The key properties of a box made of organic, programmable fibers are self-healing and perpetual reuse. The project is dedicated to the 150th anniversary of the creation of corrugated cardboard packaging
“Packaging that heals itself so it can be perpetually reused is a futuristic concept but we’re already designing out waste and recycling the fibres we use by up to 25 times,” says Wim Wouters, Innovation Director at DS Smith. “A circular economy where materials stay in use for longer is much closer than we think.
“I think we will eventually see intelligent packaging that actually self-adjusts its size to fit its contents, making the absolute most of materials and space.
“Taking inspiration from the unique dress that captured the world’s attention during Paris Fashion Week, we will surely see a time when spray-on packaging becomes real.
“Right now, the reality is that boxes can already be high performance kits. It’s possible to make them water and humidity proof, anti-microbial, and to track them throughout their journey with printable nano technology.
“Self-healing boxes are not here yet, but we have to look into the future for the next set of innovations that will help us use materials as sustainably as possible.”
DS Smith has drafted a list of self-healing box features:
- A webbed nerve system that borrows from the composition of leaves: sensors are printed onto the skin of the box and connect all fibres in the packaging, so that it can ascertain damage, and communicate externally.
- Regenerative scar tissue: healing itself just like the human body, the surface stretches and thickens to cover the injury, and transmits data to the delivery company and the recipient to tell them it is pausing to heal itself en route.
- Reuse capability: after it has been opened, the packaging heals the opening of the pack, so that it can be continually reused, extending its life.
“We will only achieve this with fresh thinking and new ideas,” Wim concludes. “We’re already looking at partnerships to accelerate the journey to a circular economy so would love to hear from experts who can come with us.”