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HP picks PE foam for 'green' packs

At Hewlett-Packard's Boise, ID, disk and tape drive manufacturing plant, management sought an alternative to polyurethane foam packaging, which is taxed by European governments because it is so rarely recycled.

So about a year ago HP switched to a fabricated foam package made from Dow Chemical's (Midland MI) Ethafoam(TM) Select polyethylene foam. Not only did the package solve the recyclability issue it provided other benefits too. Unlike the polyurethane cushions which were fabricated with a spray adhesive Ethafoam is thermally bonded. That eliminates problems associated with oversprayed adhesive which was messy and undersprayed adhesive which caused the PU cushions to occasionally come apart. "The Ethafoam packaging is a lot cleaner it looks a lot better and the cushions are a lot more consistent" says Jeff Waldeck a hardware development engineer who works in packaging for HP. The new cushions supplied by Republic Packaging (Chicago IL) also permitted a 25% increase in speed on the packaging line according to Waldeck. "Republic ergonomically designed the pack to eliminate two or three motions so that workers weren't twisting their hands" says Waldeck. Drives weighing from 1.5 to 4 lb are packed singly in a one-size-fits-all generic package size. Although the new pack is smaller and cheaper Waldeck says that has more to do with the fact that HP eliminated one of the larger products from its product line-up enabling the design of a smaller package. Nevertheless says Waldeck "We're finding if we have a real serious cushioning problem that we have to meet we can usually solve it with Ethafoam."

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