A look at the show through the eyes of Rick Lingle, Editor in Chief and Elisabeth Cuneo, Associate Editor.

A look at the show through the eyes of Rick Lingle, Editor in Chief and Elisabeth Cuneo, Associate Editor

Day 1: The start of something big

Liz:Well, with day one of the show behind us, I must say this year's Pack Expo is an exciting and busy exhibit packaged into the Las Vegas Convention center. It's also my first one. I met a lot of people, saw a lot of machinery and learned a ton about the industry. A common thread that I noticed at various booths is quality assurance. Quality and continuity on the line is a must, as well as quality and continuity of each unit produced, be it a pouch of granola or a bottle of beer. Today's packagers are putting more and more emphasis on perfection. And what a great show to showcase new technology and materials to help more and more manufacturers achieve packaging perfection.

Rick: I've been attending Pack Expo since the mid-1980s when it was in New York City at the Javits Center. Over the years, the show has evolved into a homecoming of sorts as I run into a growing number of old friends, former colleagues, and acquaintances. And it seems we have all changed and yet not changed if that makes any sense.

I suspect this reunion aspect holds true for many of the vendor personnel and attendees, which gives the show a personal dimension beyond the technology. And while the latest and greatest packaging developments will always remain the star of the show whether Las Vegas or Chicago, the personal connections are a bonus that's part of a package deal that can be found only at Pack Expo.


Day 2: Packaging ingenuity in film, robotics, and digital printing

Liz: Day 2 has proven to be an exciting day learning a lot about printing. I got the inside scoop from big companies on what printing is like in today's market. As a newcomer to the packaging world, I got to learn about digital printing, label material limitations and even traceless inks printed on products to allow for traceability and identification. Kodak has such an ink that can be used on high priced wines and spirits to detect authenticity, warding off counterfeits. The innovation and technology used today in packaging and in printing is incredible; it's such an exciting time for me to jump feet first into the packaging pool.

Rick: Today’s observation is regarding packaging ingenuity, for which two examples come to mind from booth visits at the show. As it so happens and to keep things balanced, one is for materials, one for machinery.

On the materials side, a visit to Cryovac Div. Sealed Air Corp. with director of marketing Jackie Anderson proved fruitful, literally so: The company demoed a new hot-needle, micro-perforated shrink film that prolongs the shelf life of produce. Interestingly, she noted two other applications for the material. Ever unwrap donuts and “delaminate” the frosting? For iced donuts, the perforations prevent the icing from adhering to the film. And for can manufacturing, the material replaces kraft paper bundles for can ends-the perforations permit off-gassing of the lids. I won’t be surprised if other applications are found.

On the machinery side, there was a visit with Erik Nieves, technology director Yaskawa America’s Motoman Robotics Div. Robots are always cool, but what I found fascinating were the vision devices used to guide the six-axis robot’s movement in palletizing and depalletizing randomly placed cases. Rather than sophisticated machine vision sensors, the demo used web cams available from Best Buy and-get this-an Xbox 360 Kinect sensor. The robot performed flawlessly using these inexpensive devices. Nieves credits Universal Robotics for the implementation. I’d say that Motoman's robots really have game.

Day 3: A wrap-up-and contrast in stretch-sleeve packaging

Liz: As things started to wind down on day 3 I had a last chance to explore the show floor including the Candy Bar & Confectionery Pavilion. The segmented area created a communal feel for the candy and confectionery industry and allowed me and attendees to explore the industry's trends and innovations easily, in upper south hall. Overall, during the 3 days I met a lot of great folks- fellow media, industry experts, engineers and marketing mangers. I even got to spend time with editor in chief Rick Lingle. I'd say the show was a success and I can't wait to see everyone again next year in Chicago.

Rick: The full spectrum of packaging was on display during the three-day run of the show. A visit to the booth of PDC Europe with the always enthusiastic Alcyr Coelho, VP sales & marketing-Latin America, showed that in microcosm.

The company's upcoming installation for a No-heat Multipack system with Coca-Cola Brazil is an example of a high-volume, low-value application with a sustainability component. At the heart of the app is the company's energy-saving stretch sleeve technology that eliminates the shrink tunnel of conventional shrink sleeving. For Coca-Cola, multiserve bottles are bundled together using a printed stretch sleeve at rates to 50 packs per minute. Three of those 2-packs are then bundled into 6-count units using a clear stretch sleeve.

The vendor also showed a sample of a low-volume, high-end solution of its "skin evolution" where brand distinction carried the day for ultrapremium Piper-Heidsieck brut champagne. A 750-ml bottle is stretch-sleeved with a thick, form-fitting rubberized sleeve that provides distinctive color and texture. It was a one-of-a-kind bottle with dramatic shelf impact. Sleeving is done automatically at a rate of 5 bottles per minute.

On that bubbly note, we toast a successful PACK EXPO Las Vegas and look ahead to PACK EXPO Chicago set for October 28-31, 2012.