Designing for Fragile Packaging

Through our 50+ years of research and commercial project work, Smithers Pira has come to understand the requirements of foam and corrugated cushion design, cost minimization, cubic volume optimization, product fragility requirements and elimination of damage.

In Smithers Pira's experience, savings in packaging cost and cubic shipping volumes can be delivered through technical packaging design by understanding product damage vulnerability and balancing this against the hazards of distribution. This is also in alignment with the requirements of sustainability. Effective packaging design can also reduce the cost of returns and high costs associated with field service and repairs. We also understand that over-packaging is not a 'quick fix' solution: over-packing, or inappropriate packaging, can cause as many problems as it attempts to resolve and causes an unnecessary cost burden.

Historically Smithers Pira's focus has been on cushioning design and corrugated performance/specification for fragile and vulnerable products. More recently projects have included design of thermoformed trays and cartons for medical device products, and design of rigid plastics consumer goods packs where specific attention to distribution and handling was required.

Smithers Pira's Strengths in Technical Pack Design

A key factor in our approach is to take a whole supply chain view when it comes to developing packaging systems. In this way we ensure that packaging change and savings in one area are not implemented at the expense of additional cost in another.

In addition our independence allows us to design and select materials freely without bias from suppliers or bias towards specific material types or pack formats.

Commonly our design process includes:
  • Review of requirements/setting the brief
  • Concept development
  • Evaluation of concepts against key performance criteria
  • Costing most attractive solutions
  • Prototype sourcing or sample development
  • Testing and trialling either in the field or in our package testing laboratories
  • Review and final selection/specification.

For complex assembled goods (machinery, electronics, medical devices) consideration includes product fragility assessment, evaluation of expanded foam solutions by cushion curve analysis, and vibration resonance characterisation.

For corrugated board, Smithers Pira's design and specification work takes account of key real life issues including effects of climatic conditions (high humidity), duration of warehouse stacking or container/pallet shipment, stacking pattern/arrangement, mixed loading and extended supply chain handling.

Smithers Pira is at the forefront in understanding the technical processes and laboratory measurement techniques used in packaging development for instruments, electronics, machinery and equipment. Often the packaging solution for these products is based on an expanded foam cushion design, but in some circumstances corrugated cushions or pulp solutions can be implemented. Smithers Pira's experts are familiar with the range of cushioning materials and cushion curve date for expanded packaging foams including polyethylene (EPE), polyurethane (EPU), polypropylene (EPP) and polystyrene (EPS).

Shock Testing

The role of packaging is to bridge the gap between the shock level that the unpackaged product can withstand, and the shock that will result from drop impacts occurring in real life (as a result of shipment and handling). For example an instrument may have a fragility threshold of 40g, but when dropped in real life (as occurs during shipment and handling) a shock far greater than 40g would be imparted to the product. The packaging must be designed specifically to maintain the shock level experienced by the product below 40g for drops up to a maximum height expected in real life. This is achieved by proper selection of cushioning material using cushion curve data, and careful pack design to manage where the material is located around the product.

It is important to note that using more material to cover for a lack of technical approach is a false economy. Over-packaging is not a 'quick fix' solution: over-packing, or inappropriate packaging, can cause as many problems as it attempts to resolve by introducing unexpected resonance and damage, and causes an unnecessary cost burden.

Learn more about our Shock Testing capabilities.


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