Packaging is becoming more important than ever before, why is that? Because of the move towards online shopping the whole world is going through.
We all know how convenient it can be to see something on our phone, click on it go to an online store and order it, in some cases, if we order early in the day, the package will arrive at our doorstep by nighttime.
Same-day deliveries are pretty common in East-Asian countries.
With products of all sorts being shipped and delivered on daily basis, there’s one industry that is booming like never before; we’re talking about the packaging Industry.
The Packaging Industry
Between 2018 and 2028 the global packaging market is set to expand by almost 3% per annum, reaching over $1.2 trillion.
The global market will continue to rise as consumers are purchasing more things online which will drive demand for specific types of packaging and packaging products.
What are the products people are ordering the most online?
Top 5 Products Ordered Online
- Books, movies, music & games
- Consumer Electronics
- Food and drinks
Which of these items have you bought online in the past 12 months?
Electronics are in the top 5, and if you have look further down in the graph you’ll see “Household Appliances listed”
Most household appliances are electronic products, you can even buy refrigerators on Amazon.
The shipping of electronics is at an all times high.
- Revenue in the Consumer Electronics segment is projected to reach US$415,897m in 2021.
- In the Consumer Electronics segment, 39% of total market revenue will be generated through online sales by 2023.
With all this electronic product shipping and so many different packaging materials out there, many questions arise; especially for manufacturers.
How to pack electronics for shipping? What’s the right packing material? Will corrugated boxes do or should I go for plastic packaging? What about the shipping boxes? Do I need rigid boxes? The display boxes? The void filling? Can I just buy boxes from a supplier or do I need custom boxes with custom shapes?
So many questions regarding boxes; and on top of all, you have to make sure your packaging is cost-effective, the shipping box and packaging materials offer more protection than traditional materials, because long-distance shipping is now common, and don’t forget that the retail packaging plays a key role in providing a great customer experience.
We figured the best way to approach this product packaging ordeal is by taking a look at packing materials, packaging material, packaging boxes, or packaging types, however, you want to call it, one by one.
We’ll tell you which packing materials suit electronics better, or whether they should be better used for food packaging, storage boxes, outer box or customer direct contact box.
Different Packaging Materials
A corrugated box is different from a cardboard box.
The term corrugated refers to a combination of corrugated material, three layers make up a corrugated board, these are three thick paperboard sheets.
The two sheets on the outer area are flat and the one in the middle has a rippled shape. See picture above.
These three layers are glued together with thick and starchy glue that is quite common in the packaging industry.
The pieces come together to form a corrugated box.
Corrugated Boxes Benefits and Uses
- They’re great for shipping all kinds of products, from electronics to food items.
- The multilayer structural design keeps products safe during transportation and handling; great outer packaging.
- It provides moisture protection
- They’re easy to customize which makes them okay for display boxes in certain settings
- They’re cost-effective and of lightweight material
- Corrugated boards are easy to recycle
Corrugated Boxes Drawbacks
- They don’t have a high-end look
This is any box made out of heavy paper pulp; the material used for greeting cards is also cardboard.
Boxes made out of cardboard make for extremely light and flexible packaging boxes.
They usually consist of one layer and are shipped flat to save space; they are then put together by tapping flaps or folding panels; these are the so-called folding cartons.
Cardboard Box Benefits and Uses
- Highly flexible packaging boxes
- Easy to make custom boxes of all kinds of shapes and sizes
- Very little weight
- Flexible packaging design as you can print anything you want on it.
- High-end finish for best customer experience and retail packaging.
- Good for packaging all kinds of products ranging from electronics to food; it increases shelf life.
- Highly recyclable
Cardboard Box Drawbacks
- It could turn out to be a bad packaging choice for extremely heavy items
- When stacked, depending on the weight of the boxes, it may deform
- If exposed to water it will easily deform.
When thinking of a packaging box, wood might not come to mind; but it is still used for shipping, especially by packaging professionals in the moving industry and when shipping delicate products across large distances.
Wooden Crate Benefits and Uses
- Safe and sturdy; perhaps the best to ship products with extreme safety
- These boxes survive all kinds of weather
- It’s possible to stack many boxes on top of each other
- They’re a good choice to ship products, including electronics, across large distances
Wooden Crate Drawbacks
- Custom boxes of this kind can be expensive; they might not be cost-effective for your operation.
- If untreated, wood may become moldy.
Chipboard is a lightweight cardboard-like material that can be used for packaging boxes in products of all kinds. It’s available in a range of wall thicknesses from 10 pts. to an excess of 100 pts.
Out of all the packaging types, this is one of the weakest, which makes it more suited for retail, display purposes, and POP applications.
Some common uses of chipboard are
- Toothpaste packaging
- Medicine packaging
- Perfume packaging
Chipboard Benefits and Uses
- Inexpensive and cost-effective
- It can be used for a wide arrange of packaging purposes, food packaging, medicine, food, and electronics too.
- Easy to print on
- Extremely lightweight
- These packaging boxes are highly recyclable
- Direct printing, chipboard provides an outstanding whiteboard surface for art. This allows for pictures and high-quality graphics to be printed directly.
- Chipboard is not meant for shipping applications
- These types of packaging boxes are not water-resistant at all.
These packaging boxes are made from highly condensed paperboard that is 4 times thicker than that in a standard folding carton.
These boxes have a nice glossy and high-end finish that still allows for printing; it’s ideal for high-end products such as electronics.
When buying packaging such as this, be aware that you can not ship products just using this packaging, it will require at least one outer box.
Rigid Box Benefits and Uses
- It has a premium look and feel that suits high-end electronics
- They’re easy to customize
- This sort of packaging is non-collapsible
- It’s possible to make this packaging biodegradable
Rigid Box Drawback
- These boxes are part of the product experience, so they must be protected by an outer box.
Foil Sealed Bags
Foil sealed bags, they’re better than plastic bags or paper bags; they are used as packaging for small items, the most common ones being food; however, these types of packaging also work for electronics as long as they’re antistatic.
Foil Sealed Bags Benefits and Uses
- Has anti-static function and soft
- Thickness can be adjusted freely
- Widely used in general electronic products such as printed circuit board or hard disk and electronics component
- As outer packing, cannot only lower cost but also protect electronic products from damage by static generated by mutual friction of insulator
- The anti-static bag is the best packing material for electronic components, PCB, which makes static to release from PCB and avoid damage
- It’s also possible to print them with branding.
- It is 100% vacuum sealed from the outside environment, and so it provides complete protection for moisture, dust, and any other source of contamination
Foil Sealed Bags Drawbacks
- They’re not recyclable
- It can not be used as standalone packaging, at least one layer of paperboard boxes will be needed
- This packaging doesn’t protect against dropping or crushing
A poly bag is what is commonly known as as a plastic bag; this packaging material can carry a wide range of products, from food to medicine and small electronic components and parts.
Poly Bags Benefits and Uses
- Poly bags are more durable, lightweight, reusable, and flexible than boxes.
- They’re structurally easier to make than boxes.
- Easy to customize into different designs and sizes at a cost-effective rate.
- Poly bags are in the category of types of packaging that can be recycled.
Poly Bags Drawbacks
- This packaging doesn’t protect against dropping or crushing as boxes do.
- The major part of these bags are small and never make it to a recycling plant.
- A poly bag will need at least one box as outer packaging.
This sort of packaging can be made out of different materials from polypropylene to cotton. This sort of packaging is mostly used by eco-conscious brands, but only if possible.
A bottle of perfume or a candle would go fine in a package of this kind, but not electronics or electronic components as the material of the bag can be very fibrous, cotton bags, for instance, the fibers can come loose and damage electronics.
Woven Bag Benefits and Uses
- High-end look and feel for high-end products
- Easy to customize
- Way more recyclable and reusable than a box
Woven Bag Drawbacks
- They offer very little protection of any kind, a box of some kind will still be needed to protect the product.
This packaging material is put inside boxes to give further cushioning between the product and the box, they’re made of Styrofoam, apart from the peanut-like shape you see in the picture above, Styrofoam can be molded into different shapes to fit the ends of a product.
When unpackaging boxes of big electronic devices such as T.V.s, refrigerators, and ACs, is quite common to see Styrofoam in different shapes providing extra protection between the box and the device.
Packing Peanuts Benefits and Uses
- They’re cost-effective and good for protecting big electronics while shipping
Packing Peanuts Drawbacks
- If made out of Styrofoam they’re not recyclable
Boxed Package Goods – Natural Materials
Unfortunately, most packaging these days is not recyclable, partially recyclable, or even if they are recyclable they never make it to recycling plants.
Countless boxes of all kinds, from a tiny juice box to a large shipping box, simply end up in landfills; where months go by before they decompose and before that happens they might find their way to oceans and rivers potentially harming wildlife.
Styrofoam takes about 50 years to decompose.
It’s only natural for humans to start seeking ways of packaging that are not only recyclable but biodegradable too; this is also an integral part of the survival of the packaging industry.
Imagine if boxes and other packaging materials could just be left on your front or backyard and decompose in a couple of days while serving as nutrients for the soil.
Companies are working on this kind of packaging materials and boxes.
Let’s explore a couple of options.
Mushroom Mycelium + Hemp – Packaging Material
There’s a packaging company working endlessly to use this highly biodegradable material as the new way to package products.
In their words.
Mushroom® Packaging is simply made with 2 ingredients: hemp hurds and mycelium.
A high-performing packaging solution, cost-competitive, thermally insulating, and water-resistant.
Add to the soil to compost in 45 days.
You can find them here.
Green Cell Foam – Packaging Material
Another highly sustainable packaging option. This packaging material can be used as a protective element for food and beverage and electronics.
Hear this out
Green Cell Foam is NOT a recyclable material.
Rather than taking up valuable space in your home, garage, or recyclable containers, we suggest simply rinsing this packaging material down the drain, composting it, or using it as a fire starter for grills, fireplaces, or firepits.
Or, you can throw it out and know that it will go back into the earth, safely.
That’s taken from their website, isn’t that a great package option
Geami – Packaging Material
We’ve all opened a package containing bubble wrap, while it’s fun to play with it for a while, let’s not forget this is plastic, countless boxes are wrapped in bubble wrapped and their interior contains it too.
This doesn’t have to be the case anymore.
Geami is a disposable and recyclable combination of kraft paper and tissue, that when in use with the wrapPack manual converter, can quickly wrap a product without the need of any tape.
If your company is serious about protecting the environment, make sure all your boxes are as free of plastic as possible.
Molded Pup – Package Box
Some might know it as egg packaging. The only materials required to make molded pulp are recycled paper and water.
It makes for great biodegradable package boxes.
Paper is biodegradable because it is sourced from wood and similar plant materials that are eco-friendly, when exposed to heat, humidity, oxygen, and rainfall, the material quickly decomposes.
In recent years, the manufacturing technology has improved so the final package products have a smoother surface and a more sophisticated look & feel.
With the improved appearance, pulp packaging is now being used for a wide range of applications, in addition to traditional protective packaging (end caps, egg cartons).
Have a look at this full molded pulp package box for electronics.
The package types we mentioned in this section are all-natural, biodegradable, and environmentally friendly, and they all work in some way or another to protect boxes containing electronics or being the box itself.
For more details on these packaging materials read Biodegradable Packaging: 4 Excellent Materials for Electronics
When it comes to boxes for electronics there are a couple of things you need to take into account, just like you can not use the same type of boxes to pack notebooks and say meat; you can not use the boxes you would use to pack glass to pack electronics.
Boxes for electronics or any other packaging material for electronics need to meet the following
- Prevent dust and ion contamination
- Resilience against cold, heat, and humidity
- Offer anti-static protection
- Radiation protection
Electronics Packaging Design
Creating the right boxes for electronics takes some serious design work; have a look at these designs.
The outer part may be rigid, but inside the products may be packed into conductive dunnage such as cardboard dividers, anti-static foam inserts, or molded plastic blisters that hold them in place and insulate them from shock, impact, etc.
Electronic packaging is the most complex among all levels of packaging because it requires extensive engineering and skill set to come up with an optimal overall electronics packaging design compared to other industry packaging designs.
The wide range of material options available makes it hard for the design team to decide what is best since the choice may harm the functions of the electronic.
Whatever choice they make, it must also be consistent with traditional packaging design practices and manufacturing capabilities.
As electronic devices are built and tested, it can be expected to have multiple revisions for the packaging, this is inevitable.
The electronic packaging design will continuously be optimized until the final packaging design is achieved.
The Levels of Electronic Packaging
- Level 0 – this electronic packaging level protects chips and semiconductors which are the simplest and most basic parts of an electronic system.
- Level 1 – this electronic packaging level protects electronic components.
- Level 2 – this electronic packaging level protects the printed circuit board.
- Level 3 – this electronic packaging level protects assembly, wiring boards, and associated components of these.
- Level 4 – this electronic packaging level protects modules or collection of assemblies.
- Level 5 – this electronic packaging level protects a combination of different modules or the electronic system in general.
This categorization is important in the industry as talking about electronics packaging is very broad, this helps to figure out exactly the kind of packaging you need.
Two aspects we’d like to discuss further
PCB Packaging Boxes – Strength
This is what increases the cost of your packaging and ultimately is the most important requirement of your PCB packaging. When you are shipping electronics especially PCBs, there are two big factors, weight, and shape.
Printed circuit boards are often square with sharp corners. If you aren’t using the correct thickness of base material, you are risking damage to the boxes which could then cause damage to your PCBs.
Handling is such a critical component of the PCB manufacturing process that no one wants to ship bare boards with damaged corners.
Tape And Straps
Tape is often the area that suppliers will try to substitute a lower grade of product to save money.
This is an interesting theory, as the typical result in using a lower quality tape is that you have to use more of it. So there are no-cost savings.
The other consideration with tape, besides the brand, is how packages should be taped.
A single strip of tape down the seam of an overpacked box will not hold regardless of the quality of the tape you are using.
The secondary issue around the outside of packages is strapping. A lot of manufactures want to put straps on the outside of boxes to make it easier to pick up individual packages.
However, straps encourage couriers to pick up packages and use the straps as leverage which can lead to packages being thrown into vans/cars/vehicles.
The second issue with straps is that if you have a partnership with a larger carrier such as UPS, straps can cause major problems.
When shipping via UPS small package, UPS will be clearing your package through its Louisville, KY hub.
At that hub, they have over 155 miles of conveyor belts that your package is going to travel through.
Those straps cause problems at the hub as they tend to come undone and clog the conveyor belts.
Before we end this section, there’s something we’d like to stress, be cost-efficient.
If you are in the world of manufacturing, you should understand the importance of the ratio between cost and value.
Having electronic packaging that is too expensive would diminish its value even if it is fully functional.
The engineer in charge of the design must explore all options available with regards to electronic packaging materials until the final result makes economic sense and adds the right amount of value.
Being cost-effective is a key component of a healthy and successful electronics manufacturing process, this includes all types of packaging needed.
The last part of the packaging process is the sort of package that is used to move products from point A to point B, sometimes across many points.
The more resilient the better, but remember it has to be cost-effective for your operations.
All types of transport packaging – call them moving boxes, outer cartons, transport outers, or anything else – are generally made of cardboard and corrugated board and designed so that goods reach the recipient undamaged.
The structural design of transit packaging is primarily determined by product protection but is also influenced by the size and logistical efficiencies.
For most consumers, the branded product and its outer packaging represent one unit; this is why the importance of a transit package should never be underestimated.
What are the packaging types?
The primary packaging is used to pack the actual product.
The primary packaging houses the product and is responsible for keeping the product safe for a longer period. It may be a paperboard carton, a glass jar, an aluminum pouch, or a plastic bottle.
The primary boxes (bottles or bags too) are not responsible for rough handling and are protected by the secondary packaging.
Sometimes primary packaging will be fully removed, for example in a smartphone, , other times it remains intact, for example, a wine bottle as it contains the wine.
This is the packaging that holds together the individual units.
This package, such as a thick three-layer box is used to get the product from point A to point B.
They can be the carton boxes used in shipping from the warehouse to the retail store.
It also includes the tape, void fill material that was used to get a product to a retail or distribution center.
This packaging does not go home with the consumer, and it tends to be discarded almost immediately at the store level.
This packaging is used to protect secondary packaging.
The most common type of tertiary packaging is corrugated brown cartons.
This packaging takes place at the warehouse before shipping the goods.
The packed product is packed inside corrugated cardboard boxes or a box made out of wood. The extra packaging saves the product from rough handling and water damage.