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- A drinking straw is a
short tube intended for transferring a beverage from its container to a
personís mouth by use of suction. The earliest drinking straws were
hollow stems of grass, literally made of straw.
- In 1888, Marvin Stone
patented the spiral winding process to manufacture the first paper
drinking straws. Stone was already a manufacturer of paper cigarette
holders. His idea was to make paper drinking straws. Before his straws,
beverage drinkers were using the natural rye grass straws.
- Stone made his
prototype straw by winding strips of paper around a pencil and gluing it
together. He then experimented with paraffin-coated manila paper, so the
straws would not become soggy while someone was drinking.
- Marvin Stone decided
the ideal straw was 8 1/2-inches long with a diameter just wide enough
to prevent things like lemon seeds from being lodged in the tube. One
particular advantage of using straws when drinking is the reduction of
tooth decay. Many soft drinks have acidic properties, and using a straw
reduces the liquid contact with the teeth, reducing tooth decay and the
risk of cavities.
- Straws are made from
a formulated blend of plastic resin, colorants, and other additives.
- Straw manufacturing
requires several steps. First, the plastic resin and other components
are mixed together; the mixture is then extruded in a tube shape; the
straw may under go subsequent specialized operations and finally the
straws are packaged for shipment. There are a number of interesting new
developments in straw technology. First, new and improved plastic blends
are constantly being evaluated.
- This is necessary to
keep costs down, meet regulatory requirements, and improve quality. In
addition, new processing and design methods are being developed.
- These can expand the
straws into new areas. For example, thermoliquid crystals, a special
colorant that responds to changes in temperature, can be added to straws
to make them change color when they come in contact with hot or cold
liquid. Other unique applications include ways of printing straws with
the identity of the beverage (e.g., diet, root beer, etc.).
- The straw can then be
used to mark what the drink contains. Other advances include straws made
by a blow molding process, which creates faces or other artifacts in the
middle of the straw.
- The Tetra Pak Tubex
Inc. plant makes more than 4 billion drinking straws a year. That's
enough straws to fill more than 500 53foot trailers.
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