PackExpo 2016 in Chicago

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November was an exciting month for students in the Rutgers University, Packaging Engineering Program as a team of undergraduates spent the week of Nov 6th in Chicago, IL attending the PackExpo International Trade Show.

Celebrating it’s 60th anniversary, a staggering 2,512 participating exhibitors from around the world gathered together in a massive 1.25 million square foot convention center to showcase cutting-edge packaging technologies.  The educational impact of the exposition can best be expressed by the students who attended.

Paula Galvao, a Rutgers Packaging undergraduate, was amazed at the vast scope of the networking with “…companies from China, U.S., Brazil, Germany, England, Italy, and Japan all promoting their machinery and products, making it a rich environment in packaging technology,” she observed.

“It was interesting to see the topics we talk about and learn about in class come alive in this huge convention center,” said Michelle Gallic, a Rutgers Packaging undergraduate.  Gallic added that “I thought I knew a lot about different packaging machines but through this trip I learned that being in the packaging industry is an ongoing learning process because there are constant innovations to keep up with.”

“The show floor was more than just a sightseeing tour; it was also a hands on class room,” said Jeremy Bond, a Rutgers Packaging undergraduate. He added that “It was really interesting to get real time demos of the machinery that we will be interacting with in our careers. This was a valuable experience to increase our knowledge of packaging machinery and products in a fun environment.” Galvao summed up the experience and said “I was able to apply the knowledge I gained in the classroom to these real life examples.”

A highlight of the show was the seventh annual Amazing Packaging Race sponsored by 29 companies including 3M, Schneider Electric, and Bosch Packaging Technology Inc. This highly competitive and intensive event was hosted by the Packaging Machinery Manufactures Institute (PMMI). The competition requires students to come up with multiple engineering solutions to challenging packaging problems and has participation from 10 partner schools including some formidable players: RIT, Michigan State, Indiana State University, and Cal-Poly. Each school was divided into 14 teams all competing for a chance to win a new iPad. Rutgers Packaging Engineering is no stranger to the competition as having previously won consecutive 1st place prizes in 2013 and 2014.

Rutgers Packaging students wraps up another win!

Congratulations to Team Seven which won the top prize. The team was made up of students from Indiana State University, Cal-Poly, Virginia Tech, and our very own Sofia Silva from Rutgers University. “This was a competition where all the students were placed on teams and given a list of exhibitors to go to their booths and perform a task. The goal was to go to as many exhibitors as we could in two and a half hours,” said Rutgers Packaging undergraduate and 1st place winner Sofia Silva. The competition will have a lasting impression on Rutgers Packaging undergraduate Drew Orzechowski, who said “The most memorable part of the trip was the Amazing Race Challenge.”

Congratulations to Team Three who won the 2nd place prize which included Fenghua Zeng also from the Rutgers Packaging Program.

The expo floor was packed with vendors showcasing every conceivable type of packaging technology. “One innovation that blew my mind was the Virtual [reality] tours of different machines,” Gallic said. She continued and said that “costumers can get an inside look at what they’re buying without even having to see the actual machine.” Zeng observed that “It simulated a storage room, and users can handle the pallets in the storage room…[VR] is able to achieve greater collaboration, quicker decision-making, and their customers are able to interact with products and parts in a more natural way.”

Another subtle, yet creative innovation at the expo, was a type of anti-slip packaging sheet technology. Though not a solution to all of the complicated operational problems that beset packaging engineers, this technology is designed to “sit in-between the layers of the pallet load and increase the coefficient of friction between shippers,” said Rutgers Packaging undergraduate Robert Sekelsky. He continued, “So just in case the pallet tips a bit, dozens of boxes won’t fall over everywhere - instead they’ll be kept in place by the anti-slip sheet.” Zeng observed that “By inserting this kind of paper, the box or package columns are not easy to be dropped during handling and transportation.”

“These types of innovations are what excites me about moving forward in this field and makes me feel honored to have had this experience,” Gallic said. The sentiments of the expo were unanimous, “All in all this was a wonderful trip with many opportunities to connect and learn,” Galvao said. Zeng agreed and said “I was happy to have participated in the Expo and learned a lot about packaging.” Orzechowski added “Participating in Pack Expo in Chicago last week was one of the most rewarding experiences to date throughout my college experience.”  Silva wraps up the event by expressing that “Coming to packEXPO was a great experience that I hope everyone will get to participate in at least once.”

By: Wayne Warrick

November 23rd, 2016