The simulation capabilities of MP enable packaging suppliers to significantly increase the efficiency of a design process and allows for a more expansive and innovative exploration of solutions to meet customer requirements. In fact, a test using MP will take approximately one tenth of the time it would take to run a physical test in a laboratory.

MP works by creating a 3D CAD model of the temperature-controlled packaging that is to be tested, which includes the various insulating materials, the temperature stabilising components and the product in the shipper, with temperature variables being associated with each part.

Traditionally, when developing and testing a new temperature-controlled packaging system for a client, packaging suppliers would undertake a number of iterative Design Qualification Tests, taking into account the transit duration time and variable temperatures it would expect to see during transport, in order to configure a shipping solution in the laboratory: a process, which undertaken in real-time, could take months.

For example, in real-time, if a laboratory test takes five days to perform, packaging suppliers will initially have to wait five days before they know whether or not their first configuration of a system will work. By using MP, a virtual Design Qualification Test is performed and although the results are not relied on to be one hundred per cent accurate, they give an extremely strong indication as to whether a packaging configuration will be good enough to move it to the laboratory for the physical Design Qualification Test. So, in essence, rather than undertaking a three-month development phase in the laboratory, three weeks can be taken. Therefore, facilitating an initial condensing of the development period, which enables suppliers to fulfil a customer’s requirements sooner.

MP enables temperature-controlled packaging suppliers to see how energy (heat) is transferring through a shipping system and the whole shipping system can be analysed, including the insulation, coolant components and product load area. Hot and cold spots can be identified and the flow of energy (heat) in and out of the shipper from external surfaces can be seen, identifying exactly how the external ambient environment is affecting it. Furthermore, it can also give a complete picture of the solid/liquid phase of the coolant components in the shipping system, rather than (in a physical test) just seeing that the components have melted when a box has been opened after the test is finished. The software also simulates the phase change of the coolant components, showing the detail of a frozen (solid) component melting during the simulation into its liquid phase. This makes it possible to view the transition accurately to pinpoint the end of the phase change period, which is critical when designing cost effective shipping systems.

MP also provides a better understanding of how to design the shipping system with exactly the right amount of energy absorbing phase change material to ensure internal payload temperatures are maintained within the correct range for the desired transit duration. This means that the old design method ‘safety buffer’ can be removed, whilst still being confident that the shipping system is fit for purpose.

In fact, the more complex the shipping system, the more efficiencies can be gained using MP: information can be obtained quicker, the development time is shortened and the products can be launched to market in a shorter time frame.

As well as shortening the development time, the software can also simulate different styles of product that a customer might be shipping inside one temperature-controlled packaging system. For example, a specific temperature-controlled solution has been developed in the laboratory and signed off with one product type, such as freeze dried powder. But how will the same shipper handle the transportation of another product, such as a liquid product inside a vial? How would changing the product affect the performance of the shipper, and how well would that configuration protect different styles of product being transported? The answers to these questions can be simulated by using the characteristics of each product type, tested against the previously qualified solution in the laboratory. Thereby demonstrating a comparability of result without the need to re-run those real time laboratory tests.

Ultimately, the availability of MP to this sector now enables temperature-controlled packaging suppliers to provide their data quicker, more accurately and with additional insights.

About the author

Richard has worked in various design and manufacturing engineering functions during his career. He currently holds the position of Design Manager at DS Smith Plastics Cool Logistics, where he has worked since 2005. During this time, Richard has been involved in literally hundreds of bespoke, customer-defined projects.

Richard has also helped to ensure that manufacturing practices are standardised across the Cool Logistics partners network. Richard’s current role within DS Smith Plastics Cool Logistics is focused on standardising development, qualification and manufacturing practices to help support the company’s global customer base. Contact:

Controlled-temperature packaging

Forming part of the SCA packaging group, Cool Logistics is focused on delivering control temperature packaging solutions to meet all customer demands. The company is based in the UK and manufactures products across Europe, enabling the offer of a swift supply response to all customers.

Cool Logistics works predominantly on solutions for the pharmaceutical industry, handling the needs of small start-up biotech companies up to large multinational corporations. This means that a flexible approach to design and supply is required, coupled with a strong understanding of the differing levels of regulatory restriction and supply chain complexity.

At the heart of the business is design focus and, by working with the US-based control temperature packaging partners Thermosafe, Cool Logistics has access to over 43 environmental chambers from which control temperature packaging can be developed and qualified to meet customers’ needs.

The growing requirement for secure control temperature packaging has led to an ambitious growth strategy at Cool Logistics. It has increased its manufacturing capabilities with the addition of facilities in Scotland, Singapore and the Czech Republic. These three sites alone will enable Cool Logistics to begin manufacturing many of the supporting Thermosafe brand products, which until now would have required importation from the US.

Through this expansion, Cool Logistics will be able to strengthen its offering of a more localised supply to a significant number of the top 20 pharma companies. 2007 will also bring the prospect of further manufacturing, storage and distribution opportunities within the Republic of Ireland and the Netherlands.