The Coolest Things We Saw at Pack Expo 2022

More new ideas from the inventive and passionate people of packaging energize our final Packaging Possibilities podcast recorded on-site at Pack Expo 2022.

Lisa McTigue Pierce, Executive Editor

October 27, 2022

New products weren’t the only thing on exhibit at this week’s Pack Expo show. I was reminded once again how vibrant, positive, and welcoming the packaging industry is — because of the people who work in it. You can see and feel a bit of that yourself in the video clip I took while standing in the concourse between the South and North buildings at McCormick Place in my hometown of Chicago. How lucky am I to be covering packaging as a journalist!

My colleagues share this passion, too. At the end of each day at Pack Expo 2022, the editorial team at Packaging Digest gathered to share some of what they’d seen at the show that day. Even though we have been beat-tired by that time, our enthusiasm for what we’ve seen shines through.

Here, our fourth and final on-site episode, touches on easy ordering of machinery parts, one-hand-opening for a child-resistant closure, micro solutions with maxi payback, digital twins, and more. Still high energy despite the thousands and thousands of steps we walked over the past four days!

Contributors for this episode are Rick Lingle, Senior Technical Editor, Packaging Digest; contributing writer John Henry, who is owner of; and moi, Lisa Pierce, Packaging Digest’s Executive Editor. See the transcript and photos below.

Hear more news, innovations, and trends from Pack Expo 2022 from our previous days’ podcasts:

Packaging Machines Doing Amazing Things – Sunday, October 23

Can’t Beat Hands-On Learning for Packaging – Monday, October 24

New Tech and Next Gen Help Packaging Operations Thrive – Tuesday, October 25

Much thanks to our other podcast and content contributors Claire Sand, principal of PTR consultancy and adjunct professor at CalPoly; and Meaghan Ziemba, founder of Mavens of Manufacturing.



If you have a topic you’d like to propose for a future PACKAGING POSSIBILITIES episode, please email Lisa Pierce at [email protected].



Lisa McTigue Pierce
This is Lisa Pierce, Executive Editor of Packaging Digest, with another episode of Packaging Possibilities, a podcast that reveals what's new and what's next for packaging executives and engineers, designers and developers. We are here at Pack Expo 2022, and it is the last day of the show, just about an hour or so before it shuts down. And we're a bit tired, but we are still energized to tell you what we've seen here at the show today.

With me is senior technical editor Rick Lingle, my partner in crime, and our regular contributor John Henry, owner of

And John's gonna go first now and tell us what he's seen at the show that's pretty cool today.

John Henry
Well, I thought Lisa was mad at me when she sent me to this booth because it was the farthest booth in the whole show, I think. But it was worth the trip.

The company is FastFetch. They have an innovative software system for operations that are picking and packing. What it does is the operator picks the product, they scan it, and the software tells the operator which corrugated case size to use to pack that particular order. So if they have a can of beans, a book, and a dress, they will scan each one. The software will say pick box size #3. A light will light up on the box magazine to show which box they should pick. They pull it out of the magazine, open it, and pack it. And this is a project that grew out of a Clemson University research project and became a company. Very interesting.

The other thing — which was very near and dear to my heart, having spent a lot of years in maintenance and still doing a lot of work on machinery — was at SICK controls. One of the issues for technicians when they need to replace a sensor, or any machine component, you have to sometimes stand on your head to see it, trying to write down the part number of the information to go look it up and order a replacement. SICK is putting QR codes on each of their sensors so it can be scanned with the phone. It calls up the data sheet and now you have all the information on the sensor, including how to how to set it, how to order it, how to wire it, everything else you might need. It seems like something very simple. SICK is the first company I've seen actually doing it. I would recommend every OEM do it.


Lisa McTigue Pierce
Maybe they got the idea from you, John, because you're — sometimes you're too modest because you've been talking and telling machinery manufacturers that they should be putting QR codes on their parts for quite a while now, that I remember. So you never know.

John Henry
Yes, I have and many of my clients have been putting their own QR codes on machines to use for calling up service manuals, wiring diagrams, and so on. I keep beating my head against the wall and eventually the wall gives way.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK, excellent. And we … nobody can deny the digitization of our world these days. So anything that we can do to make it easier to access that digital information, the better.

OK, coming up now is Rick Lingle and I seem to recall he said he had three things that he wanted to talk to us about.

Rick Lingle
Hello, again, this is wrappin’ Rick with a special end-of-show triple-header of cool innovations. And I'm starting with the smallest and I'll work my way to the largest.

And it doesn't get any smaller than AcuBreathe Nano from Preco. That's P R E C O. It's another example where small things can yield big benefits. The technology uses laser to create small holes in flexible films for modified atmosphere packaging. It extends the product shelf life and reduces food waste. Now making microperforated films have been around for a while with lasers, but here's what they've managed to accomplish. They’ve shrunk their hole size from 100 microns to 25 microns. And what does that literally tiny difference do? Well, for example, it can add one to two weeks to the shelf life of packaged lettuce. Not surprisingly, Preco is working with several customers.

Next up in our progressive scale is the Pop & Click Packaging from Drug Plastics. It's available in HDPE and post-consumer recycled HDPE in 60, 100 and 120cc sizes. Now the sustainable option is pretty cool, but here's the clincher. It's the closure that really makes a difference in this packaging. Pop & Click refers to one-handed child-resistant opening for pharma and medical and cannabis products.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Wait a minute, wait a minute. You said one-handed child-resistant closure opening?!

Rick Lingle
That's what we're talking about here, and that's why it got my attention as well.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Me too.

Rick Lingle
Packaging is very much a visual media, and I’ll try to do a good job of explaining it. So basically, it looks like a round flower, if you will, with small petals around the perimeter, and these feature partially slotted features that allows the users to push down on the cap in the center and the closure releases, if you will. Those petals lift up. It offers a tactile and also an audio sound that releases the CR feature and undoes the liner. And it'll click right back on. Now if that isn't cool enough, this thinner design that would replace a two-piece child-resistant cap reduces the total amount of plastic in the packaging — this is bottle and closure — by 20 to 27%.


Lisa McTigue Pierce
Pretty significant.

Rick Lingle
Yes. I think it's an improvement that will click with brands and consumers.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Aha! Clever, Rick!

Rick Lingle
And next in the largest increasing size of my trio and perhaps the most complex is the Smart Pail and Meta Pail that replaces 5-gallon plastic pails with a combination of three things. And this is from CDF. So it's three components. There's an outside corrugated box — it can be a standard case for the Smart Pail and a premium looking hexagonal case for the Meta Pail, which the corrugated is provided for by WestRock. The liner is made of HDPE. It's a thermoform that goes inside the outer case. And I'm told it can be recycled right along with milk jugs in the bin. And seal options would include several things, including resealable film.

There's a strong sustainability benefit to this because customers would be able to get 33% more of these 5-gallon pails than they would standard round pails per pallet. And also, versus round 5-gallon pails, they use 80% less plastic.

And CDF has developed a packaging machine that goes along to do the packaging of products that are run on the Smart Pail and Meta Pail. They also inform me that the first-to-market application will be in January for a pet food company with a resealable lidding and I thought that was pretty cool.


Lisa McTigue Pierce
That is pretty cool, and I was gonna ask if pet food was one of the markets that they were targeting for that cause it's perfect for that.

So, end of Day 3. We're all a bit tired, but I'm gonna try to wrap things up yet on a high note. Because one of the things that I like to do is take a look at what's happened here at the show over the course of this week and try to see if there are any emerging trends that I'm seeing and or, you know, sometimes there's a buzz at a show and kind of identify that.

So I did come here looking and asking about specific things. I wanted to ask about energy savings and energy consumption on packaging machines. Especially considering the energy situation that the world is in right now. I did have a couple of machinery manufacturers show me things, one of which was in an earlier podcast on the show. And, you know, continue to look at that.

But I did have an opportunity to talk with the organizers of interpack, which is going to be back in 2023 with their regular schedule of their triennial show. Three years ago, of course, it was cancelled because of COVID. They had a list of four focus things for the new interpack coming up, and top of that list was energy and sustainability stuff. So I was quite happy to see that.

The thought, though, is that energy consumption on packaging machinery and packaging lines and in plants is maybe a little bit more of a concern to our European friends then it is here in the United States. But costs are always an issue. So I would imagine, depending on how things play out here in the United States, we might see a little bit, see and hear a little bit more about energy conservation for machinery.

The other thing that I wanted to share as far as trends go is digital twin and I am still thinking about this and researching it, but I had a couple of good conversations about this here at Pack Expo.

One of them was with the gentleman who is with the new Digital Twin Consortium. They have an office in Chicago, here in Chicago, but also are an Italian organization. So I'm still learning about this. Just had a very quick conversation with the gentleman there. I'll follow up with more details, including a link to the website in the podcast transcription.

The second thing for digital twin is, I had a conversation with the gentleman who was one of the founders of Emulate 3D. The gentleman I talked with, Ian McGregor, was one of the founders of Emulate 3D and it was bought a couple of years ago by Rockwell Automation. We had a chance to talk about simulation and digital twin right now, how it’s evolved.

So simulation in packaging has been used in a lot of different areas — including line optimization, being able to simulate operations on a packaging machine to improve just the design of it, the overall design of a specific system, as well as an entire line. And that's been around for decades and decades. But as you can well imagine, it has evolved so much over the years because of the evolution in computer technology. Ian gave me a little bit of a taste of how emulation is a little bit different than simulation. Even though he was the founder of this program and it's, you know, kind of his child, he sold it, like I say, to Rockwell Automation. He has a deal with them to help educate people about it. But he's independent. So I am gonna be following up a little bit later to get more details on this.

But the reason why I was looking at digital twin stuff is because the computer programs are written by computer programmers, and I'm curious on how much education and experience that they have specifically in packaging. And one of the things that Ian said that struck me was that the people who are coming to them with these problems are the ones who have the packaging experience and expertise. The IT people who are doing the programming are tapping into that. So that made me feel a lot better.

There was so much more that we could possibly talk about. I'm sure over the weeks and the months after this show, we will be continuing to share some of what we've seen here. But for now, we're gonna sign off on this final Pack Expo 2022 special Packaging Possibilities podcast series with a fond farewell.

I hope if you were here at the show, you enjoyed it as much as we did.

About the Author(s)

Lisa McTigue Pierce

Executive Editor, Packaging Digest

Lisa McTigue Pierce is Executive Editor of Packaging Digest. She’s been a packaging media journalist since 1982 and tracks emerging trends, new technologies, and best practices across a spectrum of markets for the publication’s global community. Reach her at [email protected] or 630-272-1774.

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