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Molded Fiber: Sustainable Packaging Solutions from HP

Molded Fiber: Sustainable Packaging Solutions from HP

Dwight Pavlovic
Reading time: 7 minutes
Molded fiber packaging, also referred to as molded pulp packaging, is a growing presence across the consumer goods industry. Produced using recyclable materials like cardboard and newsprint, molded fiber is easier for manufacturers and shippers to produce sustainably.
It’s also much easier for consumers to recycle than other forms of packaging, so it significantly reduces the impact of waste because used product packaging is so often tossed in the trash.
To help support the expanding ecosystem for molded fiber products, HP is introducing a comprehensive new solution for manufacturers and sellers. The HP Molded Fiber Advanced Tooling Solution fully leverages existing technology to offer faster, higher quality, and lower maintenance production tooling, to name just a few of the biggest benefits.
In this article, we’ll explore how this new tooling system improves turnaround and reduces costs by providing an efficient new production and prototyping option. Let’s start by looking at the importance of molded pulp packaging for building a sustainable global supply chain, then we’ll explore some of the problems associated with traditional molded pulp packaging production, and how HP has addressed them.

Reducing single-use plastics in packaging

As the world of portable and smart electronics continues to grow, more efficient product development and distribution is crucial, especially since not all products have the same shape or shelf life. From compact devices like smartphones on up to larger products with multiple components, certain products simply require elaborate packaging for safe shipping and storage.
How does molded fiber packaging help? By dramatically reducing one of the major sources of single-use plastics: shipping materials and product packaging. Products like a new smartphone or electric razor are often sold nestled into plastic trays that hold them in place within the packaging.
Instead, using paper packaging allows you to work with materials that are both recyclable and made from recycled materials. Even if it isn’t recycled, molded fiber is better for the planet because it degrades much more quickly and safely than plastics. You can even compost it, too.
Molded fiber makes it easier to adapt and grow your business while minimizing your business’s environmental impact. But it’s only recently that molded fiber has approached the same level of detail and customizability as plastic.
With HP’s new tooling system, molded fiber packaging is easier than ever for manufacturers to use to produce materials with fine details and unique elements. That makes it simpler for client companies to create unique jobs and small-run projects without adding extra hurdles or cost burdens.

Downsides of traditional tooling for production molds

In order to rein in costs and lead times molded fiber products, HP has targeted some of the key problems with existing methods for designing and creating production molds. All of these issues have made short-run molded fiber projects more difficult in the past.
  1. The material costs of traditional production molds are substantially higher than HP’s advanced tooling system, which can lead to metal waste due to replacement from use.
  2. The materials involved are heavy and tricky to replace, maintenance difficult for staff.
  3. You have less time for prototyping and testing alongside new products, especially when time may already be short because of unexpected market conditions.
  4. There are also quality constraints, which leave fewer options for you to customize or experiment with packaging designs.
HP has stepped in and expanded the molded fiber industry, which means increasing access to better molded fiber products, especially when streamlining older systems.

How advanced HP tooling gets it right

It’s not just business owners who want more environmentally-friendly packaging. Consumers want it, too. As a result, the production of molded fiber is constantly evolving to keep up with growth and new applications. And while it’s highly sustainable, there are still weak points in the production of molded fiber packaging.
That’s why HP prioritized improving the production process for molded fiber, making it easier for you to iterate and build larger operations. The end goal is simple: make life easier for manufacturers working with molded pulp fiber, and boost quality for their B2B customers. This will also benefit the end customer, who buys the product off the shelf, knowing the packaging materials will degrade eons faster than plastic packaging.
Based on extensive experience with advanced 3D printing technology, HP’s new tooling system is designed to address all of the main issues that traditional molded pulp suppliers run into.

1. Made from plant-based polyamide

Traditional production mold tooling involves heavy materials like bronze and steel that are much less sustainable overall. They’re difficult to source and they require frequent replacement.
By contrast, HP’s advanced tooling solution is made of a sustainable, low-impact polyamide sourced from plant-based materials – just like the recycled paper products used for molded fiber pulp.
Some polyamides are derived from plastic, but the HP 3D High Reusability PA 11 material used to produce molds is sourced from conscientiously grown, non-GMO castor plants. That helps create a truly green system from end to end.

2. Easy to install or replace

Switching over to a sustainable polyamide material for production molds has other advantages, like reduced weight. HP’s production molds are significantly lighter than traditional tools, weighing in at a fraction of the weight of a bronze or steel component. Since each piece is lighter, they’re easier to load and replace during production.
The HP Advanced Transfer Tool is the first stage of the system, designed to avoid the sectioning and drilling required during installation with older systems. The second stage is where the molded fiber product emerges, while the HP Hot Swap SmartScreen rests against an HP Advanced Mold Body. Together they form an almost seamless system to make setup fast and easy.

3. Improved detail and clarity

Thanks to HP technology, you can also expect high resolution and clarity from your final production molds. Details like product or brand information, serial numbers, logos, and support contacts are all easily rendered and transferred via the HP Hot Swap SmartScreen. Set between the transfer tool and mold body, the SmartScreen imprints packaging against the transfer tool.
This process also creates other opportunities to improve efficiency and reduce environmental impact. By conveying the information clearly and accurately on a single piece of packaging material, you can potentially remove other printed materials and redundant inserts. Read the “How to get started” section below for more information about ordering and design submission, or contact us with questions.

4. More efficient than traditional tooling

The metal components involved with traditional tooling are more sensitive than HP’s polyamide molds, so they’re more susceptible to wear and tear. The metal components are exposed to water during the molding process, which means they’re subject to corrosion and calcification. A system that relies on metal molds will inevitably require extensive maintenance over the life of each component.
The HP Molded Fiber Advanced Tooling Solution cuts all that out, streamlining the production molding process at every level.
The HP Hot Swap SmartScreen is especially helpful, because it reduces labor by integrating a variety of features like wash-walls and hold-downs. If you encounter an issue with a particular stage of the system, you don’t need to shut down your entire production line. Simply swap out whichever component may be at fault.

5. Improved production from HP digital design

Input from the HP engineering team is another key advantage to our service, allowing you to optimize your design for considerations like water flow and forming. Addressing this in the development stage helps reduce the average cycle time for production, cutting out stoppages and interruptions necessary with last-generation technology.
The HP Hot Swap SmartScreen contributes to efficiency here, too. Constructed without any seams, the SmartScreen avoids many of the build-up issues associated with traditional tooling. Without substantial accumulation, you’ll reduce cleaning times.

6. Dramatically reduced turnaround

Combine the above features and you get a major reduction in turnaround time. The expected wait time from design submission to finished product is as little as 2 weeks. That means you can move quickly on new designs or even make substantial planning changes without negatively impacting your schedule.
Two weeks is less than half the time it takes to create new molds with traditional tooling, giving you a significant lead-time advantage with HP. This makes it easier for you to pivot with unfolding situations, and helps further reduce the need to use more wasteful alternatives to molded fiber.

How to get started

Submitting and reviewing designs is simple. You can request a quote now, and to help you prepare, here’s a quick guide to how things work:
  1. Click the link above or click the “Get a quote” button at the HP Molded Fiber Tooling portal.
  2. Upload your design and units of measurement.
  3. The upload page will indicate what file types are currently supported, but as of now you can use .stl, .obj, .wrl, .step (.stp), .iges (.igs), .3mf, .dxf and .zip (with models and textures) files up to 300MB.
  4. HP engineers review your design and send a quote.
  5. Approve a final design and pricing.
  6. HP begins production.
  7. Complete payment once your tool is ready to ship.

What molded fiber packaging means for you

As more and more of the consumer goods industry prioritizes sustainability, molded fiber answers the call as a revolutionary technology with an outsized impact. The HP Molded Fiber Advanced Tooling Solution stands to make it even more effective, reducing impact and costs in every category. Want to know more about how it works? Get in touch with us today.
About the Author: Dwight Pavlovic is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Dwight is a music and technology writer based out of West Virginia.

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