Dutch company Sparck Technologies used to make conventional packaging equipment. In 2014, they threw a new problem at their engineers: Design an automated packaging system specifically for online retailers, who are continually shipping objects of different shapes and sizes. Minimize packaging waste and the need for "void fill"—those crumpled-up wads of paper or inflated plastic film—by creating the smallest possible box that uses the minimum amount of material.
The room-sized solution the engineers came up with is this CVP Impack, an in-line automatic packaging machine that Sparck reckons replaces as many as 15 individual packaging stations. A human worker drops the goods-to-be-shipped onto a conveyor belt. A laser 3D-scans the goods, and a custom-fit, not-one-inch-wasted box is created on the fly. The box is automatically folded around the goods, and the box gets labeled and taped shut on the way out.
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The machine can do up to 500 packages an hour, and Sparck says customers save on shipping and reduce their cardboard consumption by 20% by using the smallest possible box. (They also claim their taped-on-two-sides boxes are easier for the recipient to open and more likely to be flattened and recycled, though they offer no evidence to back that up.)
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A box designed for shipping bare would be more durable than one designed to sit on a retail shelf. The manufacturer would have to have 2 SKUs or pay more for the more robust packaging even when it's not needed.
Was talking to my neighbors about all the waste in packing and they said when they visited Switzerland, items that already come in boxes get shipped in those, avoiding the box in a box that the video shows. Is that not allowed in the USA? Cool machine.