Why the Simple Aluminum Can Is Actually a Brilliant Piece of Engineering

You probably don’t give much thought to the aluminum can holding your sweet, sweet caffeine hit at lunch. But engineerguy Bill Hammack explains why the simple cylindrical can holding your Diet Coke is actually brilliantly designed and engineered for being both easy and cheap to produce, but also strong and durable for shipping.

Over the years the design of the aluminum can has been refined again and again, both to improve its durability, but also to minimize the amount of material needed. For instance, did you know that an aluminum can’s lid has shrunk about six millimeters in diameter over the years? And when you consider that over 100 billion cans are produced annually, that size reduction results in a savings of almost 200 million pounds of aluminum. Amazing.




I’ve been drinking canned soda my whole adult life, first “Tab”, then “Diet Coke”. I’m kind of a junkie; I go through at least 4 cans a day, sometimes more. Each empty can weighs half an ounce, so... carry the two... I’ve disposed of* at least 2,500 pounds of aluminum (and I guess a little paint). That’s about the weight of a Piper PA-30 Twin Comanche, which interestingly I used to fly.

*Now I always recycle, but back in the day we just chucked ‘em.