How to safely package: electronics and technology

Electronics and Technology

Supplying any product on a mail order basis entails some element of risk, but when you’re dealing with electronics, those risks get a little bit higher. Quite apart from the usual dangers of damage and loss, you also have to take into account the higher than usual value of a piece of modern technology, plus the added risk of an electrostatic discharge (ESD) ruining the whole thing without the need of a helping hand from a careless courier.

No packaging system can be 100% guaranteed to protect your product against all possibilities, but follow the advice below, and your electronic product should have the best possible chance of reaching your customer in the same condition you dispatched it.

Anti-static packaging
‘Electronics and technology’ covers a wealth of diverse products, some more fragile and breakable than others. One thing they nearly all have in common, however, is a vulnerability to the dangers of ESD. Basically, an electrostatic discharge occurs when two electrically charged objects come into contact. The effects can also be diverse, from causing a balloon to stick to your jumper or giving you a mild shock to causing your hair to stand on end.

The effects on integrated circuits, which form a crucial part of most modern bits of technology, can be more permanent and far more damaging. And on the basis that the safety of a product is your responsibility until the moment it reaches your customer, you would naturally be the one to lose out should the worse happen.

Anti-static packaging works by creating what is known as a Faraday cage around the contents of a parcel. It usually comprises a thin metallic mesh, which dissipates any charge around, but not through it, thus fully protecting what’s inside.

Common forms of suitable solutions include anti-static polythene bags and layflat tubing, bubble wrap rolls and bags, and specially designed boxes and other containers for specific components. You can also get postal boxes lined with a special kind of anti-static protective foam. Obviously not suitable for your larger items, but a perfect solution for smaller things like mobile phones and circuit boards.

Other internal protective packaging
As previously mentioned, electronics and technology products often have a high monetary value, so providing solid internal protection against everyday bumps and knocks is even more essential than usual. If you’ve decided upon some anti-static bubble, or your product is small enough to fit into a postal box with anti-static foam, you may have managed to cover both bases already.

If you’re using an anti-static polybag, on the other hand, you’ll almost certainly want to add something more substantial to the mix, such as packing peanuts, air cushions or, for the larger items, polystyrene sheeting.

Incidentally, one more thing you’d be well advised to put into your parcel is some silica gel. You’ll almost certainly have come across these sachets of granules before, even if you weren’t entirely sure what they were, as they’re often included not only with electronics, but also with dried foodstuffs. They act as a dessicant, which means that they adsorb any moisture present, keeping it away from more delicate items present.

Tough outer packaging
After all that, choosing the right cardboard box to put everything in should be a piece of cake. Bear in mind that single wall boxes usually have a load capacity of up to 10kg, while double wall are good for up to 30kg. If you’re sending your product abroad, and it’s in any way fragile, you might want to think about plywood boxes, which are near unbreakable.

The other thing you might need to remember when ordering your boxes is that you might need a bigger one than usual to allow for the extra internal packaging you need.

Warning labels
Finally, putting something on the outside to let whoever handles it know that it requires even more careful treatment than usual, is another sensible idea. You don’t need to go as far as saying ‘Expensive Electronics Within’, as that might prove too much of a temptation for some, but a ‘Fragile’, ‘Handle With Care’ or ‘This Way Up’ label should certainly help.

If you want to have a more specific or detailed message, you should be able to easily source packing tape custom printed with whatever you want it to say. It’ll naturally be a little more than standard tape, but as it’ll be doing two jobs in one, it could still prove very cost effective as well as being a damage prevention measure.

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Rick Stanford

Rick has been a salesman in the packaging supplies business for more than thirty years. Now semi-retired, he divides his time between tending his allotment in north Devon, getting depressed at the continuing travails of his home-town football club Macclesfield Town, and sharing his considerable experience and knowledge with the readers of the Davpack blog. Davpack

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