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How is Your Packaging Made?

Posted August 16, 2019

Technology is changing rapidly. Products that were seen as being light, thin, and portable just a decade ago are now considered to be bulky and over-sized. Especially with consumer electronics, the drive is to make things thinner, lighter, and smaller.

This has presented a challenge for those tasked with creating the packaging for these electronic devices. They must walk the fine line between creating packaging that protects the consumer electronic device while it is being delivered from the manufacturing plant to the distributor, while it is being stored by the distributor, and while it is being transported from the distributor to the home of the customer.

Creating the Right Packaging for Consumer Electronics

Packaging technology has become complex and specialized. For example, even something as simple as printing labels and tags on products have become complicated. There are different plastic printers, label printers for electronics, and even specialized printers for metal packaging.

Consumer electronic products can be broken into three categories:

  • Display – This would include flat-panel televisions, laptops, projectors, etc.
  • Image – These would include printers, digital cameras, camcorders, etc.
  • Mobility – These would include smartphones, tablets, MP3 players, etc.

Electronic components are finding their way into just about every device. Products that did not have electronic components when they were first introduced to the public, such as coffee makers, refrigerators, and ovens, now do as they are becoming part of the Internet of things. So the scope of products included in consumer electronics is growing.

Packaging example for a consumer electronics product. Image credit: Go to Marc Mueller's profile Marc Mueller via Unsplash (Free Unsplash licence)

Packaging example for a consumer electronics product. Image credit: Go to Marc Mueller’s profile
Marc Mueller via Unsplash (Free Unsplash licence)

At the same time, the electronic components found in these devices are becoming more sensitive and complex. As a result, they require higher mechanical, electrostatic, and moisture protection from the packaging.

Customers make decisions about the value of the electronic device they are purchasing based on the creative design of the packaging, the materials used, and the perceived durability of the packaging. What a customer sees as attractive packaging changes over the years, so those who are responsible for creating and designing the packaging of electronic products are forced to adapt to these changes. They must be aware of development trends in electronic product packaging design.

Creating Packaging to Strengthen the Protection of the Electronic Product

In most cases, electronic devices are becoming smaller. Just the opposite is happening, though, with large screen televisions. People want their television to be as large as possible while at the same time as thin as possible. As a result, new packaging materials and technologies need to be created to provide adequate protection.

Large screen televisions have precise circuitry that is very thin. So the packaging that it is shipped in needs to be shockproof. This is done by customizing the structural design of the box as well as including high-performance buffer packaging materials. Foam and corrugated gasket have given way to the use of air cushion film. This not only protects the electronic components of the television, but it also reduces the amount of packaging material that is needed.

Moisture proofing and waterproofing need to be considered when designing packaging for electronics. The electronic components of the devices are smaller and are closer together. If they are introduced to a moist environment, the electronic product may short-circuit. To prevent this from happening, waxed paper, aluminum foil, plastic film, or other waterproof packing materials should be used. Some high-end electronics may include packaging that is covered with nano-modified high insulation barrier paint.

Modern packaging material should be designed with anti-static electricity protection. As consumer electronics become thinner, the insulating layer and the circuitry also become thinner. This means that these devices are not designed to withstand the same static voltage that their predecessors could.

It is almost impossible to eliminate static electricity. Electronic devices are confronted with static electricity when they are transported, stored, and loaded for transporting. The primary protection that these devices have is anti-static electricity packaging. This packaging is normally a multilayered anti-static shielding bag. The inner layer provides protection against the production of static energy. The middle layer is a conductive shielding material. The outer layer provides electrostatic shielding, which reduces the effect that external electric fields can have on the electric components in the device. New materials are being created to provide a cost-efficient way of protecting electronic devices from static energy.

Meeting the Demands of Retailers

In addition to attempting to protect the electronic devices being shipped, package designers have to take into consideration requirements of the retailers who will sell their products. Electronic products are small but valuable. As such, they are sensitive to pilferage. Retailers require tamper-proof packaging that allows them to display their electronic products on an open shelf. At the same time, they require suppliers to create packaging that adapts to the shelf dimensions.

Simple 'classic' packaging boxes. Image credit: Msaeedsalem via Pixabay (Free Pixabay licence)

Simple ‘classic’ packaging boxes. Image credit: Msaeedsalem via Pixabay (Free Pixabay licence)

To meet this need, manufacturers may find themselves creating packaging that is larger than what is actually needed for the product. This leads to increased direct costs for the manufacture and has a higher negative environmental impact. However, it also leads to improved marketing performance that leads to higher sales, which often negate the additional costs spent in modifying packaging to meet a retailer’s requirements.

Customers expect quality packaging if they are purchasing a high-end device. A low-end WebCam may be housed in sales packaging. The packaging is covered with graphic displays and is designed to catch the eye of someone looking to purchase a cheap product.

Quality-oriented buyers expect their consumer electronics to have “experience” packaging. They want to feel the quality of the product as they take it out of the box.

A well-known electronic company uses the slogan, “Technology should be as simple as the box that it comes in.” However, a more realistic look at the consumer electronics market makes it clear that there is no such thing as simple packaging. Packaging must protect sensitive electronic devices from a host of potential dangers while at the same time fitting in with the design requirements of retailers. Packaging must be adjusted to meet the expectations of the customers and simultaneously be a force for improved market performance. It needs to be functional and attractive.

What has been your experience dealing with consumer electronic packaging? Let us know what you think.

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