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Internet and automation merge at Pack Expo

Internet and automation merge at Pack Expo

Some of you techies may be familiar with the new Google Glass, a type of wearable technology that comes with an optical head-mounted display which shows information like a smartphone – hands free with voice commands.

Now, the “wearable computing” can be actuality in an industrial environment. This week at Pack Expo, Beckhoff and Matrix Packaging Machinery are partnering up for technology study where Matrix will connect Google Glass to a vertical/form/fill/seal machine in the Matrix booth. This demonstrates the openness of Beckhoff PC-based control hardware and TwinCAT automation software.

This exciting demo showcases Google Glass as an emerging concept for packaging machine operation in an Industry 4.0 framework.

According to Beckhoff, the augmented reality glasses, primarily developed for the consumer market, integrate a heads-up display for information as well as a digital camera among numerous other features. 

5 trend-setting robots at Pack Expo: Gallery

1. FANUC Robotics’ model M410-iC 315 palletizer was busy palletizing two or three boxes at a time into a neat pallet load before it purposely bumped the load to demonstrate that it could precisely relocate the skewed boxes and depalletize the load ahead of another round of pallet making.

NOTE: Use the Red Next button at the top to advance the slideshow.

1. Robots are nimbler and more adaptable in the imperfect environment of real-world installations: One of several impressive robots at the booth of FANUC Robotics was the model M410-iC 315 palletizer that was busy stacking boxes.

The robot could handle up to 315kg/695lb at a rate of 1,200 cycles an hour and was busy palletizing two or three boxes at a time at a rate of 50 per minute, according to Wesley Garrett, senior engineer, material handling.

What was especially remarkable about it was that it can adapt to changing conditions, which was demonstrated by having the robot bump a perfectly aligned pallet load it had just created. The M410 was able to adjust to the misalignment and depalletize the boxes without incident.

Now that’s a robot that can take better care of itself in an imperfect world.

2. Robot-human collaborative tasking is improved: Baxter the Collaborative Robot demonstrated the flexibility of a robot engineered to work with and alongside humans. As you can see, it is rather personable in doing so. Coinciding with Pack Expo, Rethink Robotics announced the availability of a new Robot Positioning System for which allows the robot to manage and adapt to dynamic (real-world) environments using its existing, embedded vision system.

The company has made 100 separate installs totaling 500 Baxter units in operation in the 18 months it has been available, with an estimated 30% or more of those in packaging operations.

For more on Baxter and its capabilities, see our online feature posted during Pack Expo.

3. Making robots more “pallet-able”: Robotic collaboration of a different kind was found at the booth of Yaskawa Motoman where the fully-loaded-with-robotics vendor demoed a pair of robots working collaboratively together, opening up new opportunities in palletizing for cross docking and other operations.  And it displayed its MH12 six-axis robot, shown.

The MLX200 Robot Gateway, the newest PLC control platform for Motoman robots, enables the control of robots entirely through the Rockwell Automation ControlLogix and CompactLogix Programmable Automation Controllers (PAC). MLX200 provides easy-to-use programming Add-On-Instructions (AOI) for the Rockwell Automation RSLogix 5000 software. Multiple robots can be controlled through a single MLX200 Robot Gateway. A full-featured robot teaching and maintenance HMI is provided for use in the Rockwell Automation PanelView, and it can be customized by machine builders and integrators.

Deans Elkins, senior general manager, wryly observes that this kind of “unified technology based on the traditional ‘building blocks’ of PLC programming makes robotics more ‘pallet-able’ for packaging engineers.”

4. 3D printing used in robotics: The compact RoBox palletizing system at Schneider Packaging Equipment combines the two major trends of smaller, more robust robotics—and with a longer reach—with that of 3D printing, used for the robot’s tooling. “We started 3D printing tooling about two years ago, the original reason was to reduce the number of parts and fasteners,” says Pete Squires, vice president. “Over that time, we have learned that 3D printing can be a cost-saving opportunity and can help to reduce weight. The tool we printed for this robot allowed us to reduce parts and simplify the tooling. We have been using more and more 3D printed tooling on our machines.”

The system features FANUC’s new M-20ia/35, a light payload, high-capacity version of its M-20iA robot with a cable-integrated arm.  The highly rigid arm and advanced servo technology enable increased acceleration performance. This decreases cycle time; leading to higher productivity.  The standard Rockwell Logix controller was programmed for increased integration with Fanuc's Enhanced Data Access.  “This allows very tight integration between controllers,” says Squires.

The robot and programming provides the built-in flexibility to simplify the handling of multiple SKUs, often without the need for mechanical changeover. 

5. Really cool, “unsuited” robots in a faux-snow wintry setting inside KUKA Robotics’ booth promoted the robots’ ability to withstand working in frigid temperatures. You can imagine the stress that frigid temperatures down to -30°C/-22°F puts on hydraulics and other components. One method to "temperature harden" robots has been to protect the key subassemblies with heated shrouds or “suits,” but those extraordinary means waste a lot of heat to the environment. Instead, KUKA QUANTEC PA arctic robots are suitably engineered to work optimally in those conditions in the refrigerated, frozen food and beverage markets with availability in 3 payloads of 120kg/265 lb, 180kg/399 lb and 240kg/529 lb.

You could say that robots are "coldly" going where no robots have gone before.

Is your package creating disruptions or delivering solutions?

Is your package creating disruptions or delivering solutions?
Clorox pioneered the SmartTube technology, which lets consumers dispense 100% of the product.

You have to admire inventors, entrepreneurs, even tinkerers, especially those in the packaging industry. Day after day, month after month, sometimes year after year, they doggedly pursue a better packaging mousetrap.

Marching in lock step with these intrepid developers of the next big thing in packaging are legions of well qualified packaging engineers and designers. Their efforts are equally admirable but, in many cases, we see otherwise clever packages languish in pre-commercial purgatory, not because they aren’t well-executed designs, but because they are not aligned with consumer needs. Yes, they are disruptive—colorful, fun, unique and sometimes even sexy. But collectively they lack one overarching quality: They fail to make a rational or emotional connection with consumers.

For more than a decade the package design, converter and CPG industries have pursued disruptive packaging innovations. Though lacking a standard definition, disruptive packaging can generally be described simply as something that captures shoppers’ attention at the point of sale. It can employ one, or a combination of, traditional attributes (color, shape, graphics or text) to differentiate it within a category, shelf or aisle. There’s no doubting that disruptive packaging has worked to create shelf presence and command point-of-purchase appeal for myriad products.

With multiple mobile and smart devices at their fingertips, consumers have access to more information. More information means more choices. More choices mean that when price and quality are equal, colorful, fun, unique and even sexy isn’t enough to sway the purchasing decision. Consumers today are seeking an emotional connection to brands, and that connection is being made through functional packaging solutions that address specific needs, rather than simply disrupt their shopping or use experiences.  

Mintel’s 2013 US Food Packaging Report reveals 81% of consumers indicate it’s important for all packaging to offer some attribute of functionality. To be clear, converters and brand owners should not confuse nor construe “convenience” as a functional packaging solution. While consumers seek convenience, they do not list it specifically as a functional packaging attribute. Mintel’s 2013 US and 2014 UK Food Packaging Trends reports both show that consumers seek such specific functionality as resealable, easy-open or portable rather than general convenience.

Graphics are, and always will be, a critical element to successful branding. But here again, of 13 packaging attributes Mintel polled consumers about, fun/stylish packaging ranked dead last. Such functional, solutions-oriented attributes as the ability to ensure freshness and the ability to reseal versus reclose, and packaging that accommodates ease of opening were the top three features consumers indicated were most important. Convenience didn’t make the list.

John Owens, Mintel senior household analyst wrote in his 2014 US Household Care Packaging Trends report, that “innovations in packaging and product that simplify everyday household chores stand a good chance of capturing the attention of category shoppers.” In short, specific functionality beats general convenience. 

Owens goes on to say that “packaging, when delivered as a solution against consumer needs, can be the platform and centerpiece for a brand’s efforts to help users get household tasks done more efficiently and effectively, and save [them] money.”  Brands that heed Owens’ advice and deliver packaging solutions will undoubtedly make the necessary rational or emotional connection to consumers today in ways disruptive packaging has failed to do.

For example, recognizing that 5% to 7% of product cannot be dispensed from trigger sprayer containers with a central dip tube, Clorox pioneered the SmartTube technology.  By molding the dip tube into the side wall of the container, and incorporating a well or “moat” at the bottom of the container that feeds the dip tube directly, consumers can dispense 100% of the product, thus extending their purchasing dollars and enhancing Clorox’s brand equity.

But solutions needn’t be complex to be highly functional. Although quick-response (QR) codes are not a “smart” packaging technology, there are smart applications for them. Zego is an alternative energy bar produced for consumers allergic to peanuts and sunflower seeds. By scanning the QR code, consumers can see the precise parts per million of allergens not only in each bar, but the levels of allergens that may have been present on the packaging line. Using a QR code in such a functional, solutions-oriented manner enhances consumer purchasing confidence and builds trust in the brand.

David Luttenberger is the global packaging director at Mintel. He has 24 years’ packaging experience and can be reached at dluttenberger@mintel.com. Follow him on Twitter at @packaginggeek.

Consumers loathe product waste because of money, mindset and the environment

Consumers loathe product waste because of money, mindset and the environment
Consumers will take matters into their own hands to avoid wasting product.

Those saving-food-type-of-initiatives launched over the past few years don’t have to do much to convince consumers that waste is bad: A new survey released today points to the overwhelming fact that consumers hate waste—and packaging that causes it.

According to a LiquiGlide Inc. survey of more than 1,000 consumers that released today, consumers would rather go to the dentist than waste consumer products.

Ouch.

That’s especially telling because those dental visits likely cost them a lot more: The majority of respondents, at 60%, estimated that they lost between $1 and $49 annually because of waste, though one-third felt they wasted $50 or more worth of product wasted each year.

And while it IS about the money—wasted money tops this response with 60% of respondents—it’s not the only thing that motivates consumers: It’s also about the principle of the matter; 20% of respondents said they should get everything out of container that they paid for.

Also, one-sixth cited environmental concerns.

A major packaging-centered takeaway from among LiquiGlide’s press materials (we extracted two charts that appear above from a lengthy infographic that was provided): More than 80% and up to 93% of consumers are willing to try new packaging in major categories including toothpaste, lotion, shampoo and mayonnaise (see right side of above image).

Consumers’ frustration with packaging that refuses to give up those last bits of product leads them to take measures into their own hands including these top 5 ways:

84% stored bottles upside down;

68% added water;

61% cut containers open;

40% use spatulas;

19% use centrifugal force.

Other more extreme methods included smashing, heating, stepping on, licking, sucking and biting.

I’ll admit to using four of the above methods; what about you? We invite you to comment on this article below.

Dave Smith, LiquiGlide CEO, provided these responses to our questions:

What was the biggest surprise? 

Smith: The biggest surprise for us was how passionately consumers felt about getting every last drop of their products and the great lengths they will go to, to get it. 97% of respondents admit to using different methods for getting the last drops, including cutting open the packaging, adding water or even using special tools. We knew consumers hated waste, but couldn't have predicted how dedicated they were to getting every last drop of their products.

What was your takeaway?

Smith: Consumers are demanding a solution to their product packaging woes. They really hate the waste and the overwhelming majority said they would even switch brands to avoid it. LiquiGlide's technology offers the perfect solution to this issue, eliminating waste for consumers and offering a strong differentiator to brands.

Although the survey information is not available online, LiquiGlide informs us that anyone interested in the survey and results may contact Mark Daly at press@liquiglide.com

LiquiGlide’s product is a permanently wet, hyper-slippery coating applied to the interior of containers by the packager prior to filling that allows all of a product to be dispensed or evacuated. For more information on LiquiGlide, please see these articles at Packaging Digest:

Our latest LiquiGlide update this month from Pack Expo;

LiquiGlide applications and spray coating in action;

Super Bowl packaging ad prompts LiquiGlide reaction;

LiquiGlide gives foods the slip to reduce waste.

Is your package creating disruptions or delivering solutions? Gallery

Clorox pioneered the SmartTube technology so consumers can dispense 100% of the product, thus extending their purchasing dollars and enhancing Clorox’s brand equity.

Consumers today are seeking an emotional connection to brands, and that connection is being made through functional packaging solutions that address specific needs, rather than simply disrupt their shopping or use experiences.

We often see otherwise clever packages languish in pre-commercial purgatory, not because they aren’t well-executed designs, but because they are not aligned with consumer needs.

8 surprising packaging innovations from Pack Expo

8 surprising packaging innovations from Pack Expo
Tabbed TE tray line launched at 7-Eleven.

Take a visual tour of 8 packaging innovation “goodies” from Pack Expo that include a new TE trayed meal debuting at 7-Eleven, a small snack pack that folds out for serving, 3-D printed and mated jars that screw apart, a bottle so slippery that it seems to defy physics and a dosing flexpack that accurately meters product.  You can also see a MAP-thermoform-packed bread with a 40 day shelf life and get the “skin-ny” on a new optimized vacuum tray along with a link to four more notable innovations also found at the exhibition.

If I may repurpose the insightful words of Forrest Gump, visiting booths at Pack Expo is like opening a box of chocolates, only better: There are surprises even when you think you know what you’re going to get. These 8 examples of package prototypes and commercial launches were all unexpected bonuses found as I walked the aisles of the North, South and East Halls the week of November 2.

Use the red View Gallery button above to launch the Slideshow.

Skincare line brings condition to forefront of packaging

Skincare line brings condition to forefront of packaging

Leading dermatologist brand Cetaphil has improved its look for its cleansers and moisturizers product portfolio to compete against the flood of skincare products in the marketplace. To bring its packaging front and center on the shelves and to make it less confusing for the consumer, the company has updated its product labels to address specific skin concerns.

With the abundance of skincare options found at mass retail counters, consumers often find themselves roaming the aisles faced with the daunting task of selecting the best products for their skin type. The Cetaphil brand aims to help guide consumers by updating product labels to address specific skin concerns. 

"For more than 60 years we have formulated Cetaphil products to be gentle enough for even the most sensitive skin, offering solutions for adults and children as young as 3 months old," says Miles Harrison, vp and general manager for Self Medication at Galderma Laboratories, L.P.  "As a leader in dermatology we strive to bring the science within our products to the hands of our consumers in a very straightforward, reliable manner. With this rebranding, we believe our customers will now be able to easily identify the power of the RestoraDerm regimen and its ability to help soothe their eczema symptoms."  

Cetaphil RestoraDerm Eczema Calming Body Wash and Moisturizer, $13.99-$14.99 (10 oz.), is available now on Cetaphil.com, Amazon.com, Target, Walmart, CVS/pharmacy, Walgreens, Rite Aid, and Ulta retailers nationwide. 

4 leading pet food packaging designs: Gallery

The Honest Kitchen, an all-natural dog and cat food brand, has received an Innovation Award from Petfood 2.0 for its new and improved sustainable packaging which is recyclable and made from post-consumer material. The new packaging design for the human grade pet food depicts hand-painted artwork of the company's whole-food ingredients and shadowed versions of actual employees' pets.

This year Packaging Digest has covered a wide array of pet care packaging innovations ranging from pouches to personalization and even sustainability. No longer is there an abundance of cuteness when perusing the pet food aisle for your pooch but instead real information and even story-telling to help convey the brand’s message.

This year Packaging Digest has covered a wide array of pet care packaging innovations ranging from pouches to personalization and even sustainability. No longer is there an abundance of cuteness when perusing the pet food aisle for your pooch but instead real information and even story-telling to help convey the brand’s message.

A recent article published earlier this year in Packaging Digest examined the leading trends in pet food packaging. Below are the top 5.

1. Nutritional tables/food pyramids

2. Better photography/food styling

3. Brand story

4. "No" language

5. Animal nature

To read more about these pet food trends, click here.

Additionally, here are links to each of the top four pet food articles of 2014, seen in the slideshow above.

1. Pet food packaging recognized for innovation

2. Dog food gets personal with custom packaging

3. Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet Food launches new look and formula

4. Pouched meal enhancers debut for people and pooches

Consumers reveal perceptions, and pet peeves, of e-commerce packaging

Consumers reveal perceptions, and pet peeves, of e-commerce packaging
E-commerce packaging pet peeves

As online sales of consumer goods continue to grow, so does demand for packaging that meets the shipping requirements of those goods. A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of cushioning leader Sealed Air examines packaging’s role in online sales.

The 2014 Sealed Air e-Commerce Survey: Packaging for e-Commerce Success explores issues such as e-commerce growth, order-processing speeds, how packaging reflects on retailers, how it conveys the value of shipments, how product damage affects the consumer/retailer relationship, attitudes toward environmentally friendly packaging and consumers’ pet peeves about packaging.

“Without the right packaging materials in place, online retailers face increased risks of damage during fulfillment and delivery that can not only elevate costs during return and repair, but significantly impact consumers’ perceptions of that business,” says Ken Chrisman, president of Sealed Air’s Product Care Div.

“The benefits of offering the most sustainable, affordable or best-looking package will be lost if it doesn’t perform its primary function—ensuring items reach consumers unharmed,” Chrisman adds. “Our…survey showed that preventing damage through packaging can make the difference between retaining consumers’ future business and losing them to a competitor.”

Harris Poll conducted the online survey in the United States in August 2014 on behalf of Sealed Air Product Care. The survey included 2,010 adults.

Click here to read the survey’s executive summary.

Use the red View Gallery button above to launch the Slideshow and see the results of the study.

Overcap designs address unmet needs for industrial packaging

Overcap designs address unmet needs for industrial packaging
Overcaps serve as handy support bases for paintable objects and drip guards.

Here's a sneak peek at two as-yet-unpublished utility patents that address unmet needs in industrial product packaging through overcap designs that add utility and value for spray cans, paint cans and related containers.

Michael Worden is a forward-thinking industrial designer and founder of Preddis LLC who has been working on several concepts that he felt our readers may been interested in. Worden was kind enough to share some documentation and answer our questions in advance of the patent filings being published by the U.S. Patent Office.  

As an occasional do-it-myself painter using brush-on liquid and spray products, I could immediately see the value of his designs. See if you agree figuratively or literally; for the latter, you may comment below.

Please summarize what this is about.

Worden: As an industrial designer, I have made a lot of models and am also exposed to others making models and using a great deal of aerosol paints. I also do woodworking on the side, and use a fair amount of stains, lacquers and paints. Through experience I've learned of the many challenges of applying coatings and how they can frustrate the end user. What we came up with was a very simple integrated overcap for sprays and brush products that will allow the user to simply pull off a cap and have a functional stand that will help produce better coating results; without having to search to find a support that will not damage your coated work surface.

How long has this been in development and how did the concept originate?

Worden: We have been working on the concepts for just about a year now. These products originated out of the shear frustration we faced when coating products, and with a certain flash of inspiration. We saw that spray cans had overcaps already, and it just seemed natural to incorporate overcaps with functional props, which we think most users will perceive as a free tool that can be used over and over again. While this is simple to understand, creating the functional products were challenging and took months of work. As we all know, making things really simple can be the biggest challenge. We have made numerous CAD files and then made lots of rapid prototypes. Everyone on our team really liked the overcaps for spray cans so we immediately started working on variables for flat cans as well.

What are the key benefits of your inventions?

Worden: These products are very low-cost solutions that will help end users in the application of the coatings. The pieces can support all types of shapes and will be able to support a substantial amount of weight, which will allow them to be used effectively for most projects. The aerosol caps can also be placed on empty cans and they can then be rotated, which essentially creates a lazy susan for an improved coating environment. There are numerous variables that we have also created, such as a version for flat cans where the overcaps can be broken into individual pieces that you can then use to support bigger items such as furniture. In the end, we feel that we have created simple solutions that users will appreciate and will be easy for them to distinguish on the store's shelves.

What markets do these address?

Worden: We believe these inventions will be useful for both the do-it yourself and professional trade markets. Ultimately we want the end user to focus on producing great coating results, instead of spending time digging around for a prop that will not damage their work pieces. Marketing is a key feature of our strategy. In our research we visited numerous retail locations throughout the country, and we were annoyed by how confusing it was to decipher all of the packaging and then figure out what type of coating to use. Simply put, most of the brands were using these traditional shapes for aerosol cans that have been around for years. We knew that there was a great opportunity to create new packaging that would help identify the brand for the end user. 

What options would be available?

Worden: Our work has led to numerous variables which we tried to account for in our patent filings. We have created several variations for both aerosols and flat can applications. We believe the material used and pricing will be consistent with existing aerosol overcaps. Since there are really no known companies that use over caps for flat can applications this may be an up-charge in a traditional sense, we feel that any costs will be off-set by the increased brand recognition and added benefits for the purchaser. A key note about the flat-can applications is that if you do not want to use the overcap as an actual stand, you can place them on the bottom of the can so that they can also be used as a drip catcher.

What is the status? What kind of interest have you seen?

Worden: We have been flying under the radar as we have been working on numerous concepts, while filing for patents and doing many other needed tasks. We have talked to a few key industry players and the interest has been really strong. We recently decided to keep expanding our work by creating an actual brand (Stand N Coat) that another company many also have interest in. We are not sure if a potential industry partner will have interest in the brand that we created, but as an added measure we have secured domain names and will likely work on trademark protection as well. In the end we will be evaluating licensing deals as well as the potential for an outright acquisition by one of the leading brands.

What has been the biggest hurdle?

Worden: It is always a gamble to spend time and resources on an invention that you do not know if the end user will like. Fortunately our small team and our advisors have worked on hundreds of products over the years, so we sort of hedged our bets. We realized that while the coatings in most cans may be innovative, the traditional packaging the user is exposed to has been around for a long time and could benefit from some updating.

What’s the next step?

Worden: We have additional concepts coming soon. We recently filed for another utility patent which covers packaging for the paint, chemical, pharmaceutical, and food industries. Again we have taken a minimalist approach and reworked some design elements that have been stagnant for decades. As far as the concepts that we are now disclosing, we continue to talk to industry leaders in an effort to find a strategic partner to help us get our inventions placed into the market. If anyone has further interest we would be grateful if they contacted me via email at wordendesign@gmail.com.

What have you learned about patent filings and about the packaging market?

Worden: We have worked on numerous patent filings over the years with both failures and successes. Intellectual property protection can be challenging, but these elements are truly needed. Frankly, so much so that if we didn't feel we could get sufficient IP protection we would have never started working up our inventions.

In regards to the packaging market, we know that it is paramount to the overall success of virtually all products. Nowadays the user has many choices in how they spend their money—it is key to understand their needs and desires as well as their pain points. Packaging can help them by demonstrating what they are looking at, and convey to them how the product will fit into their lives. If you do not get the packaging right, it is highly likely that in seconds you will lose a customer to a competitor that better anticipates the user's needs. Fortunately there are a lot of great people that take packaging really seriously. You see that now with packaging that is often cooler than the products that they contain.