Computer-aided packaging

Related tags Computer-aided design

Modern computer-based design and manufacturing techniques are
revolutionising food packaging, says UK-based firm Delcam. The
technology is claimed to produce complex designs quicker and with a
higher degree of quality.

"Take this Rexam glass bottle for Teachers Whisky,"​ said Peter Dickin, marketing manager for Delcam UK. "We can use our ArtCam software to wrap a logo over the bottle."

Dickin uses his software to first create a 2-D profile, which is then rotated to create a bottle shape. Artwork and brand info is then applied, and wrapped over the bottle to create quite literally 'packaging with feeling'. Once the design is approved, Delcam's PowerShape software can be used to design a full range of processes - blow moulds for plastic or glass, injection moulds for closures, and punches for cans - which can be generated rapidly and accurately.

Cadcam, or Computer Aided Design, was developed in the 1960s and '70s specifically for the defence and air industries, and the technology was known as surface modelling. It was highly complex - Dickin told​ that it took 6 months' training to be able to use the software. In the '80s and '90s, solid modelling technology was developed, which was easier to use but not as flexible.

Delcam believes it has now developed software that combines the flexibility of surface modelling with the applicability of solid modelling. "This gives packaging designers the ability to convert a standard container into a unique design,"​ said Dickin.

This 'total modelling' approach, or hybrid approach, means that logos, textures and other decorations can be easily incorporated into standard pack designs, like the raised glass logo on the bottle of Teachers Whisky. The modification of complex designs is also much easier and quicker, making it possible to create a greater selection of alternatives when presenting proposals for new designs.

"This is called morphing, and it's the CAD tool for plastic surgery to design,"​ said Dickin. "Take this standard plastic milk bottle for example. If it was overvolume, we could use a base design and then decrease the volume but keep the overall shape. The software can be used on little styling features too - we can create a grip feature on the handle for example."​ Another advantage of the software is that it allows the designer to show every concept to clients on screen. Changes can be made there and then, which speeds the whole design process up. Automation of these operations increases accuracy, for example, by ensuring a perfect fit between a bottle and its cap.

"It also cuts the cost of manufacturing,"​ said Dickin. "The technology gives packaging manufacturers accurate, consistent designs that don't need to be tried out physically. The extra cost of using CAD software is therefore offset by increased efficiency and reduced waste."

Related topics Processing & Packaging

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