dispenser when the paper is pulled. The occompanying fixings on the dispenser itself are assembled through two holes 20mm diametre holes drilled in post processing. The 'lugs' or 'buttons' use a simple screw connection to connect the slotted outside button to the shallow inside peg. The two buttons engage with slots in the bracket, being guided into a secure location. The Spilpak is easily placed and removed from the bracket and can dispenser paper in the mounted position.
( images licensed from www.photodune.net )

Additionally for retail applications Spilpak can be supplied with a large retail PDQ display unit which is designed to fit both Dispenser units and rolls or wipes / paper. I worked closely with the manufacturer designing the template and graphics to produce the display units ready to ship with Spilpak container orders.