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.

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.

Smithers Pira provides expertise in the following areas:

  • Cushioning design and corrugated performance/specification for fragile and vulnerable products
  • Design of thermoformed trays and cartons for medical device products
  • Design of rigid plastics consumer goods packs where specific attention to distribution and handling was required
Technical Pack Design Process

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. Commonly, our design process includes:

  • Review of requirements / setting the brief
  • Concept development
  • Concept evaluation against key performance criteria
  • Costing
  • Prototype sourcing or sample development
  • Trialing through in-the-field or laboratory testing
  • Review and final selection / specification

For complex assembled goods (machinery, electronics, medical devices) additional considerations include:

  • Product fragility assessment
  • Evaluation of expanded foam solutions by cushion curve analysis
  • Vibration resonance characterization

For corrugated board, other real world considerations could include:

Material Selection

Smithers Pira is at the forefront in understanding the technical processes and laboratory measurement techniques used in packaging development. 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).

As an independent ISO 17025 laboratory, we have the ability to design and select materials freely without bias from suppliers or toward specific material types or packaging formats.

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). The packaging must be designed specifically to maintain the shock levels experienced by the product that may occur within the supply chain. 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.

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.


Need more information? Please contact us.