Tech Thursday: Pack-Tech
The first product packaged in what might be called a "tech package" was probably a food item like fermented soybean natto or bamboo-wrapped Sasa-Dango. We've come a long way from those primitive wrappers. Today, our appearance-centered economy even allows for a sizeable number of designers to work as "packaging stylists". But as more and more style-centered design work is sourced to the East, it's important for designers everywhere to turn to adding innovation-type value in order to stay competitive. The newest options for intelligent packaging are a great start.
Obviously, with RFID being hyped out the wazoo, it's an option for packaging. The standard uses are designed for stock-keeping inside stores and warehouses, and even for keeping track of kids as we discussed earlier. But new concepts bring the technology closer to home. MIT's Build Your Own Bag concept tries to address the problems of forgetting items by identifying the contents of the bag when it's picked up.
Carlo Rossi did an amazing job of adding functional value to its (fairly low quality) inexpensive wine by putting it in a box.
Recently Dutch Boy did the same thing with the lowly paint can. Instead of using the standard rolled-metal can that clogs with paint after the first use, they designed an entirely new, more efficient to ship and store, easier to pour and cleanup, and much easier to recycle plastic paint jug which has won rave reviews. This year, they followed up with an equally impressive container for large jobs that includes a built in roller tray. Not only has this strategy increased Dutchboy's buisness, but it's re-positioned the brand as one that is on the cutting edge of technology (because with paint, it doesn't take much).
Earlier this year, we showed you a package for fruit which indicated ripeness on the label. A similar technology is now being proposed for milk containers by the Swiss company Arla. So far these chemical labels have only been applied to foods; wouldn't they be just as useful integrated into cars or shirts to tell when you were smelling a little ripe? OK, maybe that's a little far fetched, but you get the idea.
Perhaps the most interesting idea is that new plastics and multi-layer materials allow alteration of the contents of a container. New materials have paved the way for unheard of applications like beer in plastic bottles. Beer is extremely sensitive to oxygen, and it will go bad if it's exposed to air during storage. Unfortunately, most food-plastics are oxygen-permeable to some degree, which makes soda bottles poor beer bottles. But new oxygen-barrier coatings have allowed beer to be put in baseball-stadium-bottle-throwing-safe plastic bottles. In other cases, like storing meat in freezers, it's advantageous to just get all of the oxygen out of the bag by absorbing it. Chemical packets, as well as surface coatings are available which scavenge oxygen.
Copyright 2004-2006 Dominic Muren and IDFuel Team