Improved Protection of White Goods through Packaging Optimization

For white goods manufacturer Mabe, the quality of the design and engineering of their home appliances is paramount. The products need to be highly robust as well as visually appealing but must also arrive with the customer in perfect condition. The appliances’ packaging must be equally well designed to protect from drops, impacts and other disruption events, but over-protecting the goods can result in significantly higher costs. The objectives of this project were to simulate the effect of the distribution environment events to a washer and dryer product and perform optimization to improve product protection while reducing material costs and weight.

Altair ProductDesign was selected to assist in this process and worked with Mabe’s own experienced engineering team. The first task was to generate an accurate finite element (FE) model representation of the product assembly and its packaging structure. The FE model included all necessary structural components of the product and its packaging including EPS foams, laminate paper and corrugated board representations. The computer models were subjected to the same load cases as the physical testing procedure including a variety of drops and impact load cases.

The simulation results showed excellent correlation with the physical tests. The results from the baseline simulations were used as inputs to perform package topology, size and shape optimization using Altair’s own HyperWorks suite of simulation solutions. The placement, shape and thickness of the protective foam and laminated paper corner posts were studied and suggestions made that would maximize the amount of energy they would absorb during an impact.

The final improvements of the packaging performance were significant with the maximum acceleration levels experienced by the product reduced by 29% and the maximum product strain decreased by 27%. Eight out of the nine load cases had reductions in peak ‘g’ levels ranging from 3% to 29%. The business benefits to Mabe of utilizing simulation and optimization methods in its design process include reduced time-to-market, lower prototyping costs, less physical testing and improved product performance.