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Current Projects 2013-2014

Project 1. Open Lab: Packaging Design and Testing

Jay Singh and Koushik Saha, Faculty Researchers

Project Description
Companies will be open to submit proposals for packaging design and testing utilizing the capacity of the research labs under the direction of Drs. Jay Singh and Koushik Saha. A pre-determined number of hours/project will be open for proposal by each company based on individual company needs.

Package Design and Related Testing Services Available:

  1. Closure Testing
  2. Package Burst Testing
  3. Distribution Environment Measurement and Simulation
  4. Package Design
  5. Dynamic Cushion Characteristics
  6. Package Integrity
  7. Dynamic Testing to Predict Performance
  8. Product-Package Compatibility
  9. Fragility Testing
  10. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
  11. Life Cycle Inventory (LCI)
  12. Shock and Vibration Testing of Products and Packages
  13. Mechanical Property Evaluation
  14. Testing of Pallets, Reusable Racks and Single and Multiple-Use Containers
  15. Package and Material Storage under Controlled Temperature and Humidity
  16. Thermal Properties of Insulating Containers

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Project 2. Open Lab: Packaging Materials

Wyatt Brown and Keith Vorst, Faculty Researchers

Project Description
Companies will be open to submit samples for testing or analysis utilizing the capacity of the research labs under the direction of Drs. Wyatt Brown and Keith Vorst. A pre-determined number of samples will be open for submission by each company based on individual company needs.

Testing Services Available

  1. Film/Material Identification and Reverse Engineering 
  2. Contamination load from packaging materials 
  3. Headspace Analysis for OTR,CDTR, WVTR 
  4. Bioactive packaging and antimicrobial evaluation 
  5. Biodegradable polymers characterization and development 
  6. Determination of produce and flower respiration 
  7. Evaluation of barrier properties 
  8. Evaluation of mechanical properties 
  9. Heavy metals content analysis of plastics 
  10. Modified atmosphere packaging and controlled atmosphere storage simulation 
  11. Package or material storage under controlled temperature and relative humidity 
  12. Plastic migrants determination 
  13. Produce constituent analysis 
  14. Product-package compatibility 
  15. Shelf-life modeling 
  16. Ultraviolet degradation of plastics
  17. Volatiles analysis

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Project 3. Innovative Corrugated Cut Back Designs for Standardized Fresh Produce Shippers

Jay Singh and Koushik Saha, Faculty Researchers

Project Description
According to a recent report, the US demand for produce packaging in the US is expected to increase 3.6%/year to $4.8 billion in 2014, indicating that the growth will be fueled by a rebound in fresh produce production and improved consumer spending in a recovering US economy. Corrugated shippers, which accounted for 38% of produce packaging demand in 2009, are expected to remain the leading packaging type through 2014 and beyond. The corrugated box demand is projected to increase at a below-average 2.5%/year based on more moderate box price increases than in the 2004-2009 period, the maturity of most applications, and competition from reusable plastic containers. Corrugated packaging is specifically engineered to maximize performance and merchandizing impact throughout the supply chain while minimizing material and its carbon footprint. Constant innovations in the area of corrugated shipper design helps achieve this to a great extent by using lesser material while providing adequate protection to the product. The investigators of this proposal have worked on and published several projects based on design and performance evaluation of corrugated fiberboard packaging. They have recently concluded projects funded by the USDA and the Mango Board to undertake a study for development of a standard shipper for imported mangoes to the US. A retail ready package design developed by them for fresh asparagus has received the AmeriStar and WorldStar awards last year.

Objectives
1) To redesign 3 corrugated fresh produce shippers submitted by the consortium members with the goal of reducing the material while maintaining or exceeding their physical performance. 2) To provide the consortium members an opportunity to take a leading role as innovators of sustainable packaging alternatives.

The hypothesis for this project is that a majority of the currently employed standardized corrugated fresh produce containers can be redesigned with reduced material usage while maintaining or increasing their overall performance (strength and cooling capabilities) during distribution. This project will delve into redesigning 3 styles of corrugated boxes used for fresh produce with the aim of reducing the material while maintaining or exceeding their physical performance. Standardization will be considered based on the product type and these proposed packaging solutions will be designed based on the demands placed on them from manufacturing to filling to distribution to retail. Suggestions from the consortium members will be taken to decide on the styles of boxes to be used in this study. Lab based performance testing (ASTM/ISTA) as well as lifecycle environmental impact calculations will be conducted.

Member Benefits
The members can take advantage of the proven track record of the researchers related to this project. The findings of this study may be employed by consortium members to take the leadership role in introducing innovative and environmentally friendlier shippers for distribution. The designs created through this study could allow the consortium members to attract and assure customers, demonstrate market leadership, create competitive advantage as well as develop and maintain best practice.

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Project 4. Rigid Thermoform Design and Prototyping for New Products

Keith Vorst and Wyatt Brown, Faculty Researchers

Project Description
Utilizing Cal Poly for rapid product design and testing can be an effective tool for new product development that would not normally be done “in-house.” This project will allow some out-of-the-box thinking for product design and prototyping.

Cal Poly has access to small and mid-scale thermoformers, and an injection molder, extruder and heat sealers. Utilizing this equipment, prototype molds and products can be made to evaluate design, heat seal characteristics, nesting features and potential source reduction.

These are projects that would be too small or time consuming to bring in-house or to be managed though an independent consultant or shop.

Cal Poly has success doing this with many products on the market.

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Project 5. “First Mile” Distribution Analysis for Fresh Produce Packaging Systems

Jay Singh and Koushik Saha, Faculty Researchers

Project Description
Distribution related requirements for a majority of the fresh produce crops have been identified to be very specific. In the journey from farm-to-fork, fresh produce faces a multitude of challenges such as harvesting, on-field/packinghouse sorting/grading and packing, staging, post-harvest hauling, cooling and storage, etc. Throughout this cycle the fresh commodities are exposed to physical (compression, vibration and impacts) and ambient environment (temperature and humidity) abuse. Through several studies undertaken by the authors of this proposal, it has been established that the "first and last mile" or the initial and final distance commuted to deliver packages can provide the same, if not more severe, challenges towards the integrity of the products as compared to the larger scope of traditional distribution channels. The "first mile" is representative of the shorter distance distribution networks typically employed during the initial harvest and post-harvest activities. A majority of the growing and harvest planning efforts would be wasted unless the vehicles used for field and farm transports as well as transport from the farm are in acceptable condition. Though post-harvest losses have reduced over the recent years, losses of fresh fruit and vegetables have been estimated in the US to range between 2-23% depending on the commodity. These losses are typically attributed to injuries to the produce from cuts and punctures, impacts, compression and vibration

Objectives
1) To undertake an evaluation of physical and ambient environment hazards imposed on fresh produce commodities during transportation activities on the farm/field and from farm to packinghouses. 2) To create lab simulation protocols representative of the field observations to assist in validation of the protection provided by packaging systems. 3) To provide the consortium members with a hereto unavailable understanding of the post-harvest abuse during the "first mile" as well as a tool to simulate the same in laboratories.

Working around the harvesting schedules, data will be gathered for 2-3 selected high volume fresh produce crops during their peak season. The crops and access to facilities will be solicited from consortium members. Vibration, shock, temperature and relative humidity data will be gathered for the on-the-farm-to-storage/packinghouse scenarios using portable data loggers placed inside packages as well as on the vehicles. Condition of the crops will also be visually noted before the trip and after reaching the storage/packinghouse. Based on the data gathered, custom test protocols will be created to simulate field conditions in the lab. These test protocols will be used to test the current and any alternate packaging and configurations for the selected crops which may include fresh fruits and vegetables.

Member Benefits
Though packing of produce into marketing packages in the field at harvest reduces the damage caused by multiple handling, the potential for damage still remains due to on-the-farm and farm-to-packinghouse/storage/staging distribution. The distribution hazards with damage potential to fresh produce, such as condition of vehicles used as well as the durations of on-filed exposure to the elements, for this segment have not been documented. This study will allow the consortium members to attract and assure customers, demonstrate market leadership, create competitive advantage as well as develop and maintain best practices.

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