PD_Packaging Digest

Packaging Digest, Fall 2015

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33 www.PackagingDigest.com FALL 2015 // NEW TECHNOLOGY "A 3D printer for prototyping must provide a smooth, production-quality surface. Not all 3D printers are capable of that." "Try to use a transparent plastic." [Ed note: Presumably this allows users to see the details of the printed object's shape and contours.]. One person suggested that conductive inks can be used in a 3D printer. Another respondent echoes a universal lament from across the spectrum of packaging about a lack of time and resources: "I wish we could learn how to use the associated software programs and hardware internally to gain a deeper knowledge of its uses and applications, but we don't have the allocated space and resources for it." unusual projects Finally, we asked them to tell us what was the most unusual 3D printing project you've used related to packaging? Here are some responses: "Parts to hold product in place within a crate." "Replicating food products for sizing studies." [Ed. note: I know of a brand owner that 3D-printed various sizes of protein products to determine the size of the packaging for diferent product counts.] "Printed a box insert for small hardware, that enabled us to gain immediate approval for a bio-based paperfoam and saved weeks of time!" "Printed a piece of art that was merged with packaging." "Created a protype candy tin that was shrink-wrapped with a full-color top label." Among the unusual 3D printed projects that we solicited, the 1-L Elephant Bottle was certainly one of the more interesting (see sidebar above). While 3D printing's role in packaging is currently a mixed bag, we can expect more and broader use of the technology in the months ahead. When our poll asked about "unusual 3D printing projects," a response from a SIPA manager about a 3D-printed elephant bottle was one of the most intriguing. Here's what we learned from the team at Italy- based SIPA, which is a division of Zoppas Industries with 20 years' experience in plastic container manufacturing and flling. How long has siPa been involved in 3d printing? siPa: SIPA has been interested in 3D printing ever since the start of this type of technology. Only since 2012, the team began seriously searching for a 3D printer with specifc characteristics for the 3D printing of bottles. The dimensions and complexity of the bottle shape as well as its transparency were the main features considered. Therefore there was a need to have a certain size for the working chamber and certain materials used. Also considered was the work to be done on the printed bottle. Several examples of 3D prints of a bottle were made with different printers using different polymers. Most polymers were colored and opaque. Advantages and disadvantages of every print were analyzed. Knowing the theoretical benefts, at this point a decision was made to start with an "entry-level/ basic-version" printer that would provide a quality [commensurate] with the cost of the apparatus with the intention to acquire experience. The idea also with a simple printer was to investigate the complexity involved in printing various formats and shapes of bottles. What was the timeframe for the project? siPa: The team wanted to present an example of premium design capability for the Brau Beviale 2014 exhibition held in November in N├╝rnberg, Germany. The project ran from September to October ahead of the fair. After a brain-storming session as a consequence of some customer requests for something amazing from both a "fashion" and "technical" point-of-view, it was decided: "Why not an elephant bottle!" To demonstrate SIPA's ability to quickly respond to a request, the diffculty was to combine the design with the industrial processibility within a minimum lead time. The idea was to represent in a natural way the shape of this animal in its environment in Africa while keeping in mind the capability of SIPA blow-molding machines. It was suggested to consider an elephant on its hind legs that is reaching for the top leaves with its trunk. Why use a 3d printer for this project? siPa: A 3D print of the bottle would provide technical information on the performance of the bottle, as well as on the aesthetics. The importance of the aesthetic aspect of the bottle meant that the representation of the elephant had to be effective and attractive. SIPA uses 3D printing when a client asks to see a 3D representation of a design before choosing the defnitive bottle. 3D printing is also used internally for specialized design projects like this. at what point in development was 3d printing used? siPa: The packaging development started with several sketches, three of which were transformed into technical designs. Even with the design renderings, it was hard to see which would be more appealing in terms of shape and degree of detail while having industrial applicability. There were various opinions even as the deadline was approaching. It was then that we decided to use the 3D printer. Three designs were printed at a smaller scale to have the results in a short time before producing the mold. It had to provide a compromise between time and technical results, that is, seeing advantages and precision in the stability and shape of fnal bottles, the label zone and other details. From the three 3D prints, various aspects were analyzed. It took approximately six hours to print out each bottle due to the size limitations of the printer's chamber. The 3D printing of the designs helped the team to decide on the processibility, performance and aesthetics of bottles. The 3D print of Elephant 1 was chosen to have the overall quality as requested. After looking at the printed bottle, we decided to include texture in some of the smooth areas to highlight the roughness of an elephant's hide. What printer and flament polymer were used? siPa: We used the entry-level printer mentioned earlier, though we prefer not to mention the type or manufacturer. This arrangement was suffcient for acquiring the experience and knowledge necessary to focus on a future acquisition of a more elaborate printer. We used a polylactic acid polymer flament. The PLA produces neutral color, slightly transparent bottles. Other flaments were tested, but the preference was to use PLA because it is among the easiest-to-use polymers handled by the printer. Another aspect that was evaluated was also the post- printing treatment to be done on the printed object. What was the end result? siPa: After the analysis of the 3D prints, the mold was developed and manufactured and then inserted into the blow-molding machine so that samples for the Brau fair could be made. [Preforms with the special neck were produced by SIPA.] The photo above shows the fnal result, a flled, sealed and labeled PET bottle. The bottle possessed all the aspects considered during the development and those seen in the 3D print. About 200 production bottles made of PET were blown. A few samples were displayed at the Brau trade exhibition and elsewhere such as the National Plastics Exposition (NPE) in Orlando, FL, in 2015. Many clients visiting the fair showed a high interest when seeing the elephant bottle. What are your plans for 3d printing? siPa: SIPA has clients who ask for 3D prints of their bottles, which are useful for label design along with the all the other parameters considered in a project. The entry-level printer that SIPA installed permitted the team to acquire the fundamentals necessary for the printing of bottles. That was helpful in evaluating a new generation of 3D printers that allow superior levels of print quality. After seeing the usefulness of 3D printing in our R&D development and for our clients' requests, our plans are to track the evolution of the 3D-printing technology and its versatility for an eventual acquisition. team members The people behind the elephant bottle project were Dino Enrico Zanette, innovation bottle design group manager; Michele Pollini, bottle designer; Fabio Salvador, bottle design group leader; Benedetta Zancan, innovation bottle designer; Giada Peruzzo, packaging development; David Gaiotti, process technician group manager; Paolo Tadiotto, process technician; Roberto De Luca, laboratory manager; Laurent Sigler, R&D director. For further information, visit SIPA Sp.A. (www.sipa.it) or email roberta.gualtieri@zoppas.com. The incredible 3D-printed elephant bottle the 3d printed bottle (above) led to the fnal packaged version in Pet.

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