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Sleeves protect and enhance cell-phone products

Just over a year ago, Motorola, Inc., Schaumburg, IL, made the call to launch its new cell-phone accessories in packaging that would put its competitors on hold. In planning the introduction of four new products under its existing line of Motorola Original(tm) cell-phone accessories, the company sought a packaging solution that would support the premium positioning of the products, while providing maximum visibility of the items.

Meeting Motorola's requirement for an upscale and innovative pack, AGI/Klearfold, a MeadWestvaco Resource (www.agiklearfold.com) developed the new, patent-pending InSight Slider(tm) package, which combines a printed, scored plastic sleeve and a foldover, vacuum-formed tray to produce a distinctive and visually appealing package. Along with its aesthetically pleasing appearance, the InSight Slider also provides product-protection advantages, while allowing for easier and less expensive product loading.

According to Keith O'Connell, senior packaging engineer for Motorola, the market for mobile phone accessories is "extremely competitive," with low-cost aftermarket providers crowding the market. "Motorola makes a premium product at a premium price," he says, "and we believe that the packaging needs to reflect the brand and product image."

For its new line of wireless phone chargers, the company desired packaging that would allow customers a substantial view of the accessories. At the same time, they sought a format that would distinguish their products from the glut of low-cost accessories on the market. These products are typically packaged in generic clamshells or blister-packs, with printed-paper inserts used to identify the products.

With its unique, eye-catching shape, AGI/Klearfold's InSight Slider provides a truly distinctive visual package. The main component, a printed, plastic sleeve, can be produced in a variety of shapes, including rounds, ovals, rectangles or squares. For the Original accessories, Motorola chose a cat's-eye, or a pillow-pack, shape. Supporting the package's nonlinear shape and securely holding the product in place, the second component is a foldover, vacuum-formed tray that slides into the sleeve and is locked in place by a tab in the sleeve.

The Motorola package consists of a 12-mil polyvinyl chloride sleeve that holds a 25-mil vacuum-formed PVC tray. To achieve a stunning graphic appearance, AGI/Klearfold flexo-prints the front and back panels of the sleeve—with the exception of a clear, circular window on the front and a smaller window on the back, for product viewing—in 10 colors, including pearlized and metallic inks.

AGI/Klearfold decorates the sleeves at its Louisa, VA, manufacturing facility, using a cost-effective UV flexo printing process on a press from Aquaflex, a branch of F.L. Smithe Machine Co., Inc. (www.chromas.com). The AquaFlex Producer is a web-fed flexo press, modified to incorporate two rotary screen-printing stations. The sleeve for the Motorola pack is flexo-printed in nine colors and rotary-screen-printed in one color—all in a single pass. To achieve bold silver accents on the front and back of the sleeve without the cost of hot-foil stamping, AGI/Klearfold used a metallic-silver flexo ink. The high-quality UV flexo-printing process permits the application of the brilliant pearlized and metallic inks for a premium appearance. According to Pat McGee, marketing manager for AGI/Klearfold, there is no other rigid plastic carton converting operation in the world that can achieve such high-quality UV flexo and screen printing in a single pass.

For maximum merchandising flexibility in the mass-retail environment, the package is designed to stand upright on the store shelf or can be hung from an extended hang-tab that has been fabricated as part of the tray.

According to McGee, one of the greatest challenges to designing the tray for the Motorola application was to satisfy the company's request to design just two vacuum-formed trays to accommodate four different cell-phone accessories. "Each half of the two foldover trays was designed to hold one product," he explains. "The product is inserted into the tray, which in turn, slides into the sleeve with the product facing forward. Since the product must face forward, the locking mechanism inside the sleeves had to be designed on the left side for two of the products and on the right side for the other two." Once accomplished, the design of two trays for four products reduced Motorola's tray inventories by 50 percent, he adds.

The innovative design of the InSight Slider not only provides product differentiation, but it also offers several product-protection advantages. The vacuum-formed tray is molded to conform to the shape of the accessory, holding it firmly in place and insulating it from damage during distribution.

Central to product protection, the sleeve's locking feature also reduces in-store tampering and pilferage and ensures that a source tag—affixed to the inside of the sleeve during converting and concealed behind printed graphics—along with the cell-phone accessory and the package, all stay together.

Although ease of opening is often sacrificed in an effort to ensure adequate product security, this is not the case with the Motorola Slider package. The sleeves feature a zipper-cut perforation on the back panel that facilitates easy opening after purchase.

Often, ease of opening is sacrificed in an effort to ensure adequate product security, but this is not the case with the Motorola package.

Another important criterion for Motorola during the design process for its new Original accessories was to develop a package that could be efficiently hand-filled, requiring no additional investment in filling, forming and/or sealing machinery or equipment. Explains O'Connell, "The existing packaging for the Original line was a standard clamshell package with a printed paper insert card. The main drawback was the need for a full mechanical seal. This process dictated tooling, which added cost and time to market, both of which were limited."

The InSight Slider meets Motorola's requirements nicely, as it enables simple and efficient manual assembly and, due to its locking mechanism, does not require costly sealing equipment to secure.

Designed to be efficient in a manual filling operation, the InSight Slider sleeves are delivered to Motorola flat, and the trays are delivered nested. The operator need only insert the accessory into the vacuum-formed tray, fold the tray over and slide the subassembly into the sleeve. As the filled tray nears its final location in the sleeve, the extended tab engages in the tray's slot, locking the filled tray into place. The total operation takes but a few seconds, and the locking tray provides the required product security without using RF, heat or sonic sealing, and the associated sealing equipment.

In discussing the relative cost of the InSight Slider compared to alternative clamshell packaging, O'Connell relates that the savings is realized in the assembly of the package. "The material costs are about equal," he says, "but we are able to save on the conversion end. Because there are fewer parts and no sealing requirements, the packaging lines are significantly faster, and we have been able to reduce the number of operators on the line."

In 2004, AGI/Klearfold and Motorola earned an AmeriStar award from the Institute of Packaging Professionals (www.iopp.org) for the Motorola InSight Slider.

More information is available:

  • AGI/Klearfold, a MeadWestvaco Resource, 877/918-3023. www.agiklearfold.comCircle No. 231.

  • Aquaflex, a Branch of the F.L. Smithe Machine Co., Inc., 450/461-9591. www.chromas.comCircle No. 232.

  • Institute of Packaging Professionals, 630/544-5050 www.iopp.org Circle No. 233

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