Sector News

“Self-healing” cardboard: DS Smith reveals futuristic blueprint for human skin-like packaging

November 13, 2022
Energy & Chemical Value Chain

DS Smith’s innovation experts have revealed a futuristic blueprint for how cardboard boxes might evolve in the next 50 years. The blueprint shows how packaging could be made from organic, programmable fibers with the ability to self-heal – like human skin – when damaged.

The characteristics of the self-healing box include the following:

A webbed nerve system that borrows from the composition of leaves: sensors are printed onto the “skin” of the box and connect all fibers in the packaging so that it can discover 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.
“A box like this could be realized in 30-50 years’ time, but our current purpose is to redefine packaging for a changing world. To achieve this, we’re investing significantly in research and development projects,” Russell Turner, product development director at DS Smith, tells PackagingInsights.

“We have already invested £100 million (US$2.3 million) into R&D and innovation to accelerate our work in the circular economy, and we are continually looking for new innovations like this that help us reach our goal.”

“The self-healing box is an idea of what packaging could look like in the future based on trends and technologies that we are seeing today. We are always looking for people to partner with to explore new ideas and fresh thinking, bringing these new innovations to life. We’d love to hear from experts who can join us in accelerating the journey toward a circular economy,” continues Turner.

Wim Wouters, innovation director, DS Smith, adds that right now, the reality is that boxes can already be high-performance kits. It’s possible to make them anti-microbial, water and humidity proof while tracking them throughout their journey with printable nanotechnology.

Spray-on packaging
In addition to the self-healing box blueprint, innovators at DS Smith also expect to see developments in the fields of self-adjusting parcels and spray-on packaging.

“We’re currently looking at the trends which we anticipate will impact packaging in the long run. Spray-on packaging draws on the trends for ensuring there is a perfect fit and the removal of excess material, not unlike the unique dress that captured the world’s attention during Paris Fashion Week.”

“In the future, this type of packaging could be made from a bio-based polymer, however as with all packaging, its ability to contribute to the circular economy is imperative, which is why all 700 of our designers are trained in our Circular Design Metrics methodology to ensure that sustainability is at the heart of everything we create.”

In other news, DS Smith and Krones have partnered on a fiber-based alternative to shrink-wrap for PET multipack bottles. The Eco carrier was demonstrated during the Drinktec 2022 trade show in Germany on Krones’ Variopac Pro machine, which can integrate seamlessly into customer production lines for “minimum disruption and maximum efficiency.”

By Natalie Schwertheim


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