Quick Question Monday : What's inside a lotion pump and how does it work?

Plastic lotion pumps, one of the most popular dispensing methods for viscous (thick liquid) products in the personal care and beauty industry, come in all shapes and sizes. When used as designed, pumps dispense the right amount of product time after time. But have you ever wondered what goes in a lotion pump to makes it work? While there are hundreds of different designs in the market today, the basic principle is the same, and Packaging Crash Course took apart one of these lotion pumps to give you an overview of these components, and how they contribute to the overall functionality of pumping the product from the bottle to your hand.

Generally speaking, a lotion pump consists of the following components :

  1. Pump ActuatorActuator : An actuator, or the pump head, is what the consumer presses down to pump the product out of the container. The actuator is often made of PP plastic and can have many different designs - and often come with a up-lock or down-lock features to prevent accidental output,. This is one of the component designs that can set one pump apart from another when it comes to the exterior design, it is also the part where ergonomics play a role in consumer satisfaction.
  2. Pump ClosureClosure : The component that screws the entire assembly onto the neck finish of the bottle. It is identified with the common neck finish destination such as 28-410, 33-400. Often made of PP plastic, it is often designed with a rib side or smooth side surface. In certain cases a shiny metal overshell can be installed to give the lotion pump a high-end, elegant look.
  3. Pump GasketOuter Gasket : The gasket is often friction fitted to the inside of the closure and it acts as a gasket barrier on the bottle land area to prevent product leakage. This outer gasket can be made from a wide variety of materials depending on the manufacturer's design : Rubber, LDPE are just two of the many possible options.
  4. Pump HousingHousing : Sometimes referred to the pump assembly housing, this component holds all the pump components in place as well as acting as a transfer chamber that sends the product from the dip tube to the actuator, and ultimately to the user's hand. This component is often made of PP plastic. Depending on the lotion pump output and design, the size of this housing can differ greatly. A word of caution, if you are pairing the pump with a glass bottle, as glass bottles have thicker side walls, the bottle opening may not be wide enough to fit the housing - be sure to check first for fit and function.
  5. Internal Components of a PumpStem / Piston / Spring / Ball (Interior components inside the housing) : These are the parts that can vary based on the design of the lotion pump. Some may even have additional components that aid the product flow, and some designs may even have additional housing components that isolate the metal spring from the product pathway, these pumps are generally referred to have a "metal free pathway" feature, where the product will not come in contact with the metal spring - eliminating the potential compatibility problems with the metal spring.
  6. Pump Dip TubeDip Tube : a long plastic tube made of PP plastic that extends the reach of the lotion pump to the bottom of the bottle. Depending on the bottle the pump is paired with, the dip tube length will differ. There is a 3 step dip tube measurement method that you can read about here. A properly cut dip tube will maximize product usage and prevent clogging.

How Does it Actually Work?

Lotion Pump parts

A lotion pump acts much like a air suction device that draws the product from the bottle to the consumer's hand despite the law of gravity telling it do the opposite. When the consumer presses down on the actuator, the piston moves to compress the spring and the upward air pressure draws the ball upwards, along with the product inside, into the dip tube and subsequently the chamber. As the user releases the actuator, the spring returns the piston and actuator into it's up position, and the ball is returned to it's resting position, sealing the chamber and preventing the liquid product from flowing back down into the bottle. This initial cycle is called "priming". When the user presses down on the actuator again, the product that is already in the chamber will be drawn from the chamber, through the stem and actuator, and dispense out of the pump and onto the consumer's hand. If the pump has a bigger chamber (common for high output pumps), it may require additional priming before the product will be dispensed through the actuator.

Lotion Pump Output

The output of a plastic lotion pump is often measured in cc (or ml). Commonly in the range of 0.5 to 4cc, with some larger pumps with bigger chambers and longer piston / spring components having output up to 8cc. Many manufacturers have multiple output options for each of their lotion pump offerings, giving the product marketer full control of dosage. For more information about pump output, please see our other Quick Question Monday article here.

What Options Do I Have?

To see a catalog list of the lotion pumps that O.Berk has to offer, please feel free to click here. If you have more questions about lotion pumps in general, please don't hesitate to contact us directly here.


Posted by Jonathan
on Mon, September 28, 2015

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