Opinion: Innovations in the materials and packaging world
Thoughts on packaging by Material ConneXion vice-president of library and materials research Dr. Andrew H. Dent.
July 6, 2016
by Dr. Andrew H. Dent, Vice-president, Library and Materials Research, Material ConneXion
Packaging remains one of the most exciting and dynamic industries for those of us who follow materials. The competing needs of perceived value, compliance, volume, sustainability, luxury and innovation are a truly unique creative challenge for designers.
To help them in their work, we have provided some insights into a few innovations in the materials and packaging world that showcase what we see as trends in the materials world; the areas of interactivity, natural materials and new manufacturing methods such as 3D printing.
Beyond the more basic appeal of containers that light up (Bombay Sapphire Electro or Ballantine’s Finest ‘Listen to your Beat’ bottle), the real value in interactive packaging lies in how it is able to provide a truly enhanced experience to the user.
The employment of warming or cooling effects – currently only available for one-time use – can create a real value if done creatively. Examples include Cosmogen’s self-heating tube, which works when the seal of the container is first broken, a result of an irreversible chemical reaction in a sealed central chamber. ScaldoPack from Belgium has also achieved this for drinks packaging, with both hot as well as cold options, again using a central chamber that internally chills or heats the contents surrounding it.
The cooling effect does require a little effort (shaking of the product for a few minutes!) but the result is dramatic. A more conceptual but still workable solution for heating is seen in the Gogol Mogol egg packaging that is able to cook a single egg still in its shipping case, also acting as an egg-cup for serving of the hot and tasty breakfast.
The increase in use of printed electronics is also providing great innovations for users; digital displays such as Ynvisible provide information, authenticity and inventory in creative ways with little increase in weight and very small power requirements.
With all the high-tech solutions being developed for cosmetics packaging, it is also encouraging to see a similar trajectory for nuanced uses of natural materials, some with little or no alteration, simply a innovative use of material.
- Muskin: Beyond the exciting use of mushroom spores in the widely publicized and quite revolutionary Ecovative ‘foam’ being used to package wine and consumer electronics, an Italian company, Grado Zero Espace, is using large dried mushroom heads to create a lightweight and flexible suede-like material from the skin of the mushroom. Currently fashioned into hats, decorative items and accessories, its super-soft texture and earthy smell give it a unique advantage over synthetic alternatives.
- PinaTex: From Ananas Anam, PinaTex also mimics the look and feel of leather, yet made almost entirely from pineapple fibers, this hide alternative can be cut, sewn, colored and printed onto like leather, and is offered in 54-inch wide rolls. It is biodegradable at the end of its life, and offers much of the durability and richness of texture found in leather products.
A word on 3D printing
There have been many opinions given about the potential ‘game changing’ opportunities afforded by 3D printing. Some high profile concepts such as the Heineken STR bottle case printed by Freedom of Creation, one of the godfathers of aesthetic 3D printing, and recent reports such as the McKinsey Global Institute that somewhere between five to 10 percent of consumer products and 30-50 percent of complex, low volume parts could be 3D printed by 2025 have put this new form of manufacturing clearly front and center for future innovations in packaging.
However, I believe that rather than complete products created through 3D printing, there will be a hybridization of manufacturing methods, using high volume processes (blow and injection molding, etc.) that are enhanced and customized through smaller printing processes as part of an in-line process.
One last thought about luxury packaging and the power of materials. Combining the concerns of authenticity and counterfeiting with the use of a mainstay of luxury, diamonds, Taaneh, Inc. of New Jersey, an anti-counterfeiting and authentication firm, is researching the use of diamond dust as an additive to all forms of packaging as well as the product itself.
When drugs or packaging containing diamond dust are exposed to certain light waves, the diamond dust emits a unique spectral signature that is impossible to duplicate.
Even the slightest trace of diamond dust causes the spectral signature to occur.
The additive is safe for humans (it is essentially pure carbon) and adds a sparkle to any marketing copy about the value of authentication!
Material ConneXion vice-president of library and materials research Andrew H. Dent is a Jury member of the ADF&PCD Awards and will give a conference in the session Beauty & Make Up Enhancement, at The Packaging Innovation Hub on Wednesday September 14, 2016 in the PCD conference room during ADF&PCD, a New York City trade show on the future of aerosol, dispensing and beauty packaging. Visit www.adf-pcd.com for more information.
Material ConneXion is a materials consultancy that helps companies source advanced materials to enhance the performance, aesthetics and sustainability of their projects. Company information available at www.materialconnexion.com.
Image purchased via www.thinkstock.com.