Packaging options abound

The packing material you select for your order packages not only protects your merchandise from damage, it also says something about your brand. Packaging can make your products or company seem more (or less) upscale, modern, green and so on. So selecting a material that works well, is cost-effective and suits your brand is no small task.

What’s new in product packaging? Manufacturers and vendors are always working on better, lighter, cheaper and greener packing materials to protect customer orders. These are just a few of the new packaging and dunnage options.

FastWrap Automated Packaging Systems, which specializes in bag packaging systems, in February unveiled the FastWrap product. Equipped with a portable, benchtop unit that produces bubble wrap on demand, this product reduces storage costs for large, bulky rolls of prefilled protective wrapping material by producing the material as needed right at the packing station.

FastWrap’s compact, quiet unit includes an all-electric design that operates in semiautomatic or manual modes at a speed of 55 ft. per minute.

Pricing for FastWrap was not available, but Chris Rempe, senior product manager at Automated Packaging, says FastWrap units are sold with a material purchase contract that varies based on usage.

AirPouch Also new from Automated Packaging Systems is the AirPouch FastWrap system, which uses high-yield boxes of flat, preformed bubble material. When inflated, these compact boxes of material produce 1,385 linear ft. of cellular cushioning wrap — roughly equivalent to five and a half rolls of bundled bubble product.

A patent-pending honeycomb pattern allows air transfer between the cells of the wrap for maximum product protection. The FastWrap system can also produce full-length tubes to accommodate protective packaging applications.

Autofulfillment SPrint System Automated Packaging Systems also introduced the Autofulfillment SPrint system — a high-productivity bag-packaging system for mail order operations. This system can be customized for apparel, healthcare items, hardware — anything that can be shipped in a poly bag.

You can integrate the Autofulfillment Sprint with warehouse management or order entry systems to print and insert order paperwork once an SKU, license plate number or unique barcode has been scanned. This system will print, insert, seal and package up to 15 completed bags per minute with a single operator.

You can also use optional infeeds and sorters to deliver catalogs, literature or other promotional items to the packer for hand inserting into the bag. An inline printer automatically produces the packing slip, invoice, return label and other printed information, while a three-point scanning verification system ensures accuracy.

The Autofulfillment SPrint system is targeted to medium to large fulfillment centers, primarily those that handle apparel, says product manager Jim McFarland. Unit pricing depends on the volume of materials used, he says.

Korrvu Hybrid Packaging Sealed Air in August released a new variation of its Korrvu suspension and retention packaging that combines the aspects of both formats into a third new hybrid category. The new patent-pending Korrvu hybrid package design looks like Korrvu retention packaging, but the company says it gives the superior performance benefit of Korrvu suspension packaging.

For instance, the Korrvu Hybrid package uses a proprietary retention frame and elastomeric film to hold the items securely in place during shipment. When the side flaps of the corrugated retention frame are folded up, this loosens the resilient film, creating an insertion pocket in which the order packer places the item.

When the flaps are folded down, the film — which is attached to the corrugated frame — stretches over the product and holds it securely in place.

The hybrid package holds the item securely in the airspace of the shipping container and away from the sides of the box. This new design works well for electronics such as cell phones, cameras and laptops.

Although the company didn’t provide specifics, Sealed Air claims the hybrid design is less expensive compared to suspension packaging because fewer steps are required in the manufacturing and assembly process.

Instapak RC45 Foam Sealed Air, which received Forest Stewardship Council chain of custody certification and Sustainable Forestry Initiative chain of custody certification for several products, in February released Instapak RC45 foam. This provides users with a plant-based, renewable-content packaging foam that is simple to use and works well for light-duty packaging applications.

Instapak RC45 contains 25% renewable content in the finished foam product. This provides further reduction in the use of petroleum-based raw materials.

Sealed Air spokesperson Anne Standley says pricing for Instapak RC45 foam depends on application and cushion size.

Kold-To-Go Thermal Insulated Pouches Coldkeepers, the first packaging company to introduce thermal insulated bags in the U.S. and the only North American manufacturer of thermal insulated bags and pouches, in April 2010 unveiled KOLD-TO-GO Thermal Insulated Pouches.

This new insulated pouch uses patented three-ply technology to keep the contents of the reusable, recyclable bags hot or cold for hours. It also prevents freezer burn.

PACKAGING TO GET MORE MEDIA SAVVY?

The lowly shipping box could be getting a whole lot smarter. Some industries are using media enhanced packaging that superimposes a digital code onto a carton’s graphics. Customers can scan the codes with mobile devices to receive more information about a company or a product.

Catalent Pharma Solutions, a packaging systems provider to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and consumer healthcare industries, last fall introduced its media enhanced packaging. Using mobile visual search software from Digimarc Corp., the technology embeds an imperceptible digital watermark in a package’s artwork. The image has no impact on the package graphics, and can be read by a smartphone or other web-enabled device.

When a user scans the watermark with a smartphone scan, he or she is taken to a website that can provide more information about the product, a video, an instant coupon or a loyalty program tie-in. What’s more, a link to a product insert or medication guide may eliminate the need to print this information. — JT

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