The video after the break takes a look at 3M’s Scotch Cushion Lock™ protective wrap through the eyes of its inventor, Tom Corrigan. It all started when 3M wanted to create a self-assembling box from a flat piece of cardboard.
So far, that particular invention hasn’t come to fruition, but after many long nights with paper and X-Acto knives, Tom came up with a honeycomb design with strong vertical walls that absorb energy much like bubble wrap or packing peanuts. The toothiness of each honeycomb wall adds height which adds strength, and allows the packaging to interlock with itself.
Not only is this packaging easier to recycle, it takes up way less space than other packaging alternatives. Once expanded, a 1,000 square foot roll of this stuff is equal to 2,500 square feet of bubble wrap, which constitutes about a dozen rolls.
Sometimes the most interesting part of a project isn’t the widget itself, but what it teaches you about the manufacturing process. The story of the manufacturing scale-up of this Atari Punk Console and the lessons learned along the way is a perfect example of this.
Now, don’t get us wrong — we love Atari Punk Consoles. Anything with a couple of 555s that bleeps and bloops is OK in our books. But as [Adam Gulyas] tells the tale, the point of this project was less about the circuit than about the process of making a small batch of something. The APC was low-hanging fruit in that regard, and after a quick round of breadboarding to decide on component values, it was off to production. [Adam] was shooting for 20 units, each in a nice enclosure and a classy package. PCB assemblies were ordered, as were off-the-shelf plastic enclosures, which ended up needing a lot of tweaking. [Adam] designed custom labels for the cases, itself a fraught job; glossy label stock and button bezels apparently don’t mix.
After slogging through the assembly process, boxing the units for shipping was the next job. [Adam] sourced jewelry boxes just a bit bigger than the finished APCs, and rather than settle for tissue paper or packing peanuts, designed an insert to hold the units snugly. That involved a lot of trial and error and a little bit of origami-fu, and the results are pretty nice. His cost per unit came out to just a hair over $20 Canadian, including the packaging, which is actually pretty remarkable for such a short production run.
[Adam] includes a list of improvements for larger-scale runs, including ordering assembled PCBs, outsourcing the printing processes, and getting custom boxes made so no insert is needed. Any way you cut it, this production run came out great and teaches us all some important lessons.
[Christopher Helmke] is doing fantastic work in DIY systems for handling small hardware like fasteners, and that includes robotic placement of hardware into 3D prints. Usually this means dropping nuts into parts in mid-print so that the hardware is captive, but that’s not really the story here.
The really inventive part we want to highlight is the concept of reducing packaging and labor. Instead of including a zip-lock bag of a few bolts, how about embedding the bolts into a void in the 3D print, covered with a little snip-out retainer? Skip ahead to 1:54 in the video to see exactly what we mean. It’s a pretty compelling concept that we hope sparks a few ideas in others.
As clever as that concept is, the rest of the video is also worth a watch because [Christopher] shows off a DIY system that sits on top of his 3D printer and takes care of robotically placing the hardware in mid-print. He talks all about the challenges of such a system. It’s not perfect (yet), but seeing it in action is very cool.
Given that plastic pollution is now a major global concern this is interesting news, as plastic drinks bottles make a significant contribution to that problem. But it raises several questions, first of all why are we seemingly unable to recycle the bottles in the first place, and given that we have received our milk and juice in paper-based containers for decades why has it taken the soda industry so long?
Plastic soft drink bottles are made from Polyethylene terephthalate or PET, the same polyester polymer as the one used in Dacron or Terylene fabrics. They’re blow-moulded, which is to say that an injection-moulded preform something like a plastic test tube with a screw top fitting is expanded from inside in a mould by compressed gas. As anyone who has experimented with bottle rockets will tell you, they are immensely strong, and as well as being cheap to make and transport they are also readily recyclable when separated from their caps.
A laser cutter is a useful tool to have in any workshop. While many hackers use them for their cutting abilities, it’s important to remember that they can be great as engravers, too. [Wrickert] was well aware of this when he set his to work, producing attractive packaging for his Tindie orders.
[Wrickert] sells a variety of small PCB-based devices on Tindie, and it’s nice to have something to package them up with, rather than just sending a bare board. To do this quickly and effectively, KiCAD is used to help generate the packaging from the original PCB geometry itself. The board outlines are exported as an SVG file, reopened in KiCAD, and then used to create the required cardboard parts. The laser can then also be used to engrave the cardboard too.
It’s a tidy packaging solution that requires no messy inks or printers, and can be designed in the same software as the device itself. We’ve covered this area before, talking about what it takes to go from a home project to a saleable kit. If you’re in the game, you might find [Wrickert]’s hack to be just the ticket!
In the “Automate the Freight” series, I’ve concentrated on stories that reflect my premise that the killer app for self-driving vehicles will not be private passenger cars, but will more likely be the mundane but necessary task of toting things from place to place. The economics of replacing thousands of salary-drawing and benefit-requiring humans in the logistics chain are greatly favored compared to the profits to be made by providing a convenient and safe commuting experience to individuals. Advances made in automating deliveries will eventually trickle down to the consumer market, but it’ll be the freight carriers that drive innovation.
While I’ve concentrated on self-driving freight vehicles, there are other aspects to automating the supply chain that I’ve touched on in this series, from UAV-delivered blood and medical supplies to the potential for automating the last hundred feet of home delivery with curb-to-door robots. But automation of the other end of the supply chain holds a lot of promise too, both for advancing technology and disrupting the entire logistics field. This time around: automated packaging lines, or how the stuff you buy online gets picked and wrapped for shipping without ever being touched by human hands.
You may have heard the phrase “flip-chip” before: it’s a broad term referring to several integrated circuit packaging methods, the common thread being that the semiconductor die is flipped upside down so the active surface is closest to the PCB. As opposed to the more traditional method in which the IC is face-up and connected to the packaging with bond wires, this allows for ultimate packaging efficiency and impressive performance gains. We hear a lot about advances in the integrated circuits themselves, but the packages that carry them and the issues they solve — and sometimes create — get less exposure.
Let’s have a look at why semiconductor manufacturers decided to turn things on their head, and see how radioactive solder and ancient Roman shipwrecks fit in.