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Packaging unwraPPed

Today's component packaging sets out to provide better device protection, simpler identification and easier quantity counting, in an environmentally sound format. Farnell's Paul Horton explains how

Packaging in the electronics industry has to addressmany of the same challenges as other industries, including environmental factors, but the sensitive nature of these productsmeans expert attention and innovative solutions are required.

There are two kinds of packaging to consider. First there is outer

packaging such as boxes and void fillmaterials. Component distributors are significant users of suchmaterials andmovers of large quantities of product. Companies such as Farnell are taking action tomaximise the use of recyclable and biodegradable materials fromsustainable sources and to employ the latest packaging technologies.

The second level is component packaging. Electronic components

have some unique requirementswhen it comes to handling, packaging and shipping.Many are susceptible to static damage, are small in size and delicate. Furthermore, they are often shipped in large volumes and can be fed straight into the customer’s automated assembly process.Modern packaging aims to combine enhanced device protectionwith simpler identification and easier quantity counting, in an efficient and environmentally sound solution.

Box clever

One of the prime considerations for outer packaging and void fill materials is the environment. It relates to the origins of the materials themselves and the energy and resources needed to convert theminto useable packaging.

Most businesses canmigrate to

boxes and containersmanufactured fromrecycled and recyclablematerials

28 | December 2010

Taped and reeled components are supplied ready for pick-and-place automated assembly processes

without compromising function or protection. This change alone can have a huge positive effect on the environmental impact of company’s that transport significant quantities of product.

Paul Horton, F arnell Although there aremany void fillmaterials available,many do not

represent environmentally responsible choices. Polystyrene chips and air-filled plastic bags, for example, are proficient at protecting goods, but they are neither biodegradable, nor recyclable.

A number of alternatives are now available that utilise recyclable

paper fromsustainable sources. Farnell has adopted a systemthat converts recyclable paper into a space-filling ‘star configuration.’ As a further benefit, the high-speedmachines that do this use less energy than those required to blow air into the plastic void-fill previously used.

inside info

The nature of many electronic components places stringent requirements on their packaging in storage and transit.Many are susceptible to damage by static electricity and have carefully formed leads that if bent, can prevent proper insertion into the printed circuit board (PCB). This may cause not only the scrapping of the component in question, but also a

costly stoppage in the automated assembly process and a need for rework.

Moisture ingress is another potential hazard for

sensitive electronic components. This can result in damage that is not easily detected until after the

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