3-D software pushes packaging possibilities

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Computer-aided design, Delcam

UK-based design company TMB Patterns has adopted cutting edge
software that enables it to add logos, pictures or other
decorations to packaging, and by implication add value to a
product.

The firm believes that by using Delcam's Power Solution Cadcam software, the potential for innovative packaging is dramatically increased. Software user Dave Meaker described the process, using a cup incorporating a pheasant design that he produced to demonstrate the concept.

"I sourced the artwork from the Internet and converted it into a 3D relief in ArtCAM,"​ he said. "This was then wrapped onto a cup design created in PowerSHAPE and the combined model passed to PowerMILL for five-axis machining on our new Hermle machine."

A similar result would have been possible before by using electrodes to create the decoration. But Delcam believes that this approach would be more complex and prohibitively expensive for most packaging applications.

"The Delcam software has given us something extra that we can offer our customers,"​ said Meaker.

"We can use literally any kind of artwork. The only limitation is that we must restrict the depth of the relief to ½ mm to ensure that the finished part can be removed from the tooling easily."

Martin Baker, managing director at TMB, explained that the addition of the Delcam software was part of his company's drive to become leaders in the industry at every stage from creating designs from customers' ideas through to pre-production trials.

"With our new design techniques, we can now provide something that stands out on the supermarket shelf and encourages the customer to buy it,"​ he said. "At the same time, five-axis machining opens up new possibilities by making it easier to machine deeper cavities and finer details to the highest quality."

The simulations from the software also provide the company with a cutting edge. Being able to show a potential customer a realistic image of a design proposal ensures that the samples produced will be much as close as possible to the desired design.

"We can even create video clips, for example, showing the opening and closing action of a hinged container, which the customer can view in a secure area within our web site,"​ said Baker.

"Physical samples are still an essential part of the approval process but we can cut lead times significantly if we can use the computer images to ensure that the samples are right first time."

Ultimately, all these benefits have significantly reduced lead times. "We can produce a CAD visualisation within 24 hours and provide samples in three to four days depending on the complexity of the project,"​ said Baker.

"Average delivery times for a thermoforming tool used to be six to eight weeks, whereas it is now between two and four weeks from seeing the concept design to delivering the finished tooling."

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 - earlier this year, Peter Dickin, marketing manager for Delcam UK told FoodProductionDaily.com 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 a bottle of 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.

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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