Growing Trends in Packaging Design

As a packaging engineer, the Pack Expo is thee annual tradeshow for the packaging industry. Every other year it’s conveniently located at Chicago’s McCormick Place. For those that have never been to McCormick, let me warn you– bring your walking shoes.

This year I went to specifically research several items for customers. In the process, I found a few other things that really caught my eye. One technology which appears to be a growing trend is on-demand corrugated packaging. Basically, “on-demand packaging” is getting the smallest packaging possible for an item(s) to eliminate time, waste, and hassle. I’ve worked with this technology myself and I’m a believer! This process offers many benefits like just in time production, increased lean workflow, and a big reduction in new package development time (hours vs weeks). There are obvious limitations for its usefulness and it won’t work for every application, but if purchased in low quantities of corrugated parts (less than 40k piece per part annually) it should be considered. Two companies featuring this technology at the show were Packsize® and Box on Demand®.

PacksizeBox on Demand

Another booth that caught me by surprise was Slice®. They produce ceramic-bladed cutting tools (think safety knives). What struck me about their product line was their ergonomics, the safe-blade design, and the longevity of the blade which was featured to last 10x longer than a traditional blade.

Slice Smart Retract Utility Knife with Ceramic Blade

I was happy to see an increasing number of companies offering more sustainable material choices. From bio-polymers, recycled materials, and molded-fiber products. As consumer demand for these materials continues to increase, we will keep seeing innovative solutions coming to market.

The most popular exhibitors at the show were those with automated equipment. There was an endless stream of filling lines, stretch wrappers, and carton erectors. It’s always fun to see solutions to problems that plague companies every day on display as turnkey options. The most popular booth involved an automated ice cream cone, like Dairy Queen! Attendees placed an empty cone in the designated stand while a robotic arm grabbed the cone, initiated the soft serve machine to dispense the sugary goodness, then moved around the dispenser in an orbital fashion ensuring the perfect size and shape. The robot delivered the cone back to the stand to the delight of the recipient. No doubt there were many adults enjoying their first non-human ice cream cone delivery!

Written By: Travis Gibbs – Packaging Engineer |
Travis has over ten years of packaging design, development, and project management experience in a variety of industries. His capabilities include packaging process reviews and improvements, competitive packaging reviews,  and implementation throughout the packaging supply chain. He has a six sigma greenbelt and is a board member for the west Michigan IoPP chapter.