The Flight of the Pringle

Sure they taste great, but have you ever considered the aerodynamics of a Pringles chip?

Tom Lange knows more about flying Pringles than probably anyone alive.

As director of modeling and simulation at Procter & Gamble Co., it's Lange's job to use finite element analysis to predict what something will smell like, whether a bottle will break, and if a Pringles chip will take flight.

"We break things into a million little parts and then write simple math equations about how each little part affects the other parts," says Lange, who is responsible for the economic, as well as structural, analysis of different materials.

His latest challenge was to analyze airflow around the unique double-saddle design of Pringles chips. "Air flow over Pringles has some very unusual behavior," says Lange. "It sheds vortices and creates lift that causes the chip to be unstable." In English that means the chips will fly off the conveyer belt if production is throttled up.

Though he won't say what modifications they made, "we were able to speed things up," says Lange, who adds, "I have the coolest job."

This article was originally published on 08-05-2005
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