Texture in packaging: an underutilized design element

R&D/Leverage wants to take customization of bottles and other consumer packaging to a higher level with its new laser processing capability for creating texture, structure, and surface treatment in the mold. The offering represents the company’s latest addition to its holistic, “idea-to-mold” approach to package creation, which is intended to help brand owners build their brand and attract consumers.

“We’ve had laser equipment in house for a number of years but it was under-utilized with basic engraving and etching,” Adam Nelson, laser business manager, told PlasticsToday. “We’re now trying to expand this highly capable equipment’s uses to produce more value-add for brand owners.”

Nelson, whose career includes 12 years in the laser industry, brought his expertise to R&D/Leverage, helping the company recognize that being able to do texturing in house fits the “idea to implementation” business model, which provides a complete range of packaging design, development and commercialization services for brand owners in-house. “It means faster delivery as well as more control of the design and the final product,” Nelson added.
   
Giving a package a unique feel with texture is becoming as important to brand owners as the visual appearance. “Our experience tells us that the tactile aspect of a package is as important as the visual cues—the package has to look and feel good in the consumer’s hand,” Nelson said. “In fact, the R&D/Leverage approach incorporates ‘tactile tactics’ that interpret consumer preferences and dislikes regarding ‘feel’ and builds these preferences into the creation of a custom texture.”

According to Nelson, R&D/Leverage can reproduce organic shapes such as rain drops, wood grain, pebble patterns, or a maple leaf design with veins for a syrup bottle, and non-organic structures that might include geometric shapes, herringbone patterns, plaids, and more using 3D modeling software.

“Without using chemicals or complex, time-consuming mechanical processes, we can now customize organic and non-organic textures to perfectly match the brand requirements of a product,” Nelson said. “Our micro-machining laser defined texture can machine metal to 0.0005 of an inch—eight times smaller than the human hair—and do it as much as five times faster and six times as efficiently.”

Through 3D software R&D/Leverage can output renderings of the bottles or packaging, and provide prototype samples of the exact structure of the bottle in the chosen material to give the brand owner the look and feel of the bottle before the mold is built. R&D/Leverage’s prototype group can take the textured solid model and create a “Quickturn” printed or SLA prototype to evaluate.

“Being able to provide that service in-house has really helped our brand development business,” Nelson added. “We can execute on the brand development side by giving them a proprietary texture, then push that through to the mold design process.”

Nelson said that the new laser equipment available to moldmakers today has made laser reproducible and brought in into a manufacturing technology that can greatly increase efficiency in time and cost when texturing is required for a mold. “It’s easier to bring in this equipment and train people in its use, and provide value-add through customization of textures” said Nelson.

“While there’s always the art work that’s required to do this, the 3D software package allows us to take a picture of anything and translate that to a 3D surface and apply it to any portion of the mold. It opens up the design capability and allows the ultimate in customization of molded parts. You can create proprietary designs from ideas that your customer might have for a specific texture. Today’s brand owners want to own not only the shape of their package but the feel as well. Now they can own it all based on their specific design ideas.”

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