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Article | June 29, 2012
Biodegradable foam protects electronics shipments
Cornstarch-based protective packaging provides sustainable option for global shipping of electronics product.
Shipping global and green
Echo360, a provider of blended learning and lecture-capture solutions for the higher education market, recently launched the EchoSystem SafeCapture HD recording unit, a product designed to extend the boundaries of higher-education learning by digitally capturing, managing, and publishing classroom content in audio, video, and multimedia formats. Students can access recorded course content from their computers, iPads, and mobile devices at any time and from anywhere.
The high-performance capabilities of the EchoSystem called for equally high-performance packaging that could deliver protection, cost-effectiveness, and sustainability.
Echo360 turned to Plexus, a global company based in Neenah, WI, with expertise in the electronics manufacturing services industry to manufacture the product, as well as specify packaging for the unit. Plexus enlisted the expertise of packaging partner Great Northern Corp. to design and manufacture a package for shipping the EchoSystem. Located in nearby Appleton, WI, Great Northern had worked successfully with Plexus on other projects, using its background in designing, manufacturing, and distributing packaging solutions and point-of-sale display programs for industrial, commercial, and retail products.
“Plexus presented us with the challenge and opportunity to develop packaging that would not only protect the sensitive digital equipment but also do so in a cost-effective manner and with a positive environmental footprint,” says Great Northern Custom Packaging sales manager Dan Stubing.
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Great Northern’s solution: A custom package that combines the recyclability of Green Cell Foam® cornstarch-based protective packaging from KTM Industries, with the strength and sustainability of heavy-duty corrugate that is both recycled and recyclable. The end result is a packaging option that meets the biodegradability standards of ASTM D 6400-04, and delivers the anti-static, shock, and vibration protection required by the product.
Shipping global and green
Echo360 SafeCapture HD units are shipped around the world via standard carrier (UPS and FedEx) in either single-pack cartons or in overpack cartons that hold three to five primary packs.
The units are cushioned inside the boxes by custom-cut lengths of Green Cell Foam. Included with each unit is an AC power cord, mounting brackets, adapters, and an instruction pamphlet. The single-unit weight is 11.5 lb, with a total pack-out weight of 15 lb.
The combination of Great Northern’s sturdy corrugated combined with custom-cut Green Cell Foam delivers the kind of multiple-impact resistance that is needed to protect shipments throughout not only the U.S. and Canada, but also to Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Great Northern ensures performance capabilities in its certified ISTA testing facilities.
“The Green Cell Foam packaging from Great Northern provides Echo360 with a biodegradable, compostable package that is price-competitive and meets our protection requirements,” says Kevin Mayo, Echo360’s director of product management. “The packaging successfully protects our sensitive electronic products, and we have shipped hundreds of units worldwide with no failure of the packaging material.”
The use of Green Cell Foam also avoids the tariffs some countries charge on packaging with materials such as expanded polystyrene and polyethylene foam. Among the other advantages of the material are the following:
• Anti-static and a natural desiccant, making it a perfect fit for electronics
• Made from non-GMO cornstarch and certified as bio-based product by the USDA
• Appeals to the green initiatives and requirements that are common among the target market of colleges and universities
• Passes the Class A surface abrasion test, ensuring it will not scratch or mar the unit surface
“Developing green packaging is something that is becoming desired in today’s packaging industry, but doing so in a cost-effective manner and without sacrificing high performance takes expertise,” says Stubing. “The packaging we developed for Echo360 shows Great Northern’s ability to meet all three requirements: price, planet, and performance.”
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