A nitrogen-filled stainless steel ‘dome’ for one of our High-Tech customers

A secure packaging solution for this High-Tech customer

In this customer case you will read about a special project we worked on for one of our customers - a semi-conductor manufacturer in the High-Tech industry. This case demonstrates perfectly how packaging demand and solution always come together at Faes, no matter how complex an issue is.

What was used?

The packaging question

We regularly receive challenging packaging questions from this OEM, but this one had a bit more to it than it initially seemed. 

The question was: can you design packaging that properly protects a copper machine part? Sounds simple, but by protect they meant: create a completely contamination-free environment inside the packaging. Copper oxidizes when it comes in contact with atmospheric air (oxygen and moisture), so a completely sealed cocoon had to be created, and the packaging had to be suitable for airfreight. 

Our packaging solution

With a four-people team, we developed two packaging variants, both consisting of an interface – a pallet of stainless steel – topped by a “dome” filled with nitrogen at 1.5 bar. There is some overpressure so that – should an unexpected leak occur – the gas goes out so that the interior space is not contaminated by atmospheric air. This is the basic principle of this packaging solution; complex, but not a new technology. The biggest challenge was in something else…

We really had to be creative, combine our knowledge and try out different design directions. A valuable experience to draw from in the future as well.

Corné van de Voort | Key Accountmanager at Faes

The parameters - the starting point

Logically, we always start from the specifications the customer provides us with, but we know from experience that we always have to keep asking questions. Because although some customers have already thought about many aspects, their expertise is simply not in designing packaging. That’s what we’re here for!

That was also true in this case. There were some requirements on the table, but we supplemented these ourselves by delving into our client’s logistics handling process and into different materials and techniques.

The challenges we had to consider

Packaging challenge 1: safety

Of course we had to deal with safety requirements, especially since the packaging filled with nitrogen will be transported on an airplane. The air pressure difference increases the pressure inside the packaging even more. We therefore made calculations – with a considerable safety margin – to calculate how strong the material of the dome had to be.

We also carried out both digital tests and physical tests. For example, a helium test; we filled the dome with helium and used a so-called ‘helium sniffer’ to measure whether there were any hairline cracks in the dome material. After all, helium molecules are the very smallest, so if the dome is not leaking helium, then nitrogen will certainly not find its way out.

Something else we investigated is how the flow of nitrogen is. When is the dome filled with gas and when is it drained? And how is that done safely? For example, the machine part is packed in the cleanroom, where there is good control and supply of fresh air.

Packaging challenge 2: weight

You can’t keep adding volume to a package endlessly to make it stronger, it has to be able to be handled by the customer and the rest of the supply chain.

In this case, we knew exactly where we stood, because this customer always works according to an ergonomic manual that we had to take into account. Among other things, this stipulates the maximum weight that employees are allowed to lift. So the packaging (including the part) was not allowed to become too heavy. This immediately produced a contradiction, because the wall of the dome had to be thick enough to resist the internal pressure of the nitrogen.

Our solution? We simulated the thickness, using a kind of double lid with compartments created by inserting ribs between the two layers. This does make the dome resistant to the pressure, but much less heavy!

Packaging challenge 3: handling

After further questioning, we found out that the packaging would be handled manually in the customer’s logistics process. Therefore, it was important to make the packaging manageable, so we fitted it with handles and a notch was made on the tool, allowing the dome to be guided, attached and screwed on almost blindly.

We also considered  how to make handling easier and more efficient for the customer within the design. For example, we used fewer bolts, which saves time in their process.

Corné van de Voort about this project

“In the first phase we did not expect this project to be so complex, but at the same time that makes it interesting and our experience even richer. None of us had this knowledge on the shelf, so we really had to be creative, combine our knowledge and try out different design directions. The great thing is that we can draw on this experience for the next complex project. So that’s valuable for us as well as for our customers.”

Meanwhile, the packaging has been developed and is ready for the first “fit test”; the first full, physical test of the prototype.

Do you also have such a complex issue where you could use the help of a packaging expert? Let us know! Ask your question in the form below and we’ll get back to you soon!

Ask us your questions

    Keep up to date with our developments

    Subscribe to our newsletter for updates or check out our social media channels.

      How can we help you?

      Whatever your packaging challenge is, The Packaging People of Faes are here to help. Do you have a question or comment about packaging, our services or packaging management? Fill out the contact form and one of our packaging experts will get back to you quickly!

        Mandy van Alebeek
        Relations manager