Packaging for the future

IO3: Wood fibre, pulp, biopolymer, packaging and biochemical industries

AR16 - coolroomScion’s Packaging Team is developing a range of innovative paperboard packaging technologies that could potentially save produce industries worldwide, millions of dollars a year.

An estimated 2 per cent of all corrugated boxes fail in supply chains, costing around US$50 billion to the produce industry alone. New Zealand’s primary industries, including kiwifruit, seafood, dairy, beef and lamb are typically packaged in corrugated boxes, which are continuously exposed to fluctuating relative humidity throughout the chilled supply chain. This can result in moisture accelerated creep, one of the major causes of box failure.

Central to Scion’s box research has been the construction of the WHITE room, a unique purpose-built coolroom designed to test box failure under controlled conditions.
The WHITE room (an acronym for weight, humidity intervals, temperature and experiments) enables our packaging scientists to study the causes of box failure, and to develop solutions that both protect and add value by reducing the amount lost through package failure.

The coolroom facility accurately cycles relative humidity between 50 and 90 per cent while maintaining a constant temperature, enabling scientists to characterise box performance under accelerated conditions. Up to 25 corrugated boxes can be tested at once, at constant loads.

The WHITE room was commissioned for commercial testing this year, and validated for research capability. According to Project Leader Dr Saad Hussain, it is likely the only independent facility of this size in the world, and has been running back to back experiments since it opened one year ago.

“The facility has helped us understand how boxes perform under cyclic humidity. It also enables us to test the performance of innovative packaging additives, such as high performance moisture barrier coatings designed to protect packaging.

“The demand for this service is global. Leading American and European packaging companies have used the WHITE room this year to understand how their corrugated boxes perform over an accelerated period.

“Packaging end-users are also showing considerable interest in participating in testing and research.”

While much of this cutting edge research is still in the early stages of development and therefore confidential, Saad anticipates that it will result in a significant reduction in the 2 per cent box failure rate.

“Paper producers and box converters are looking to create the best package for the market, and end-users require boxes that won’t fail in their supply chain. Our packaging team is working towards developing an improved corrugated box that can withstand failure in real supply chains.”

Collaborators / Partners:  Massey University, Miami University (USA) and four from industry.
Investment: Scion Core