Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Lowly Packing Peanut

One summer I went to the Fair where they had numerous collections on display; coins, currency, stamps etc. But the collection that stood out for me was a collection of 300 different packing peanuts. Each peanut had a wooden tooth pick driven through the length of it and was mounted
on a board the way you'd see insect collections.

While gazing upon this prosaic presentation, an incredible thing occurred to me: if there are so many kinds of packing peanuts, what does that say about the utter complexity of our world? It was a profound moment!

Later I was to find out that the Federal Government creates 170,000 new laws and regulations a year.

Other questions started pounding their way into my pea brain: who can grasp the law? Who really knows it? I'd guess that the "authorities" can easily find some little-known law to charge anybody with. Everyone is guilty all the time, in the myriad eyes of the "law."

Materials engineer Edgar Burchard working for BASF invented an alternative to the ubiquitous packing peanut. It was W shaped foam that was manufactured in die-cut sheets. It trounced other packaging materials in performance: transmitting up to 90 percent less shock and four times better cushioning than the peanut. It was also cheaper because it was compact to ship because the sheets have a high packing density. All the user has to do is a mild crumble of the sheets to release the individual ‘peanuts.’ Essentially, better faster and cheaper. 3M bought the design in 2004 and renamed the product the Packaging Noodle. I have used it and absolutely loved it. This summer, five years later, it was taken off the market. Why? Consumers (mostly white collar office people) could not figure out that the blocks broke apart into hundreds of noodles. Just how the hell did we put a man on the moon 40 years ago?

The Transmogrifer is king of the jungle jive.
click to enlarge

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