Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Enamel Hairing/Angel Hair/Packaging

Recently performed some extensive terminology research for a technical project. Among other expressions, the text dealt with the formation of “enamel hairing” during can manufacture.

As is the case most often, no picture had been originally provided. Reflecting on my previous work on packaging in plastic and in paper, I could not readily see any resemblances. Comme c’est le cas la plupart du temps, le client ne m’avait pas fourni d’illustration. Mes expériences dans le domaine des emballages en plastique et en papier ne me donnaient pas de solutions.

The usual sources (Termium, GDT) were of no help, so I turned to the contacts I had been able to establish in the industry and the members of the committee who had written the document. Fortunately, one of them, from Montreal, emailed back saying “we call this angel hair” and even sent a picture.

Several years ago, during my work dealing with flexible plastic packaging, I had learned that angel hair could occur during the manufacture of plastic containers or the transformation of plastic granules into plastic sheets. How could this happen in metal can making? And why would the English refer to it as enamel hairing?

Dans la fabrication des emballages en plastique (flexible et dur), il arrive que des réactions chimiques accompagnées de frottement provoquent une masse semblable à de la barbe à papa. Mais dans la fabrication de boîtes de conserve, il n’y a pas de plastique! Le mystère continue. Present-day cans do not contain enamel but one of many coatings to prevent corrosion. BPA is one of the materials used for this purpose. This is how I realized that terminology in the canning industry was influenced by that of the plastic packaging industry (or vice-versa). There was indeed a coat of plastic (if you will) applied to the metal sheet and during machining, this plastic could get transformed into a hairlike mass. So for the English user, this was enamel hairing and for the French speaking-one it was cheveux d’ange.

L’intérieur des boîtes de conserve pour les aliments contient une pellicule qui ressemble à de l’émail mais qui est en réalité un film (plastique) destiné à empêcher la corrosion. La photographie fournie par un collaborateur francophone apporta la solution.

One small discovery for me, one big benefit for the end user whose terminology is preserved.

La résolution d’un petit problème de ce genre donne une immense satisfaction sachant que le client ne butera pas sur l’expression et que le fond du message passera convenablement.