The Science of Pringles: The Effect of Geometry on Crunch and Durability​

The Science of Pringles: The Effect of Geometry on Crunch and Durability

There is a brand that stands out among the chips brands and that we all know. In fact, many people say that they feel rich when they add this product to their cart. Those chips are more expensive than other chips brands but have a unique taste. Yes, I guess we all thought of the same brand: Pringles.

We’re not going to get into a discussion about the taste or the best variety of pringles today. We will only consider an interesting story in the geometry of work.

Before we start, let’s be clear: This article (unfortunately) is not an advertisement or sponsorship.

How are Pringles Produced?

When we say Pringles, many of us think of the red cylinder box. And the near-perfect shape of the chips stacked on top of each other in that box. Let’s start here: The chip shapes we see are not obtained directly by chopping the potato. On the contrary, it has drawn many criticisms because it has almost no potatoes in it.

When we look at the image of Pringles in the womb, we see a slurry mixture of potato flakes, rice, wheat, corn, and many additives. This pasty slurry mixture is thinned under the pressure of heavy machinery and then shaped into a suitable shape. They then spend a short time on the hot oil and after a few steps, they become more familiar.

You can learn more about the production process by watching Food Network’s video below.

The Power of Geometry

The characteristic image of Pringles is not an arbitrary shape. This shape is called a hyperbolic paraboloid in geometry. This scary scientific name also has a more colloquial equivalent: the horse saddle. Yes, the saddles of horses have almost the same geometry.

To understand why this geometry arose, we need to travel back to 1956. At that time, Pringles chips were produced by Procter and Gamble (P&G). The company had received many complaints about the broken chips in the chips bags. At the same time, excess air in the bag made packaging inefficient. Thereupon, chemist Fredric J.Baur started researching to solve these problems and prepared the design that marked the history of chips.

pringles photo

Working for 2 years to improve the design, Baur finally came to the conclusion that the saddle design is the required geometry to get the most durable chips. He then suggested using cylindrical boxes to further increase the preservation of the chips.

The production of the new design also required new machines. For this, American mechanical engineer and science fiction writer Gene Rodman Wolfe helped design a new machine. As a result of these meticulous studies, Pringles took firm steps towards becoming the number one chips in the world. It is obvious that behind this success, the design of the chips is almost as important as the taste of the chips.

What Makes a Hyperbolic Paraboloid Special?

The curvature of the shape provides exceptional durability, which will help at the time of compression. For this reason, chips have extra protection against external impacts.

Let’s take a look at the math of the part that makes this geometry interesting. The point where the maximum and minimum points of the two main curves meet in a hyperbolic paraboloid is the zero point. This is also known as the saddle point in mathematics.

Pringles Geometry
Hyperbolic Paraboloid and Pringles Chips

The intersecting double curvature of the hyperbolic paraboloid prevents the formation of a tension line that would naturally propagate a crack. So when you bite off a piece of Pringles or put it whole in your mouth, it has an extra crackle. This extra crunch brought by the geometry also increases the pleasure of the consumer.

If you’ve been careful while eating Pringles, you’ll know that they don’t break symmetrically, but instead they break in different directions. This is all due to the hyperbolic paraboloid geometry of each chip.

In addition, this shape provides a very good opportunity to dip the chips in the sauce.

To sum up, this geometry not only increases durability and crunch but also creates a characteristic surface that can be dipped in sauce.

Hungry Buildings

This durable geometry has also attracted the attention of many architects and engineers. It is easy to build as it only has two legs, but it still has a pretty solid structure. For this reason, there are many structures with this thin-shell-like geometry.

Restaurante Los Manantiales, Xochimilco, Mexico
Restaurante Los Manantiales, Xochimilco, Mexico
Image Source: Wikipedia

The Greatest Mathematical Genius: Nature*

Scientists have found the answer they were looking for many times by looking at nature. This field, called biomimicry, can imitate nature and find the most suitable geometry with much less effort. One of the best-known examples is in the field of aerodynamics. Aircraft designs have been made today, taking into account the wing shapes and group movements of birds.

So is there anything in nature that is hyperbolic paraboloid?

Our answer is yes. When we look at the geometry of bananas, we see a shape close to the hyperbolic paraboloid shape. Perhaps banana trees have evolved over thousands of years by referencing this geometric shape in order to produce more durable fruit.

Similarly, when we look at bow designs, we always come across images close to saddle geometry. In order for an arrow to be thrown farther, the bow must be durable. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that this geometry is used in bow designs.

Let’s exaggerate this geometry a little more and take a closer look at the fetus’s position. The position in which almost everyone feels safest is the fetus position, which is the state of our body in the mother’s womb. Who knows, maybe this durable geometry has been with us since birth.

*Note:  Unfortunately, we could not reach any source about this part. The inferences here are based on the author’s own opinion and guesses. The purpose of this subtitle is not to give information directly, but to push for questioning. If you can find research that will confirm or refute these inferences, we would be very happy if you could reach us from the “Contact Us” section.

References and Further Reading

Paraboloid. (2021, May 13). Retrieved May 15, 2021, from

Team, E. (2020, December 04). The story behind the distinctive consistent saddle shape of Pringles. Retrieved May 15, 2021, from

Villaluz, K. (2020, December 24). Crunchy Engineering of Pringles’ Hyperbolic Paraboloid Shape. Retrieved May 15, 2021, from

You can access the sources of the images used by clicking on the images.

The proofreading has been done by Asu Pelin Akköse and Mete Esencan.

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Mete Esencan

Hello everyone! I'm Mete Esencan. I am a graduate student in the Department of Chemistry at METU. I was planning to establish a platform by combining the research knowledge I gained during my basic science education and the management experience I gained in the METU Chemistry Society, which I was in charge of for three years. For this purpose, in February of 2021, I took the first step and established the OkButWhy, a platform where we can write articles as if to chat about science, art and philosophy. I wish everyone a pleasant reading!

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