Coffee cup lids have their origin in the early 1950’s when a certain Mr Delbert Phinney patented his invention of a cup with a lid. It certainly was a good idea but it was ahead of its time and it took many more years for it to catch on with the American public.
One of the difficulties he faced with the original design was that it had a small piece of foil covering the sip hole. This had to be pulled off before use and this made it tricky when trying to open the lid while driving or walking.
Later designs included a plastic flap that could simply be pressed into the cup lid to open it. However, the design changes for the humble coffee cup lids did not end there. Later work has focused on trying to make the experience of drinking from a sip lid equivalent to drinking from the rim of an actual cup.
Designers have had to make the lid attractive while retaining structural integrity. You know that paper cups are flexible and so as you squeeze the paper cup, you can easily buckle the lid. The resultant coffee spillage would then negate the very reason to have had the lid in the first place.
Then, there is always a second hole in the lid as designers realised that the better they got at attaching the lid to the paper cup, the more a vacuum was created as you drank the coffee. So this hole allows air back into the coffee cup and you don’t have to suck the coffee out.
The last innovation that makes the coffee cup lid a mini engineering marvel are the ridges that appear on the inside of well made lids. Yes, they are there for structural support, but they also serve the purpose of “slosh” prevention. These ridges protect the opening to the sip area from coffee sloshing around the cup and spilling out the sip hole.
Who would have possibly thought the coffee cup lid was such a complex piece of plastic?
But it is not all engineering. One designer introduced some fun by creating a KISS lid design to brighten up your day!