For over a decade, RIT's Packaging Dynamics Laboratory has partnered with industry to analyze the packaging designs and materials being used to encase, ship, and protect some of America's most popular products. Its efforts have helped to decrease product damage, reduce overall shipping costs, and lower material use in packaging. More recently the lab has also moved into material analysis, working with firms to increase recycled content and reduce the use of toxic materials, improving the overall sustainability of modern packaging technology.
"The science of packaging is an incredibly important component of product development and commercialization," notes Thomas Kausch, the lab's manager. "Just think of the myriad boxes, bottles, and Styrofoam used in consumer electronics, food and beverage, and shipping industries. An incredible amount of analysis, design, and engineering went into the development of these components, and often more time is spent on the package than on developing the product itself."
The lab has worked with a host of major companies over the years, including Corning, Constellation Brands, Sentry Safe, Cadbury Schweppes, and Johnson & Johnson. The team of engineers and students conduct environmental testing, vibration analysis, compression, and impact assessment to simulate how current packaging will hold up under different conditions. They work with firms to conduct redesigns based on the results and provide third-party analysis that can be used to illustrate packaging safety and security to potential clients.
"We purposely drop, shake, and 'kick' packages containing everything from glass bottles to high-definition TVs," says Kausch. "Most firms do not have the capability to conduct this kind of testing in-house, so our facility provides a valuable scientific resource that enhances the ultimate product we all see in the store."