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What exactly is airless packaging?

It's amazing how a specific concept or product can make its way into the marketplace and take it by storm without really being understood. Many people praise airless packaging and it's properties (and rightly so) but it seems that fewer and fewer actually know what the concept is or why it can be of benefit to a firm's products. As a hot topic, airless has spread throughout the packaging world and is now available from many sources. Unless you're a packaging proponent, technologist, or customer, though, the facts behind the mystique of airless packaging probably remain occult.

An airless solution is typically any sort of packaging and dispensing system that uses a difference in environmental pressure to create a vacuum that can evacuate a product from a reservoir once aq valve is opened. This is a different sort of propulsion from a traditional aerosol, which often requires a propellant (such as nitrous oxide or dimethyl ether) that is added to a product. The propellant maintains an even pressure in the container by evaporating a small amount, and when evacuated, evaporates rapidly so that only the product being dispensed remains as very fine droplets or mist. Airless solutions don't require propellants, they are designed in such a way as to seek a natural pressure equilibrium based on a differential between external, environmental pressure and the pressure created by a lack of air in the product reservoir. Consequently, the product is dispensed as it seeks to occupy free space outside of the container.

Though there are variations, there are two primary sorts of airless solutionsavailable.

The first variety is based on a functional interior plunger, much the same as a medical syringe. The plunger creates an airtight seal in the interior of the barrel portion that houses the product, so when it is actuated, the product is pushed up from the bottom and evacuated completely. Physically speaking, syringes depend upon the potential energy of the apparatus coupled with the potential energy in a hand, becoming kinetic energy during actuation. The syringe is completely dependent upon the addition of energy from the person actuating it to work.

Packaging dispensing systems, particularly standard pumps, work a bit differently. A pressure difference is maintained between the exterior and interior of the packaging, and by actuating the pump, the addition of pressure inside the container pushes product out through a dip tube. Airless packaging, stemming from the same pump concept, does not amplify pressure in the container. When actuated, the system simply opens a conduit between the exterior and the product reservoir. As the product is evacuated, air enters from the bottom through a small valve orifice and occupies space under the barrel and the product contained over it. The plunger moves up, filling the space created by the pressure difference, and the product continues to flow. Less energy is required to actuate an airless system because of this usage of vacuum, which translates into less effort required by the user of the system.

The second common variety of airless packaging does not use a syringe-like plunger and barrel, this sort of airless system has an outer, hard container that houses a flexible bag filled with the product. Basically, when the product is evacuated during actuation, instead of air coming in and pushing a barrel up to keep the reservoir in a a prepped state, the bag shrinks due to pressure as it collapses on itself. It's sort of like a toothpaste tube, except instead of squeezing and making an effort to get out every single bit of product contained, the collapse occurs due to a combination of actuation, evacuation, and the equilibrium of pressure.

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