Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Breakdown of the Rapid Packing Container

by Rob Kaszubowski, CPP

Two Cooper Union engineering students, Henry Wang and Chris Curro, have made a virtual splash in the packaging world talking about their Rapid Packing Container. (Click here to see the YouTube video that has gotten three million views in just two weeks.) They claim the new box design will “revolutionize the cardboard packing industry” as it is more environmentally-friendly, quicker to pack, and easier to open, store and recycle.

While the Rapid Packing Container certainly has some exciting features (and it is clear that Henry and Chris have bright futures ahead of them), this packaging engineer is not sold.

Here’s a few of my thoughts on the new design, and why it may fall short of revolutionary:
  • Traditional corrugated boxes are extremely efficient. The student engineers claim that traditional “cardboard” boxes are wasteful, hard to open, and difficult to pack. (Read why the term “cardboard” makes me cringe here.) While the last two statements in their claim are fairly subjective and, if true, indicative a much bigger process problem, I disagree with the first assertion.

    From a material usage standpoint, there is hardly any waste in a Regular Slotted Container (RSC). To manufacture a RSC that is 12 inches by 8 inches by 6 inches, it requires 600 square inches of corrugated material. The final product contains 577 square inches of material, which means only 3.7% of the material is unused or wasted. In contrast, a Rapid Packing Container of the same size requires 1,133 square inches of corrugated material, and creates 47.9% waste.

Figure 1: Two-dimensional views of each layout make it
easy to see how much waste is produced.

  • Scalability is a must for real world applications. The jig is a nice feature to speed up the set-up process. But, can you imagine how this would work in a facility that ships hundreds of SKUs in all different shapes and sizes? Each packing station or line would need at least a dozen jigs to accommodate every possible box size. This diminishes the practicality of the Rapid Packing Container for large operations.

  • Distribution and Operations trumps design. The tapeless, easy-open features of the Rapid Packing Container are appealing, but if the box really is that easy to open, it may introduce a number of distribution challenges. How will the box perform when it travels through multiple conveyor systems or when it is manually handled, tossed, dropped, and stacked? It reminds me that ASTM D-1974 (Standard Practice for Methods of Closing, Sealing, and Reinforcing Fiberboard Boxes) exists for a reason. It is imperative that shipping cases remain closed during distribution and transport.  A cost effective packaging solution must also be able to run on high speed erecting and filling equipment, like an RSC!

That being said, the Rapid Packing Container may be a good fit for a small or niche business, such as a bakery or boutique. And, I am impressed by the efforts of Henry and Chris, and look forward to seeing more from the next generation of engineers.

What do you think of the Rapid Packing Container?  Leave a comment below to keep the conversation going.


  1. you are spot on with your analysis. I was thinking the same thing when I saw the footprint of the design. They might be able to increase the yield if they can stagger the diecuts but that also generates some issues with fit and size limitations of the parent sheet of cardboard. The actual savings is not as high as they claim. the quick assembly is also quite appealing on the design.

    1. Thanks for the response! I think they are on the right track, but there's definitely room for improvement. The Rapid Packing Container also fails to take into account flute direction for stacking strength. The RSC design has all 4 panels with vertical flutes for optimal strength. But the die-cut would only have 2 panels vertical - no matter which way you rotate it. In turn, the Rapid Packing Container may actually require a heavier board grade to provide the same strength as the regular slotted container.

  2. I understand your three points and agree with the second two, but the first point seems to go out of it's way to make the new design wasteful. If you use larger sheets of cardboard and stagger them you'll have FAR less waste. I do think the % will still be around 10% but not 47.9%.

    Also, their point was more along the lines that you would use less overall cardboard to make the same box as you wouldn't have the bottom of the box double layered. Only the top would have two layers of cardboard.

    I'm still not so sure this is a good design decision as I would be concerned with the integrity and strength of the box.

    Just a minor nitpick and I still agree with most of what you said.

    1. Mark - I agree that the die-cut design would likely be a 4-out (or more) on a dieboard. However, since it's shaped like a plus sign (+) no matter how you step it our or nest it, there will still be a significant amount of waste - particularly in the corners of the die board.

  3. As a small manufacturer (, I can relate to the Cooper Union student's fascination with crafting a superior box that utilizes less was amazing to witness! That said, I concur with what you delineate as to its faults, Rob.

    I do feel the same as Rob, above, regarding a more efficient use of source material to drop down the percentage of waste generated by creating the RPC, or even using two dies turned opposite.

    That said, I feel the RPC, though intrinsically efficient, would face similar size and weight limitations as an OPF due to the nature of its structure. Perhaps 8" tall and 10-15lbs maximum, regardless of ECT gauge. Secondarily, it would face the rigors of shipping at a disadvantage because of its design--I could foresee accidental--or surreptitious!--opening of its "push-down opening design" during transit. Tertiarily, the claim of reuse, though on its face a great concept, isn't entirely realistic...soooooo may boxes only make it through one shipment and really aren't commercially viable for a second outing.

    Nonetheless, it's ingenious, and I laud the engineering gents who've designed it...a long career in corrugation awaits!

  4. This is a great post! Very informative and well-written.

  5. Congrats to both the engineers. The rapid packing container is easy to open and easy packing.


In order to maintain the integrity of the blog and its content, all comments are moderated. We work to review and approve comments as quickly as possible, but please do not resubmit your comment if it does not appear right away.