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Articles from 2014 In October


Dog food gets personal with custom packaging

Dog food gets personal with custom packaging

For the first time ever in the U.S. a major pet food manufacturer is producing a personalized dog food for your pooch—Just Right by Purina.

The idea behind the concept blends together a dog owner's first-hand awareness of their pet’s needs with Purina's established nutritional expertise to develop a personalized feeding experience for individual dogs.

Dog owners will have the option of personalizing the packaging by including a photo of their dog and adding his or her name on the package. Also, the package will include feeding instructions tailored specifically for each dog.

Packaging Digest interviewed Brian Lester, director of marketing, Just Right by Purina, on the packaging design.

What is the motivation behind Purina’s recent activity in introducing new products/packaging?

Lester: We looked at other consumer product categories, such as music, food, beverages, and technology, and saw the broader trend of personalization and customization.

Our consumer research showed that 70% of pet owners want more input in and control of their pet’s food.

What design trends does your packaging set in the pet care market?

Lester: While we use existing industry packaging for our dry food bags, we are the first major pet food manufacturer to apply personalization techniques to the packing labels (including dog photo, blend name, personalized feeding instructions, product features/claims, etc.).

What were the key goals and requirements from a marketing view? From a packaging view?

Lester: Just Right represents an opportunity to invite highly involved pet owners to take a more active role in determining their dog’s nutritional composition.  By seeking and acting upon their input, we hope to develop a stronger direct relationship with individual pet owners.  The personalized packing labels provide reassurance their inputs are taken into account while also delivering a fun experience that enables them to highlight their dog on the label.

Are visitors to Pack Expo explorers or plotters?

Are visitors to Pack Expo explorers or plotters?
Plan, schplan. A whopping 83% of respondents to a Packaging Digest survey say they are somewhat likely to deviate from their plan of attack.

Do you meander or plot a path when you attend a tradeshow? With more than 50,000 expected visitors to Pack Expo International 2014 next week in Chicago (Nov. 2-5; McCormick Place), we were curious on what your plans were for attending the show. So we asked.

Plan, schplan. A whopping 83% of respondents to a Packaging Digest survey say they are somewhat likely to deviate from their plan of attack when they visit Pack Expo International 2014 next week in Chicago (Nov. 2-5; McCormick Place). Another 10% say they are totally likely to chuck it all and be wild and plan-free. Just 7% say they will stay on target and not stray at all. Can you say e-n-g-i-n-e-e-r?

So what is the most typical plan? A bit more than one-third of respondents (36%) say their strategy is to walk the show floor looking for specific products, solutions or suppliers. Another third (32%) plan to set some meetings but also leave some free time for exploring. Both make sense considering how much there is to see and how little time there is. The entire show lasts just 30 hours or 1,800 minutes. Some “Other” respondents expect to split their time between the show floor and conferences.

Surprisingly, 18% will be walking the show floor with no particular plan in advance. With more than 2,000 exhibitors to visit and dozens of educational presentations to sit in on, they’ll likely see something to make the trip worthwhile and justify the expense.

No surprise here: The vast majority of attendees won’t be alone. Nearly three quarters (72%) know for sure that others from their company or team will also be there. A small number (10%) might have colleagues also attending. Just 17% will be flying solo. If you happen to see these loners, start up a conversation to make them feel welcome.

4 packaging machinery technologies to scope out at Pack Expo 2014

4 packaging machinery technologies to scope out at Pack Expo 2014
Robotics are working more closely, and more safely, with humans in packaging operations. Easy training, too, defines today’s automation pals, like with Baxter from Rethink Robotics.

Production expert identifies new technologies that are sure to help improve your packaging operation.

Pack Expo is going to be great this year. I always say that and am never wrong. People who know think one of this year's key themes is going to more intelligent, more interconnected machines. Not only will there be more intelligence, it will be decentralized and may appear in unexpected ways.

Here are some of the technologies I look forward to seeing:

[Note: Use the red View Gallery button above to launch the Slideshow.]

1. Robotics

Industrial robots aren't new but they used to be expensive and dumb, best suited to repetitive operations. Better software—and the computing power to run it—combined with cameras now allow robots to locate parts at random and place them as needed. Series elastic actuators can make some robots intrinsically safe, eliminating the need for safety cages. If the robot's arm bumps a person, it stops. Rethink Robotics demonstrated this to me with its Baxter robot. Being hit by the robot arm was no different from being gently elbowed in a movie queue.

Costs have come down dramatically. Baxter costs less than $25,000 complete and has capabilities that would have cost ten times that just a dozen years ago. Several companies offer industrial grade SCARA type robots for less than $10,000.

Robots have long been available with 2D machine vision. This allowed them to locate objects on a plane and pick them up. Now, we are starting to see robots with 3D vision. This now allows them to pick random parts from a jumbled pile, orient them and place them in a specific location. I predict that in the near future we will see robots on the plant floor picking individual parts from bins or conveyors without the need for pre-staging. Sounds expensive, right? Some of this is being done using Microsoft's Kinect XBox controllers that cost less than $200 at the local electronics store.

The constantly improving price/capability of robots means we will see them in some radical applications. One Thai company will be showing a robotic filler that may revolutionize packaging machine design. Bottles are spaced on a servo-driven conveyor. As the bottles pass, 10 filling nozzles mounted on a robot arm enter, fill and withdraw. This design eliminates much of the hardware of the typical liquid filler and virtually all of the mechanical changeover.

2. Sensors and inspection devices

Accelerometers, for detecting vibration, used to be expensive but are now in every smart phone. That makes them cheap enough to place in every motor, transmission or bearing. Failures can be taken care of before they occur rather than waiting for catastrophe.

Vision systems have always been limited to inspecting what they can see. Pharmaworks has recently developed a 3D inspection system for inspecting tablets in blister cavities. This allows them to inspect the volume of a tablet in the blister as well as the surface.

Any inspection system can only be as good as its analysis. It is common for packaging machines to shut down if they detect several defects in a row, such as three miscapped bottles. If every 27th bottle is miscapped, most inspection systems will reject them but take no further action. Real-time SPC (Statistical Process Control) built into the system can recognize patterns and sound alarms or even stop a machine. Failure modes that appear random on the surface can be identified once the pattern is recognized.

3. Printing and coding equipment

Control of label inventories is a real chore especially in heavily regulated industries such as pharmaceuticals. One solution, not practical in the past, is to inventory unprinted ("bright") labels and print them at time of use. This has become standard practice on secondary packaging, such as corrugated shippers. Several companies will be showing roll-to-roll label printing systems using Memjet inkjet technology to digitally print high-resolution, full process color labels on demand. The killer app for this is integrating it with an automated labeling machine to allow printing and applying of primary labels at production speeds. It's not here yet but I see it coming in the near future.

Thermal inkjet coding, much of it based on Hewlett-Packard technology, continues to grow in capability and popularity. One drawback up to now has been the ink. It has not been possible to print on most non-absorbent surfaces like plastic or varnished board. This has changed with the recent introduction of solvent based inks, opening the way to many more applications.

4. Drives and controls

Motors have downsized over the years from large central motors to small individual motors at the point of use. The next logical step is decentralization of control and we will see this on the show floor. Instead of a single control in one large cabinet, controllers and drivers are now located at the motors.

Some companies, such as B&R Automation, put the controllers right in the motor. Others, such as Kollmorgen, mount them in small, separate boxes at the point of use. Each of these approaches has its advantages but both avoid much of the wiring and complexity required when the controllers reside in a central panel.

Smarter machines become visibly apparent in some of the new HMIs (Human Machine Interface). Think of them as tablet computers on steroids. HMIs used to be primarily for control but can now include a wealth of information, including machine manuals, machine animations, video and pictures, SPC charts, alarms and pretty much anything that you can imagine.

Yes, PackExpo 2014 is going to be exciting. As always, we will see some interesting new mechanical concepts. The real magic is going to take place behind the scenes in the details. Smarter machines will be simpler machines, more reliable machines and more effective machines.

Who could ask for more?

Known as the Changeover Wizard, John Henry, CPP, is the owner of Changeover.com, a consulting firm that helps companies find and fix the causes of inefficiencies in their packaging operations. He produces a free monthly newsletter called Lean Changeover, which contains articles and tips on changeover and related issues. Reach him at [email protected].

Palletizer secures unstable loads with an integrated stretch wrapper

Palletizer secures unstable loads with an integrated stretch wrapper

Manufacturers require robotic palletizing cells that are more flexible than before, that can handle multiple product sizes and shapes. And can do more than that by handling unstable loads, like wrapped bundles, and high full loads up to 108 inches tall.

Axium’s IxOFlex solution uses a unique product grouping system that can handle multiple products with the same robotic cell and permits the creation of half or full layers either using robots or conventional technology. The cell handles cartons, cases and bundles up to 4 different SKUs simultaneously using the Pmax tool that also can supply empty pallets when required.

The Wrapbotic module, the integrated stretch wrapper, secures unstable loads as they are being built. This process makes sure that the products will not move or drop when an extra layer will be added, or when the full pallet advances to be taken out.

The system can palletize products up to 30 inches in length and up to 24 inches wide. Rates are to 85 cases per minute for full layers and up to 25 cases per minute for half layers.

Click here to watch the video

Visit Axium at Pack Expo 2014 booth N-6139; to arrange a meeting or for more information, please email [email protected].

Are visitors to Pack Expo explorers or plotters? Gallery

Plan, schplan. A whopping 83% of respondents to a Packaging Digest survey say they are somewhat likely to deviate from their plan of attack.

Do you meander or plot a path when you attend a tradeshow? With more than 50,000 expected visitors to Pack Expo International 2014 next week in Chicago (Nov. 2-5; McCormick Place), we were curious on what your plans were for attending the show. So we asked.

Smartphone authentication tech at Label Expo

Avery Dennison demoed a brand protection application for a wine bottle label that pairs a smartphone-readable Quick Response (QR) code with a UV-activated FiberTag.

These options for brand protection and anti-counterfeiting technologies that use smartphones to authenticate on-package labels were announced at Label Expo this week.

Avery Dennison demoed a brand protection application for a wine bottle label that pairs a smartphone-readable Quick Response (QR) code with a UV-activated FiberTracker. FiberTracker is defined as a “chaosmetric” security feature that uses a random dispersion of colored security fibers associated to a serialized 2D code to create a unique fingerprint for each label. This provides intrinsic authentication that is claimed as impossible to duplicate. The QR code app on the smartphone displays what the fiber pattern should look like if authentic. The technology made its way to the U.S. from Europe.

Denise Rael, sr. manager of marketing content, Thin Film Electronics, demoed a printed near-field communication (NFC) label inserted within the closure of a cosmetic container enabled using a “tap tap”-capable smartphone.  This same, impossible-to-duplicate interface capability can also be used to authenticate products, Rael said. Click here to read more about Thinfilm’s printed NFC technology.

Alexander Jordan, business development, Jordan Products, demoed the company’s smart-phone enabled, variable Covert-ID technology that allows the user to compare the Quick Response (QR) code with the variable alphanumeric data embedded within an optical thin film. Launched at Label Expo, Covert-ID has options for film peel-off or no-residue scratch-off by the user who can then ensure the QR data matches the revealed code. The technology came out of 3M, where Alexander’s father Bob had been an employee.

7 questions to answer before selecting food netting

7 questions to answer before selecting food netting
Food netting comes in many materials, patterns, sizes, colors and flavors. Photo courtesy of Flavorseal.

Netting for food processing comes in many different materials, patterns, sizes, colors and flavors. How does a processor choose which one is best for their product?

The combination of materials and patterns can seem to be endless and overwhelming. The best way to begin the process for picking the right food netting is to talk to someone who specializes in netting.

Knowledgeable netting reps collect a lot of details on the product and the process, and only then can they recommend the most appropriate net to meet your goals.

Here are seven questions you need to consider before selecting a net:

1. Are you using for further processing or are you using it for decorative final packaging?

This question is the essential first step to the selection process because the application dictates the best style of netting. Nets for final packaging, for example, are designed to show off the product inside. They might be in bright or unusual colors. They may have an attractive or unusual closure. These nets are designed to be both functional and enhance the look of the product.

2. If it’s for further processing, what type of protein are you processing?

The more specific information you can provide, the easier it will be to choose the correct netting. Whole muscle or slurry? Seasoned or plain? Each of these pieces of information indicates a specific type of net that is better suited to reach your end product goal.

3. What is the size, weight and length of your product?

The dimensions of your product can indicate the recommended pattern and material for the net. For example, a large pattern would not show up well on a small product. A heavy product may require a sturdier net than a light weight one. 

4. Do you want to add color, smokes, release agents or spices?

Adding these items can optimize your processing time by consolidating the processing or cooking steps. Release agents are designed to help the net come off quickly and cleanly, so using them can prevent surface tears and improve yields. Adding smoke to the netting can improve your cycle time by eliminating the smoke step.

5. What is the desired shape of the finished product? Does it need a surface pattern?

One of the functions of netting is to shape the meat during processing and add a pattern to the surface of the meat.

6. How will the product be placed into the net?

Will the product be placed inside by hand or in an automated process? Loading by hand usually uses individual pieces of netting in a preset length. An automatic loading process will use bulk netting on rolls, shears or rucks.

7. What temperature will the product be cooked at?

Different nets have different temperature ranges. The cooking temperature will indicate which type of net can be used.

Netting for food processing is not a one-size-fits-all. Consider all the factors above before selecting the knitted netting that will best fit your product.

Lisa Vacco‐Orlowski, netting market manager for Flavorseal, is 30‐year veteran of the netting industry with experience in all aspects of netting manufacturing and sales. She works at the company’s corporate offices in Avon, OH, where she develops innovative netting products for the meat industry. The facility maintains rigorous processes for food safety management and quality control, and is Safe Quality Food (SQF) Level 3 certified.

3 smartphone-enabled brand protection technologies

3 smartphone-enabled brand protection technologies
Avery Dennison demoed a brand protection application for a wine bottle label that pairs a smartphone-readable Quick Response (QR) code with a UV-activated FiberTag.

These consumer-empowering options for brand protection and anti-counterfeiting technologies that use smartphones to authenticate on-package labels were on display at Label Expo this week.

Avery Dennison demoed a brand protection application for a wine bottle label that pairs a smartphone-readable Quick Response (QR) code with a UV-activated FiberTracker. FiberTracker is defined as a “chaosmetric” security feature that uses a random dispersion of colored security fibers associated to a serialized 2D code to create a unique fingerprint for each label. This provides intrinsic authentication that is claimed as impossible to duplicate. The QR code app on the smartphone displays what the fiber pattern should look like if authentic. The technology made its way to the U.S. from Europe.

Denise Rael, sr. manager of marketing content, Thin Film Electronics, demoed a printed near-field communication (NFC) label inserted within the closure of a cosmetic container enabled using a “tap tap”-capable smartphone.  This same, impossible-to-duplicate interface capability can also be used to authenticate products, Rael said. Click here to read more about Thinfilm’s printed NFC technology.

Alexander Jordan, business development, Jordan Products, demoed the company’s variable Covert-ID technology that allows the user to compare the Quick Response (QR) code information with the variable alphanumeric data embedded within an optical thin film. Launched at Label Expo, Covert-ID has options for peel or no-residue scratch-off activation by the user to ensure the QR data matches the revealed code for authentication. The technology originated at 3M, where Alexander’s father Bob had been an employee.

4 packaging machinery technologies to scope out at Pack Expo 2014: Gallery

Robotics are working more closely, and more safely, with humans in packaging operations. Easy training, too, defines today’s automation pals, like with Baxter from Rethink Robotics.

One of this year's key themes in packaging automation is more intelligent, more interconnected machines. Not only will there be more intelligence, it will be decentralized and may appear in unexpected ways. Production expert John Henry identifies new technologies you should see at the 2014 Pack Expo International show that are sure to help improve your packaging operation.

Vegan chocolate packaging is sweet on sustainability

Vegan chocolate packaging is sweet on sustainability

A new gourmet vegan line of chocolates has recently been launched by HNINA with packaging that is made of 100% biodegradable and recyclable kraft paper produced with wind energy.

Packaging Digest caught up with the chocolatier to discuss its packaging design for the gluten-free treats.

Did sustainability play a role in the package development?

HNINA Team: We strive to use ingredients that are grown in biodiversity and that are produced as locally as possible. We are dedicated to using proper social and environmental fair trade practices. Our packaging is made of 100% biodegradable and recyclable kraft paper produced using wind energy. This is more than a symbol, but a pattern of our dedication to remaining close to nature and far from any unnatural, processed, engineered and unhealthy practices.

What design trends does your packaging set in the confectionary market?

HNINA Team: We wanted our packaging to feel luxurious, whether we set a trend is too early to tell, but we probably did strike down an original path by expressing several of our guiding principles in our packaging. Our chocolates are raw, pure, healthy, artisanal and environmentally conscious. For that we used recycled kraft paper. Our packaging may start a trend of high-end gourmet confectioners who will want to be more environmentally conscious while showcasing beauty and elegance.  

What were the key goals and requirements from a packaging and marketing view?

HNINA Team: One of the key goals for our packaging from a marketing standpoint was for the package to speak our message, for our consumer to understand, without us having to explain or show what was inside the box. We wanted the quality, sustainability, traceability and ingredient purity to be evident from the packaging. Our packaging is made from recyclable fibers and wind energy. It is quite challenging to have elegance, simplicity and sustainability associated together but we found a way by also adding a beautiful wax seal on top of our box which reflects authenticity purity and luxury. It was also a more formal and poetic way for us to express our message.

From a packaging standpoint, we wanted our packaging to be attractive yet functional. The kraft paper packaging helps to infuse the flavors of our raw cacao. As our core product is an assortment box of truffles, the upper insert not only serves as food-safe insulation but also as a flavor guide for our customers. Part of our environmental consciousness also encouraged us to develop multiple-use packaging, not only in the aesthetic chocolate packaging, but also the cold pack recyclable Styrofoam boxes we use to ship the chocolate boxes in.