The search for packaging alternatives can be frustrating because of the cumbersome methods of designing and testing materials under various shipping and distribution scenarios. However, if those tests could be done virtually, a company could weigh various options more efficiently, saving money and time.
That is the concept behind Dassault Systemes (DS) 3D testing platforms, says Ray Wodar, director of global business consulting, consumer packaged goods and retail industry, for DS in its Toronto office. Wodar gave a talk about where packaging sustainability meets e-commerce during the PACK EXPO Las Vegas and Healthcare Packaging EXPO, held Sept. 27–29 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
The pandemic accelerated trends, with e-commerce experiencing 10 years of growth in three months, Wodar says. But sustainability challenges existed before COVID-19, and it has long been known that the current recycling systems are “woefully inadequate,” he adds. Meanwhile, consumers are becoming more sophisticated and sensitive to environmental concerns and packaging companies are having to respond.
“Let’s embrace change. We have the tech; we have the know-how,” Wodar says. “We need the will to transform packaging to support this ecosystem. It’s really all about the industry responding to the challenge.”
Packaging companies would benefit by looking at problems differently. For example, he explains, replacing just 20% of single-use plastic packaging with reusable alternatives offers an innovation opportunity that could be a $20 billion market. Reuse systems can bring both user and producer benefits, he suggests. Users create brand loyalty through reuse, whether that comes from refilling at home, subscriptions services, in-store dispensing systems, or other innovative options.
Testing various packaging options to see what works best can be time-consuming and expensive because it requires physically creating the test materials. However, a “virtual twin” can create the conditions to test options without having to use the actual materials. That reduces the number of physical tests and associated tooling costs, shipping costs, sample-creation costs, and product material costs.
The DS system also creates infinite possibilities for all facets of packaging, from the design concept to the actual design and material selection. The system uses 3D geometry so that the scenarios are not cartoon approximations but real engineering data that creates parts and molds, he says. “This allows you to understand the dynamics of the material selection in concert with sustainability,” Wodar says.
An added advantage is that scenarios can be explored for the interaction of primary packaging with secondary and tertiary packaging. The systems can create shipping and stacking tests, as well. “You can explore scenarios that are hard to reproduce in the physical world,” he says.
Companies then can review the different scenarios and optimization routines to determine the best course for them by showing the tradeoffs between what could be conflicting goals, such as how light-weighting might affect durability.
The development time can be decreased by up to 85%, he adds.
By exploring the various possibilities, Wodar suggests, companies will find what is right for them and help them to meet their sustainability goals, while opening new markets. “These are all opportunities,” he says. “Where there is change, there is opportunity.”
Thomas A. Barstow is senior editor of FlexPack VOICE®.