Leading Packaging Supplier Omni-Pac Uses HP to 3D Print Molded Fiber Tooling

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Hewlett-Packard (HP) recently announced that Omni-Pac Group, a leading European supplier of molded fiber packaging, is purchasing 3D printed fiber packaging tools from HP. Molded fiber is also known as “molded pulp,” usually made from recycled newspapers and paperboard, the material has been around for more than a century, but has gained constantly increasing popularity in the last decade or so as a replacement for single-use plastics.

Since designing the tooling for molded fiber products typically requires varying degrees of customization for specific wholesale buyers, additive manufacturing (AM) has long been used to prototype those tools for the molded fiber industry. Then, in 2020, HP launched the Molded Fiber Tooling Solution, which at the time, the International Molded Fiber Association (IMFA) called the “first new functional tooling advancement in the molded fiber industry in decades.”

Among other advantages including quicker customization and more design-freedom, the ability to 3D print functional tooling molds rather than just prototypes allows a company such as Omni-Pac to significantly reduce carbon emissions in its production operations. Considering that reducing carbon emissions is already the catalyst driving customers to molded fiber in the first place, its early adoption of AM for scaled output could clearly give Omni-Pac a long-term edge over competitors.

In a press release about Omni-Pac’s partnership with HP, the CEO of Omni-Pac Group, Pablo Libreros, said, “Our collaboration with HP allows us to revolutionize the production of molded fiber at an industrial scale, transforming the development, launch, and production of molded fiber applications. This not only reduces environmental impact but also pioneers sustainable packaging solutions. Enabling us to achieve over 500 tons per machine per year through digitalization, the level of CO2 savings will continue to improve as our collaboration with HP progresses.”

The Global Head of Fiber-Based Sustainable Packaging at HP, Mariona Company, added, “HP’s Molded Fiber Tooling Solution technology is empowering companies like Omni-Pac to deliver efficiencies, enable new products, and reduce CO2 emissions. By working together, Omni-Pac and HP are at the forefront of driving innovation and sustainability in the molded fiber industry.”

Aside from helping to augment the sustainability of an industry that will be so integral to the continued cultivation of circular economies, HP’s focus on molded fiber applications is also helping the company lay the groundwork for reaching its own long-term sustainability targets. In HP’s 2022 Sustainable Impact Report, released in June, the company notes that since 2018, it has reduced its use of single-use plastics by an impressive 55 percent, well on its way to reaching its goal of a 75 percent reduction from 2018 levels by 2025.

In 2018, HP also set a goal of reaching 75 percent circularity for its products and packaging by 2030, and the report informs us that the company has already reached 40 percent circularity. It is not clear how large of a role the Molded Fiber Tooling Solution, specifically, has played in HP’s progress on both fronts, but the significance of packaging to all forms of commerce means that the Omni-Pac partnership could, as the press release suggests, “be essential to driving recyclability and circularity across industries”.

Moreover, as achieving emissions-reduction in shipping and transport of goods is the aspect of decarbonization that has strategic priority over all the others — no other reductions will matter if this isn’t solved first — aggressive action in this sphere could amount to a transformative jumpstart for all other such efforts, especially by small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Beyond the numbers, simply seeing that decarbonization can be both feasible and effective is the sort of experience that can give certainty to businesses that are willing and eager to work towards net-zero, but unsure about how to begin.

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