How Do I Open This “Gosh Darned” Plastic Package!

As a follow-up to my previous post “Some of the Best Inventions Are Those Developed on the Job!”, another thought (actually a series of thoughts only one of which is suitable and appropriate for posting here) came to mind.

About one year ago, at the urging of my Internet consultant, Shahar Boyanan of BuzzBoosters.com, I purchased a Flip Video Camera to make video recordings for the Internet. Well, yesterday I finally decided to unpackage and use the camera.

The camera was packaged in a two-halves, a clam shell type formed plastic container, which is common for electronic devices. The halves are nicely molded with a smooth S-curve and cardboard inserts which conform to and are visible through the clear halves. The halves are heat sealed together at a peripheral seam and a hanging hole is formed at a top end of the packaging.

Well, the packaging looks nice and probably is inexpensive to manufacture. The halves are vacuum formed automatically, the cardboard inserts are machine-inserted into the open packaging, the camera and component parts (prepackaged in a smaller, non-heat sealed hinged packaging) are machine-placed into the halves, and the peripheral seam is formed.

However, as you probably already know, this type of packaging is extremely difficult to open. Scissors are my “weapon of choice” when battling this type of packaging (knives can slip and cut vital body parts). The main problem in opening the packaging is that no room is allowed between the peripheral seam and the remainder of the packaging in which to insert the scissors. Additionally, the peripheral seam forms a channel which further complicates things. I had to cut from both ends of each side towards the middle of the side until the handle of the scissors hit the packaging and then rip the remaining part off. The plastic is somewhat stiff too which hinders the cutting process.

So what is my point… to “bitch” about how hard my life is? No, but rather to point out an opportunity for you independent inventors to improve the existing packaging. This is an example of an “everyday problem” encountered by millions of people. Can you imagine how many man-hours (or woman-hours) are wasted each year using this packaging? It is the type of problem (actually an opportunity for inventors to improve something with a proven large market potential – millions of packages on store shelves) you do not need to be an engineer or have a PhD. to solve the problem.

What improvements would be desirable? Well, the packaging needs to be secure in the stores so nobody can open it and steal the relatively small (easily pocketable) camera yet relatively easy to open after purchasing the product and taking it home. That is the improvement needed. You can think of your needs as a consumer and imagine the needs of the wholesalers/retailers.

However, some current (less obvious) features of the packaging need to be retained. This is where an Internet search can “fill in” some of the details that an engineer like myself is trained to do. The packaging must be made of low cost materials (e.g. clear sheet plastic) that allows manufacture (vacuum forming) on automated package molding equipment. The packaging must be usable with current packaging equipment (with minimal modifications) to automatically package and seal the camera and related parts therein. The packaging must look good to consumers and be both hangable from display hooks and be able to stand up on store shelves. The packaging must also be at least semi-rigid to allow stacking in boxes for shipping and to protect the camera. All of this could be found on the Internet doing some research on packaging of electronics for retail display and sale.

This is a prime opportunity: 1) there appears to be a real need for improved packaging for retail electronic products as is very easily demonstrated (a proven market for the product); 2) you do not need to be an engineer or a PhD. to work on this problem since it is not a complicated product; 3) the necessary background information is easily found doing a little research on the Internet; 4) prototypes can be made inexpensively using wooden molds and a vacuum forming machine; and 5) selling your improved packaging to manufacturers is likely a relatively easy sell if you show the benefits to them (they want to help consumers if it is of little or no additional cost to them).

Well, that is a wrap for today! By the way, the Flip Video Camera really works great! It is compact, easy to use, self-contained, and is reasonably priced (depends on which model you get). It records for one hour on solid-state memory and downloads videos directly through the USB port on your computer. I used it today to record my parrots Alex and Sebastian. They really “hmmed it up” for the camera and I am going to upload the video to my Facebook page. You can check out the various camera models at Amazon.com:

Best regards,

Brian R. Rayve

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