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Why the shape of Pringles potato chip is hyperbolic paraboloid?

Pringles potato chip

I found several articles that say the shape is hyperbolic paraboloid, but cannot find out why it is so. Does anyone have reasonable (and/or mathematical) answers?

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  • $\begingroup$ I'd wager they thought the shape would be appealing. $\endgroup$ Dec 24, 2013 at 21:04
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    $\begingroup$ I think this is a question about marketing, not mathematics. $\endgroup$
    – Newb
    Dec 24, 2013 at 21:05
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    $\begingroup$ Are you asking why the makers of Pringles chips chose this particular aesthetic, or how one can see that the chip pictured in your post is indeed a hyperbolic paraboloid? $\endgroup$ Dec 24, 2013 at 21:07
  • $\begingroup$ @AWertheim I'm asking the former. In particular, I'm interested in what property of hyperbolic paraboloid forces the choice of shape. (e.g. For purpose X, negative curvature is efficient.) $\endgroup$
    – Orat
    Dec 24, 2013 at 21:12
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    $\begingroup$ I was here to do some math. Now, I feel hungry. $\endgroup$
    – Isomorphic
    Dec 26, 2013 at 7:41

5 Answers 5

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  • The shape is self centering hence easy to stack up
  • There is no trajectory that allows you to break up into predictable pieces, it's a saddle look it up, so increases the crunchy feeling hence that weird satisfaction. (homework: where do they find those extra long potatoes to make the fries?)
  • It is relatively more feasible to manufacture the press block compared to other shapes. (Do you know the original size of a plastic cola bottle before it expands?)

But these are all true in hindsight; the real procedure is to do ridiculous amount of user study and then figure out why it works.

For example why washing machine doors are circular? Why toothbrush manufacturers want to have angles in fact you can easily rely on the technology known as your elbow etc.

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  • $\begingroup$ Initially Pringles were a marketing disaster, and while targeted at young people they were in fact purchased by their grandparents because the reconstituted potato shapes remained crispy longer than standard chips/crisps made by slicing potatoes. $\endgroup$
    – Henry
    Oct 9, 2014 at 9:16
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I think pringles are shaped because they are designed to fit perfectly in your mouth .the roof of your mouth holds that shape and when you began to crunch your tongue fits perfectly under it to give you that awesome full taste of your chip

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    $\begingroup$ Wonder if it can be made mathematical at all! But as per the site guidelines, I suspect if this is an acceptable answer! $\endgroup$ May 7, 2015 at 19:24
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It's called minimal surface. If you'll let a slice of bread drying it will naturally take this shape.

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    $\begingroup$ Well, then it's most definitely not a hyperbolic paraboloid. $\endgroup$ Dec 24, 2013 at 21:45
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The reason for it might be something like this- Anything when given heat tries to minimize its surface energy. e.g. Bubble are formed because of surface tension force, to minimize stresses on surface of bubble, it forms spherical form, hence only stress acting on it will be normal pressure (Actually it is more precise to say static pressure). But potato chips are discs with an-isotropic behavior, contracts and expands with different rates when water is evaporated, so it can neither form a spherical bubble to minimize energy nor any other closed shape because of high surface energy. Hence it ends up having highly distorted multidimensional geometry. But if you can develop a material which has different rated of contraction in only two direction, it might be possible to get a hyperbolic paraboloid.

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The hyperbolic paraboloid has an area, hence volume, that is greater than the chip would have if it was in the form of a flat disc in the same cylindrical package. So, the deceptively small package is cheaper to make than a cylinder that would accommodate a chip of the same volume in the form of a flat disc. And the shape is kind of neat in a solid geometry sort of way.

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