Chain of Thought
Can’t Make a Packaging Engineer without Breaking a Few Eggs

Can’t Make a Packaging Engineer without Breaking a Few Eggs

If you’re a member Generation Letterman (vs. Generation Fallon), you may remember when Dave used to throw stuff off a five-story tower just to watch what happens to the stuff after hitting the pavement.  It was fun, but not very educational. Well, leave it to today’s generation of wiseguys to turn something Dave’s fans found fun and mindless into something fun and meaningful.

It was just announced that students at Cal Poly State University are participating in an egg-drop competition. They’re going to throw eggs off a platform 30 feet off the ground. But instead of watching them splatter, their goal is to prevent that—using the most effective packaging design.

This event is part of the Poly Pack Symposium, a day-long event at the school which gathers packaging professionals from around the nation to network and present new topics and techniques to students and industry members.   The egg drop competition will happen on May 8th, sponsored by Pregis Corp. Each student will be given an identical kit containing a variety of materials from which to construct a shipping container.  The challenge is to prevent an uncooked (Grade-AA Large) chicken egg from breaking when dropped from that platform. Prizes will be awarded to the top three entrants.

Jay Singh, professor and packaging program director, Orfalea College of Business, was quoted in the Pregis press release about this event as saying how much his students will benefit from interacting with innovators from private industry. Pregis stated that it’s equally excited to support a new generation who “will be responsible for creating tomorrow’s game changing packaging materials and systems.”

I guess you could call these kids the Fallon generation, whether or not they watch the Tonight Show. This generation of egg protectors is beating Letterman's generation of egg smashers by at least a dozen IQ points—just as Fallon is showing Letterman who’s boss in the TV ratings.

I wish I could say that at least my generation is smarter than my parents’ generation--or even their parents--but that might not be true either. Looking back at the April 1960 edition of Material Handling Engineering, MH&L’s grandfather, the editor ran an article on “Applying Engineering Principles to Packaging.” Author Thomas Wharton, who was president of Packaging Consultants Inc., illustrated how important it was for product designers to consult with packaging engineers if they wanted their product to survive the supply chain. Take a missile, for example.

“Sometimes the product designers saddle the packaging man with unrealistic assumptions which can complicate packaging,” Wharton wrote. “We know of cases where long-haired missile scientists specified packages which would keep the item from experiencing forces higher than three G’s in any direction. Why? Because they knew the missile would not get more than three G’s in the axial direction when fired.

“This is false logic,” the author continued. “There’s no relationship between the shocks expected in handling and the shock encountered in firing. The missile has a built-in safety factor to withstand more shock than it gets in firing. Moreover, it would be an unusual coincidence if the missile—or any other product—were equally sensitive in all directions. The packaging man should challenge such wrong assumptions.”

Some in the Letterman generation might have just put the missile in a box, shoved it off a tower and watched what happened. Watch what happens to the stuff Letterman did shove off this 5-story tower back in his good old days. Go to our gallery of Fun with Gravity by clicking HERE.

 

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