Manufacturers are looking into better ways to package their products, and companies strive to make packaging smarter, more connected, and more engaging.
QR codes, radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, augmented reality (AR), and Internet of Things (IoT)-based technologies are used to achieve these advancements.
Over the years, many advancements have been made, and they have made significant changes in the packaging industry. These advancements include:
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Use of fiber-based materials
Manufacturers are looking into alternatives to plastic packaging in light of the increased scrutiny of plastic packaging.
Microfibrillated cellulose (MFC) is one route that the manufacturers are going. Here the plant fiber is broken down to micro levels and reconstituted as packaging material.
This method produces stronger and lighter materials than glass or carbon fibers. The beauty is that MFC can be applied to other packaging materials to strengthen them; hence you have stronger packaging material.
While this is a breakthrough in the packaging industry, the downside is that researchers are yet to figure out how to produce the material in bulk. Besides the few grams they have developed in the laboratory, they have yet to find a technique to produce the material in millions of tonnes.
Another hurdle is that the researchers have yet to discover how the fiber-based packaging material can serve as an effective barrier and protect the products from weather elements such as light, oxygen, and moisture.
Currently, the packaging laminates available give protection but are not recyclable, so the industry is creating water-based coatings to act as a barrier.
Robots are reshaping the packaging sector, notably in e-commerce. The ability of robotic arms to arrange small things into boxes for speedy and accurate delivery has made them popular among manufacturers and retailers.
Robots provide versatility since their arms can be positioned and swapped for different jobs, and their systems can be reprogrammed to vary their packing functions.
Mobile robotic platforms that can navigate warehouses have also increased, leading to significant efficiency gains. These autonomous mobile robots, or AMRs, teach themselves new paths, making deploying them in various environments easy.
The ability to learn also makes them more versatile than older models that had to be programmed to follow predetermined routes.
Secondary packaging, or crates used to transport products, is becoming increasingly significant for merchants as the boxes are frequently placed immediately on supermarket shelves rather than individually unpacked.
The process of transporting items from the factory to the shelf is thus being sped up with precision and consistency courtesy of robots.
Advances in sensors and computer vision help monitor the performance of robotic packaging, which significantly increases precision.
According to industry leaders, the future of automated packaging will likely be found in co-biotics, in which robots collaborate with humans to accomplish better results than each could achieve alone.
According to Millennium Packaging, packaging’s involvement in the consumer experience has expanded far beyond the first time it became a “thing” in the Internet of Things.
This has had a transformative influence in various ways, including smart packaging, which helps reduce food waste in complicated, global supply chains, and connected medical packaging, allowing doctors to track their patients.
Product piracy is a persistent concern for brands and manufacturers because of financial loss and potential health dangers, particularly in counterfeit medication and using unlicensed chemicals.
Packaging frontiers work on technology like hidden RFID (radio-frequency identification) codes, which can be printed directly on packaging or embedded.
RFID technology delivers identifying signals to a reading device, which might be an ordinary smartphone, allowing shops to determine the current status of their goods in a matter of seconds.
This helps to safeguard them from theft and indicates product location along the entire value chain.
The ongoing need to monitor the state of goods is also fueling the increased popularity of temperature and quality sensors, particularly in the food, beverage, and pharmaceutical industries.
3D printing has recently played a crucial part in scaling packaging to new degrees of customization and creativity.
It is a game changer as it provides a quick way to evaluate products and packaging before they move into full-scale manufacturing.
Squirting molten plastic onto a base and gradually building up a design via layers is how 3D printing works. As a result, it is often referred to as additive manufacturing.
The operation is controlled by software based on a computer-aided design.
A recent breakthrough has been 3D printing to create packaged food products. A classic example is 3D-printed cups that make an energy drink when filled with water since the components are incorporated into the packaging.
The greatest advantage of 3D printing is that it allows for the quick prototyping of machine parts, which improves manufacturing processes. For example, additive technology can be used to create robotic arms for use in the packaging process.
While the technology is great, its biggest barrier is the high production cost compared to more common formats.
Nanotechnology has been used throughout the packaging supply chain, from packaging material to product safety, authentication, and tracking. Incorporating nanoparticles within polymer chains improves package barrier characteristics and tensile strength.
It also allows brands and packaging firms to track and combat counterfeiting.
Furthermore, nanotechnology significantly impacts food packaging by addressing the growing concern about food safety.
Applying nanocoatings to the packing surface protects it against dirt, dust, and stains.
Many nanosensors can be used to monitor the freshness of food and detect chemical changes.
Internet of packaging
The Internet of Packaging disrupts traditional packaging and allows consumers to communicate with companies more effectively.
Innovative packaging technologies include QR codes, smart labels, RFID, and near-field communication (NFC) chips.
These innovative solutions provide value-added services such as security, authentication, and connectivity, transforming the product packaging into a data carrier and digital tool.
These technologies allow businesses to better engage with their customers by introducing them to various product content, discount codes, and video instructions. Furthermore, smart devices enable firms to embed diagnostic and indication functionality in their packaging, giving customers real-time product information.