DS Smith presents blueprint for 'self-healing' packaging

Packaging company DS Smith has announced the blueprint for ‘intelligent packaging made from self-healing skin’ – showing how packaging has the potential to be made from organic, programmable fibres with the ability to self-heal when damaged.

DS Smith self-healing boxCharacteristics of the self-healing box include a webbed nervous system that DS Smith describes as borrowing ‘from the composition of leaves’. Sensors printed onto the ‘skin’ of the box could connect all fibres in the packaging, so that it can ascertain damage and communicate externally.

A further characteristic is regenerative ‘scar tissue’, which is expected to allow the box to heal itself like the human body. Innovation experts explained that the surface may stretch and thicken to cover the injury, whilst transmitting data to the delivery company and the recipient to tell them it is pausing to heal itself en route.

Reuse capability is also attributed to the box – meaning that after it has been opened the packaging has the potential to heal the opening of the pack, so it can be continually reused and its life is extended.

The announcement from DS Smith comes in conjunction with the 150th year of the cardboard box and the company’s retrospective of corrugated cardboard. The new digital archive celebrates past and present achievements.

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

Wim Wouters, Innovation Director, DS Smith, commented: “There is already a trend for the technologies we use every day to look after themselves – self-driving cars are the obvious example.

“Packaging that heals itself so it can be perpetually reused is of course a futuristic concept, but today we’re already using circular principles to design out waste and recycling the fibres we use by up to 25 times, so a circular economy where materials stay in use for much longer, might be 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. And, 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 kit. 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. We will only achieve this with fresh thinking and new ideas.

“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.”