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Photos: new thermoformed algae plastic, it's leopard print!


Hey guys!

Happy Spring time!

Some time ago, Dordan began investigating different bio-based/biodegradable/compostable and otherwise "green plastics" for its customers; as custom thermoformers, we like to be ahead of the curve when it comes to innovations in material science and plastics processing. These efforts cumulated with the release of our Bio Resin Show N Tell, an overview of the various non traditional resins' performance and sustainability credentials. Also included is a cost comparative of these eco plastics vs. traditional resins (PVC, PET, HIPS, etc.).

One material recently added to the Show N Tell is ALGIX's "algae plastic;" I have blogged on this company before and how it converts aquatic biomass into plastic building blocks. The technology has been showcased in many industry articles. 

The first generation of ALGIX's algae plastic Dordan sampled smelled of the sea and was green; it literally looks like exactly what your mind would picture when you think of algae plastic. See:

Algae plastic

The second generation of algae plastic we sampled was colored and demonstrated the company's first attempt at odor removal; unfortunately, it did not thermoform as well as the first gen, and the smell was positively awful.

Algae plastic

We just got to sample ALGIX's latest and greatest algae plastic. It is a 12% algae/HIPS multilayer film. Here is what the material in sheet form looks like:

algae plastic

Here are some samples I made on our sample press; these are protos and obviously not Dordan production quality.

algae plastic traysDordan Algae plastic thermoformedPictured: new algae plastic thermoformed tray (left) vs. old algae plastic (right)

Overall it was exciting to form: the way the material rose and fell with the heat was unique and unlike anything I've seen. Once heated and formed, the once blue/black leopard print transforms into a more muted, less shinny version thereof. The material was extremely brittle, allowing me to essentially fold and tear it along the form lines.

And here if a photo of thermoformed algae plastic cars from another thermoformer, the colors are nuts! My friend at ALGIX explained that the translucent effect has to do with the algae pigment coming through on the skin layer; the goal is to extrude any color over ALGIX's material, even white.

Algae plastic cars

Plastics Technology Magazine, Thermoformer uses high-end CAD tools


Hi guys!

In December Plastics Technology Magazine included a story on Dordan's 'Design for Thermoforming Process' in its blog. This April, the story will be included in the print magazine, distributed to thousands of subscribers; so cool.

I have copied the story below for your enjoyment though I encourage you to read the original.

CAD package design tools


Plastics Technology has featured Dordan Manufacturing Co., Woodstock, Ill., in the May 2011 and March 2013 issues, highlighting its efforts to include PET clamshells in the recycling stream. But as successful as this family-owned, 50-year-old custom thermoformer has been at improving the environmental footprint of its operation, it has been equally adept at using high-end tools to support its core business—clamshell package design for a wide range of industries.

Some of these tools are more commonly found at an automotive OEM than a custom thermoformer, but Dordan has successfully put them to use for disposable packaging. States Chandler Slavin, marketing manager and sustainability coordinator, “If you subscribe to the ideology that packaging has the ability to help or hinder product sales, it is paramount to see what the package will look like on the shelf. Often, an engineering drawing doesn’t communicate shelf impact. And cutting prototypes is considered too costly in the early phases of the packaging procurement process.”

As a result, Dordan has found it important to develop a stepping-stone between concept and reality when it comes to communicating a packaging concept’s form and function to the customer.

Dordan used to subscribe to I-DEAS (Integrated Design and Engineering Analysis Software), a product originally furnished by Structural Dynamics Research Corp. (SDRC) that allowed designers to create engineering drawings and wire-frame models, Slavin recalls. Dordan would also use this software to generate ray-traced images: “Ray-traced images were helpful in that they communicated the overall shelf impact of the part, but they took up to a week to generate—completely consuming the output of the computer— and were not that visually accurate because the plastic did not look ‘see-through’ like plastic should.”

Electronic Data Systems (EDS) bought SDRC about 12 years ago, and combined it with Unigraphics (acquired when EDS bought UGS Corp.) to create NX, a high-end CAD/CAM/CAE software package now owned by Siemens PLM Software. “Once that happened, Dordan began experimenting with the 3D modeling and photorealistic rendering options that NX offered, laying the foundation for what we call our Design for Thermoforming Process,” Slavin says.

Dordan’s experience in designing a new package for The Buck Bomb shows how her company’s Design for Thermoforming Process saves time and money while reducing risk and expediting decision-making. The Buck Bomb is a scent-dispersal product used by deer hunters. It consists of a detonator and the spray scent. The Buck Bomb used to be sold in blister packs, but the company was interested in what it would look like if packaged in a clamshell. Consequently, it approached Dordan—its blister supplier—to develop a new package.

But there was a catch: The way The Buck Bomb was sold at retail changed depending on the particular store: Some sold just the spray scent, others just the detonator, and yet others sold the detonator and spray scent together. In other words, The Buck Bomb needed a family of clamshell packages, for a price that was competitive with the existing blister packaging. “How do you show a customer how the various formulations of their product/packaging scenarios will look in clamshells if the customer is not willing to invest in prototype tooling, and an engineering drawing/wire frame isn’t sufficient?” Slavin asks.

“Dordan’s Design for Thermoforming Process incorporates the process of manufacturing into the packaging development phase. It assumes the artistic capabilities inherent in the art of thermoforming for every project, allowing for the seamless transition from concept to reality,” she states.

This process utilizes NX-generated photorealistic images (Figure 1) and 3D animations to demonstrate how the package has been designed for manufacturing, including part functionality and shelf impact. Unlike the ray-traced images of I-DEAS, these renderings can be created quickly, and the resulting imagery is extremely accurate, Slavin says.

“With these renderings, the Buck Bomb team was able to see what their products would look like packaged in a clamshell family without having to spend a penny on prototype tooling. By seeing a fully engineered, digitally produced ‘photo’ of the proposed packaging, The Buck Bomb team was able to expedite the decision-making process. Marketing understood how its priorities were met via photo renderings, while engineering understood how its priorities were met via engineering drawings. Moreover, in producing photorealistic renderings and 3D videos prior to moving to prototype, the risk of any potential design flaws was mitigated by the front-end engineering required to produce these images.”

As a result of this effort, Dordan developed a family of clamshells that maintained The Buck Bomb brand aesthetic while reducing the overall number of SKUs, saving time and money.

Download another Design for Thermoforming case study from Dordan here.

Figure 1, photo realistic rendering

Photo realistic clamshell package rendering

Figure 2: photos of production Buck Bomb clamshell family

plastic clamshellcustom plastic clamshell

custom clamshell

Changes to SPI "chasing arrows" recycling code?


Hi world! Happy Day!

As alluded to in previous posts, I have received various inquiries from friends in the industry, asking what Dordan was doing in the way of the SPI "chasing arrows" recycling code it uses on its aluminum tools. For some time now, the chasing arrows symbol of the SPI resin ID code has been debated; it has been argued that it confuses the consumer, implying a packages' recyclability, not the resin from which it was manufactured, which is the stated intent by SPI. In June 2013 Plastics News reported that the ASTM--the governing body of the code--decided to replace the chasing arrows recycling code with a solid triangle, hoping to eliminate any confusion pertaining to the resin code and recyclability. Read more here

Anyway, it has obviously almost been a year since this article was published and the "official" change to the SPI code announced yet little change has been observed in the market. Do we or do we not use the solid triangle instead of the chasing arrows for new thermoform part projects?

My friend at CalRecycle, the environmental arm of the CA state government, directed my inquiry to the Supervisor of the Sustainable Materials Research Unit, who basically knew everything about everything when it came to resin code labeling. Check out her email:

Hi Chandler-

Robert Carlson forwarded your question to me regarding plastic resin codes labeling.  I can provide you with some information that may be helpful, but it is not clear to me what types of plastic products you are producing. CalRecycle oversees two programs where labeling plastic containers in accordance with the Resin Identification Code (RIC) #1-7 applies:

1.        Beverage Container Recycling Program
2.        Rigid Plastics Packaging Container Program
Specifically, Public Resources Code Section 18015 requires labeling in accordance with the RIC- which was established over twenty years ago and has been adopted by 39 states.

Currently the ASTM International Subcommittee on the Resin Identification Code D 20.95.01 is considering a ballot to modify the RIC (following five years of discussion).  A vote will take place on Feb 26th.  This was the subject of the article you read in Plastics News.  Per the ASTM’s consensus-building protocol,  any negative votes and comments registered on this ballot must be addressed/considered.  Thus, the proposed RIC standard may be further revised based on comments received and another ballot may be required at the subcommittee level.  Once approved by the subcommittee,  the proposed standard revising the RIC will be forwarded to the D 20 Plastics Committee for balloting and the same voting process will take place.  This typically requires a few months for each ballot measure – particularly when substantive changes are being proposed.
It’s important to note that the ASTM develops voluntary standards that may or may not be adopted by individual states through the legislative process.  In other words, a new standard for labeling plastics developed by ASTM will not automatically be adopted into California law – it will require the passage of legislation by the California State Legislature.  This process usually requires a minimum of one full calendar year, unless an urgency statute is included in a bill (which would not be likely in this case).
You may also be interested in these plastic product labeling requirements and guidelines as well:

California Public Resources Code for labeling of plastic products
Federal Trade Commission Green Guides

I think I have may found a new favorite resource for all things governmental regulation and packaging related; oh boy!

A special thanks to my peeps at CalRecycle for sharing their knowledge and allowing me to post our exchange on my blog.

Until next time!

Register now: Discounted rate for Sustainability in Packaging


Hi there,

Guess what?!

The good people at Smithers Pira's Sustainability in Packaging conference want to offer Dordan's sustainable packaging friends (that means YOU) a discounted registration rate! Get $200 off Sustainability in Packaging 2014 conference registration when you use code DORDANVIP.

Nearly 50 experts from diverse organizations like Coca-Cola, Safeway, the NRDC, Waste Management, Zappos, Otterbox, the U.S. Department of Defense will present on the latest successes and challenges that they have faced as they strive for truly sustainable and profitable packaging at this interactive conference set in balmy Orlando, Florida, March 5-7, 2014. 

Click here to register.

Unfortunatly, yours truly will not be in attendance; I have school, which is okay, I guess.

My next post will clarify what is going on with the changing SPI ID code as per my friends at CalRecycle. Stay tuned!

My lunch with Dir. of Brand Packaging @Walmart


Hello world!

I am back from Walmart with stories to share!

Before the Global Sustainability Milestone Meeting, where newly appointed Walmart CEO Doug McMillon was to address the retailer's suppliers for the first time, I had lunch with my friend. Lucky for me, my friend is a Director of Private Brand packaging @Walmart, and lucky for him, I had had several cups of coffee was pumped to talk about sustainable packaging.

First of all, I inquired, what is the deal with PVC? Our customers tell us that their buyers at Walmart don't want PVC, and our suppliers tell us that there is not a suitable alternative to PVC in the context of cost and performance.

My friend explained that Walmart has stated that it looks to eliminate PVC from its product packaging wherever possible, if a comparable material exists, which it doesn't.

Wow, that makes sense. Putting the business case first; a theme that became quite apparent in the Milestone Meeting that was to follow.

Next up, the SPI resin ID symbol: What is Walmart requesting in the way of labeling its plastic product packaging for resin identification as per the ASTM/SPI standards? In other words, there has been talk that the traditional chasing arrows resin ID code will be replaced with a solid triangle so as not to imply product recyclability; just material ID. What is Walmart requesting from its suppliers in these regards?

Walmart is waiting for the industry to move, my friend answered. There doesn't seem to be anything officially reported in the way of labeling standards, so the retailer, like most along the supply chain I spoke to, is waiting to see what happens before changing the resin ID code symbol used on its plastic packaging.

That makes sense, too! Not totally satisfied with the answer, I decided to email my friend at CalRecycle about this when I returned to the office; if anyone should know, the state of California should! Stay tuned.

Okay, what about RF-sealed clamshells? What is Walmart's stance on fully sealed vs. imitation sealed thermoform packaging? We have this imitation sealed clamshell package concept that eliminates the need for secondary sealing operations, saving time and money. Would Walmart use this type of packaging? Does Walmart have any requirements when it comes to determining package seal type i.e. weight, price point, etc.?

Another answer that makes sense from my friend at Walmart: We select packaging on a case by case basis depending on the product and its transport scheme; if the packaging meets the performance and is cost effective.

Cool. So what is going on with sustainable packaging @Walmart? I know that the Packaging Scorecard is being incorporated into the Product Sustainability Index, which will serve to inform the retailer of the "sustainability" of the products it sells. Also you had mentioned that the Packaging Sustainable Value Network, which I participated in at bi-annual meetings since 2011, is no more, nor is the Sustainable Packaging Expo?

That's right, my friend began. Walmart is taking a more product-centric approach to sustainability, where packaging is a piece of the overall puzzle. The various Sustainable Value Networks, like the Packaging SVN, are being replaced with market-focused working groups, like electronics, or bakery and deli. The Sustainability Index is priority, which is being worked on by The Sustainability Consortium and the University of Arkansas; a collaborative approach to measuring and reporting product sustainability.

At Walmart, sustainable packaging has to have a business case; our buyers' pain points will always be cost and performance, but sustainability can help reduce the former or enhance the later. We encourage incorporating recycled content into product packaging, increasing the existing recycled content, reducing the product-to-package ratio, and other practical ways of using package design to save money, optimize transport, reduce shelf space, etc.

Awesome. You have answered all of my questions. High five!

Tune in next time for feedback from the Sustainability Milestone Meeting from yours truly.

Walmart & sustainable packaging, then and now


Hello all!

Writing from balmy Chicago, where the average temperature the last 4 months has been below zero. Neato!

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to Walmart's Global Sustainability Milestone Meeting in Bentonville, Arkansas, February 17th. Walmart's new CEO & President, Doug McMillon, is to address Walmart's packaging supply chain for the first time since his appointment. I assume this is an extension of the bi-annual Packaging Sustainable Value Network meetings, which I have attended with great enthusiasm since Dordan first exhibited at the 6th Annual Sustainable Packaging Expo in 2011.

For those of you unfamiliar with Walmart's foray into sustainable packaging, a couple of items need mention: Walmart's "Packaging Scorecard," introduced in 2008, looked to hold suppliers accountable for the "sustainability" of their product packaging for the first time in history. The goal of the Scorecard was to facilitate an overall reduction in the retailer's packaging by 5% by 2013. There was much buzz about the Scorecard, as suppliers struggled to calculate and report packaging Scores for each product sold at Walmart. 

In order to exhibit at the Walmart Sustainable Packaging Expo-- a great opportunity for packaging suppliers to get in front of Walmart buyers-- companies had to prepare a "Packaging Success Story"; this required an active subscription to the Walmart Scorecard modeling software, which allowed manufacturers to demonstrate a "reduction in Packaging Score." A reduction in Score meant that through a package reduction/redesign, the "sustainability" of the packaging was improved when compared with the previous version.

Before being granted exhibiting status, however, companies had to submit their Packaging Success Stories to Environmental Packaging International for an environmental claims audit. This was to ensure that all companies exhibiting at the Sustainable Packaging Expo were not green washing in their claims of sustainable packaging.

Here is Dordan's Packaging Success Story that served as entry to exhibit at the Sustainable Packaging Expo:

packaging success story resized 600

Click here to download our whitepaper on this Packaging Success Story.

In a nutshell, Walmart wasn't joking around when it came to sustainable packaging in 2011. Real requirements were being mandated, and real decisions were allegedly being made thereon.

So, what happened between 2011 and 2014 in the world of sustainable packaging? Did Walmart achieve their 5% reduction in packaging by 2013? Indeed they did. Here is the retailer's latest update on sustainability, published to the Green Room February 5th. As of date, it seems as though sustainability at Walmart has become more product-centric than packaging-specific, a change in focus I applaud.

To these regards, I have heard that there will not be a 9th Annual Sustainable Packaging Expo; it is being consumed by the new Product Expo, which highlights innovations in products, with a subset devoted to packaging. This development towards emphasizing sustainability at the product level is also reflected in the absorption of the Walmart Packaging Scorecard into the Global Packaging Project's metrics for sustainability, to be reported via Global GS1 barcode system. For more information on changes to the Walmart Scorecard, visit this blog post.

So yeah. That is where we have been with sustainable packaging at Walmart since the introduction of the Scorecard in 2008. Exciting stuff, seriously. I look forward to the upcoming Sustainability Milestone Meeting in Bentonville; I am curious what is next for Walmart and sustainability.

I am going to business school!


Heyyyy friends.

I’m writing you from the polar vortex, neat!

So guess what guys? I am going to school, business school, at the University of Chicago. The ‘Executive Management Program’ began promptly after my return from the Consumer Electronics Show and continues through June; I ‘graduate’ shortly after my 27 birthday.

Words cannot convey how completely floored I am by the quality of professors and programming. My brain is literally being expanded and it hurts. I am learning everything from finance to strategy to persuasion and more! I can’t believe I have gotten along this well without having a depth of knowledge pertaining to these all too relevant topics.

So pardon me as I take a break from the daily doses of sustainable packaging rhetoric that I have become so fond of as I embark on this new academic journey.  I will for sure continue to post, though of less frequency. In the meantime, feel free to follow me @DordanMfg.

Here is a happy video you can watch when you miss me.

Photo gallery: thermoformed packaging dominates 2014 CES


Hey guys!

While exhibiting at the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show, I had the opportunity to sneak away from the booth for the afternoon to check out the exhibits in the Las Vegas Convention Center. Awesome. I also kept my eyes peeled for the types of packaging used to showcase the various gadgets and gizmos. Well color me surprised to discover that 99.9% of all packaging used was custom thermoformed packaging, like plastic clamshells, thermoformed trays, etc.

At Dordan's booth, we had KP's eyetracking study video playing on loop; if you missed it, you can watch the video below. It demonstrates that when making a choice between purchasing a product in a box vs. clamshell package, shoppers opt for the product fashioned in plastic. Feel free to download the eyetracking study whitepaper here. Dordan's tagline, Seeing it Sells it, though invented in 1962 by my Grandfather, emphasizes this point. And boy howdy was I delighted to discover that the paradigms of good ole' business are still alive and well in the consumer electronics industry: let our packaging sell your products.

Check out the photos below of some of my favorite thermoformed packaging on display at International CES.

Thermoformed trays

Plastic clamshell packaging

Thermoformed packaging

Plastic packaging

Custom thermoformed packaging

Consumer electronics packaging

Plastic thermoformed packaging

Custom plastic packaging

Plastic packaging

Thanks for reading! Until next time!

Picture tour: 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show


Hello and Happy New Year my sustainable packaging friends!

The 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show was a blast, with the exception of a forklift driver running over our booth the night before the Show. But behold! Freeman-- the company contracted with the shipping/logistics for the Show-- literally saved the day, fashioning us two custom aluminum rods AND a shelf mount in a matter of hours. My mind was blown and my faith in humanity restored.

Dordan had a good show; just how good remains to be foreseen. We received lots of consumer electronic packaging inquiries and engaged in some really insightful dialogue. The breathe and scope for which thermoforming can be applied in the context of packaging and products continues to amaze me; we even had one gentleman stop by requesting a thermoformed ear-apparatus component to fashion a smart sensor gizmo thereto, whoa!

Luckily, I got to check out the crazy cool gadgets and technology on display at the Las Vegas Convention Center (Dordan's booth was located in the Venetian Ballroom, womp womp). Check out my favorite innovations and misc. snap shots below, enjoy!

First and foremost, check out Intel's booth, which had these yogis doing cool yoga dance fusion stuff.


Did you know that Intel employs a boy genius? I saw him perform a demo of this 3d augmented reality; apparently he delivered the Intel keynote as well, awesome!

3D augmented reality

This 2D platform allows you to design in 3D space, perfect for CAD/CAM modeling. Learn more about Intel's "conceptual computing" here.

While the picture doesn't do it justice, below is more of Intel's interactive 3d modeling. Essentially there is a motion detector that records and communicates your activities as you interact with this 3d projected hologram of sorts. Very Minority Report futuristic and cool.

3D augmented realityMmmm next up is the battle of the gigantic beyond reality TVs. Song, Samsung, etc. all had these huge curved TV displays with amazing graphics and clarity. But don't take my word for it, check out the photos below; and please note, these are pictures of pictures-- just imagine what they look like in REAL LIFE.


Babes & TVs...


Amazing clarity Tvs...


Curved TVs...

Curved Tvs

Bendable TVs...

Bendable Tvs

TVs on TVs on TVs...


And DUAL TVs; that's right, watch two things at once. Or, play a game while the wifey watches a tear jerker!

Dual TVs

Next up, a 3D photobooth that 3D prints Star Trek versions of the photographed! AMAZING.

3D printer photobooth

Another big theme at 2014 International CES was smart, well, everything. Here is a smart refrigerator. I wanted to tour through Qualcomm's Smart House but the line was too long.

Smart device

Tiny cars were quite the rage...


Tiny car

And plastic doors! #PlasticsMakeItPossible

Plastic doors

Gibson's tent was rocking:


And the Back to the Future car made a cameo:

back to the future resized 600

And behold, the most innovative development in sustainable technology seen at CES!

grow a girlfriend resized 600

That's all folks. My next post will cover the packaging trends observed at International 2014 Consumer Electronics Show; so, stay tuned!

Interested in some of Dordan's consumer electronic packaging solutions? Download our cellphone accessory package redesign case study to learn about Dordan's packaging solutions.

Guest Submission to CEA's Digital Dialogue Blog


Hey guys. I hope you are reading this from somewhere warm. It is miserable in Chicago, -4 degrees F with wind-chill, ug.

Last year in preparation for International CES I submitted a guest post on sustainable packaging to the Consumer Electronics Association's blog, "Digital Dialogue." You can read it here. This year I wanted to take advantage of the same opportunity, though I was unsure what to blog about.

2013 had been a tremendously exciting year in sustainable packaging: PET clamshells became "recyclable," California's RPPC legislation was updated, China's Green Fence came and went, the SPC commercialized their 'Labeling for Recovery' project, and much, much more!

What would be the most interesting development in sustainable packaging to a stakeholder in the consumer electronics industry? Can I get a "W?"

Walmart introduced its Packaging Scorecard in 2006. In 2013 it reports that the metrics of the Scorecard will be married with the GPP's 'Protocol,' which will be communicated via a Global GS1 Standard. You have no idea the amount of time, confusion, energy, and money that went into submitting Scorecards for each SKU sold at Walmart. Now make that disapear and you will begin to understand the implications of this development in the world of sustainable products and packaging; things are getting real sophisticated yall. So that is what I decided to write about. You can read my submission here:

The year in review: Sustainable Packaging

2013 witnessed a groundbreaking development in the world of sustainable packaging: The Walmart Packaging Scorecard—introduced in 2006 and aimed at reducing the retailer’s gross packaging consumption by 5%—is to dissolve into an entirely new format for reporting sustainability, a Global GS1 Standard.

For the first time since the introduction of “sustainability” into the lexicon of packaging manufacturers, there is to be a universal framework for communicating sustainability credentials. The Walmart Packaging Scorecard and other tools are to be “integrated” into the Global Packaging Project’s metrics and indicators for assessing sustainable packaging; this common framework for communicating sustainability will then utilize the Global GS1 barcode reporting system, allowing for a streamlined approach to transferring information between manufacture and retailer in the context of product/packaging sustainability. Just as retailers require product weight and shelf life from product suppliers per SKU, so too will they have the ability to request information pertaining to GHG emissions and water consumption.

To learn about all the sustainable packaging developments of 2013, visit Dordan Manufacturing’s booth at 2014 International CES located in the Venetian Ballroom, #70299.

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