Tiny satellites have made space accessible to a new generation of university students, private companies and even helped cash-strapped government agencies like NASA. Generally known as nano-satellites (nanosats) or cube-satellites (cubesats), this technology has been made possible by the semiconductor driven miniaturization of electronic and electro-mechanical systems. In recognition of the trend, the IEEE has even launched a new journal on, “ Miniaturization for Air and Space Systems (J-MASS).”

Mass is a premium consideration when placing anything into space. That’s why the names of tiny satellites depends upon their mass. Nanosats are the general category for any satellite with a mass from 1 kg to 10 kg. Nanosats include the categories of well-known cubesats and perhaps less well known PocketQubes, TubeSats, SunCubes, ThinSats and non-standard picosatellites. Chipsats – cracker-size, gram-scale wafer miniprobes – are not considered nanosats but have been called attosats by some.

Cubesats (cubesatellite, cube satellite) are a type of nanosatellites defined by the CubeSat Design Specification (CSD), unofficially called the Cubesat standard.

The original goal of all these tiny, miniature satellites was to provide affordable access to space for the university science community. Many major universities now have a space program, as do several private company startups and even government agencies like NASA and the DoD.

The focus of this slideshow is to show nanosat technologies, from the carriers and launch mechanisms to several NASA cubesats performing a variety of missions. We’ll end with an example of a chipsat. Let’s begin!

John Blyler is a Design News senior editor, covering the electronics and advanced manufacturing spaces. With a BS in Engineering Physics and an MS in Electrical Engineering, he has years of hardware-software-network systems experience as an editor and engineer within the advanced manufacturing, IoT and semiconductor industries. John has co-authored books related to system engineering and electronics for IEEE, Wiley, and Elsevier.


As Thanksgiving approaches, I find myself thinking of things for which I am thankful. One of those things is technology.

Butterball turkey
A Thanksgiving staple in plastic film to seal in freshness and netting. Image courtesy Anthony Easton/flickr.

People often ask, what are the greatest technological achievements of all time? You’ve probably heard questions like this. I know I have. The answers are usually fairly typical: The steam engine—or the internal combustion engine. The movable-type printing press. The airplane. The personal computer. The internet. Putting human beings on the surface of the moon— and then bringing them back home.

These are all fantastic achievements, and they changed history. They also involve combinations of technologies, arranged in new and unique ways to do something big.

In my mind, great technological achievements are not mega events, they are subtle little breakthroughs that change everything. I think of the discovery of the simple machines, including the wheel—and the axle. The lever. The pulley. The inclined plane.

I think of breakthroughs in materials. The mixing of mud and grass to make bricks, the world’s first composite material. The firing of clay to create rigid, heat-resistant pottery, which allowed for water to be boiled. The smelting of copper and tin to make bronze, ushering in the Bronze Age. The alloying of iron with carbon, giving birth not only to the Iron Age, but to the making of steel, the world’s first synthetic material.

I think of breakthroughs in applied sciences. The discovery of the concept of density by Archimedes. That gave us the Eureka moment: Ah-hah! I have found it! The conversion of fat into soap by the action of heat in the presence of an alkali, like wood ash, a process now called saponification. I am thankful for the discovery of saponification. Where would mankind be without soap?

I think of breakthroughs in the creation of other synthetic materials: Polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride (aka Bakelite). Polyhexamethylenediamine-adipic acid (aka nylon). Polyethylene (aka PE). I think of the applications of those materials. Electrical insulators. Cable ties. Plastic bags. Duct tape. Saran wrap.

Saran wrap is a brand name for a line of PE film sold by S.C. Johnson & Co. It was originally used to describe a film made of polyvinylidene chloride (PVDC), which was discovered by Dow Chemical. I am thankful for the invention of plastic film. Where would we be without plastic film packaging for food? However, we do have issues with our use of PE film, including re-use, disposal, recycling.

My collection of PE film this month is larger than in past months and will probably end up being stuffed into a a 13-gallon plastic trash bag. It felt weird pulling that bag of its box. I am using a brand new bag—made of PE film—to be used for my recyclable film project. Of course, the box that the bag came from is made of 100% recycled cardboard.

This month, there are the usual small bags, including a small wrapper from a paint trim roller, 4 inches long, 3/8 inch nap. I think the roller and its fibers are made of polyester; not sure. Nothing beats a fresh coat of paint. But I am certain the wrapper is made of PE film. Also, the wrapper from some organic cherry tomatoes, on the vine. They looked so sweet when I bought them. Yesterday, they didn’t look so good. The tomatoes are now in the compost pile. The wrapper is in the bag of recyclable film (after being washed and dried, of course). And soon, a wrapper from a frozen turkey.

This Thanksgiving, I give thanks for PE film.

P.S.: I came across a website that has a page to find a collection site. Turns out there are dozens of nearby stores where I can drop off my clean plastic film, including Target, Kohl’s, Walmart, Vons and Lowes. Who knew?

Read part one of this series, which includes links to all of the other installments.

Eric LarsonEric R. Larson is a mechanical engineer with over 30 years’ experience in designing products made from plastics. He is the owner of Art of Mass Production, an engineering consulting company based in San Diego, CA. Products he has worked on have been used by millions of people around the world.

Larson is also moderator of the blog site plasticsguy.com, where he writes about the effective use of plastics. His most recent book is Poly and the Poopy Heads, a children’s book about plastics and the environment. It is available on Amazon.


Squatting in the defensive trenches of the war against plastics, one’s thoughts may turn to the future of Tupperware (Orlando, FL). Few brands are as joined at the hip with the postwar plastics revolution as this iconic product. Will it survive in today’s plastiphobic environment? A surprising answer may rise from the concrete canyons of New York: Tupperware has unsealed its first pop-up installation in its almost 75-year-history on Mulberry Street.

Tupperware popup

The TuppSoho is a store with a built-in shelf life through Dec. 22 at 227 Mulberry St. The installation is “designed to engage and excite all generations of Tupperware fans,” said the press release, with hands-on product demonstrations and Instagram-worthy perspectives. They can also buy Tupperware products, which is groundbreaking in a way, because the polyethylene containers are almost exclusively sold through direct sales channels to this day. Those Tupperware parties of yore? Still happening, dude.

With the TuppSoho pop-up store, the “party” takes on a new dimension. It’s an opportunity for the brand, which is approaching its 75th anniversary, to show off newer products and to share culinary tips. It won’t come as a surprise in the current context that Tupperware is also highlighting its sustainability cred by reducing the consumption of single-use plastics and avoiding food waste.

“The opening of TuppSoho marks a monumental point in our brand’s longstanding history,” said Asha Gupta, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer of Tupperware Brands, in a prepared statement. “We are giving access to our brand like never before. Tupperware has been an important part of how people interact with their kitchen and their food for decades. In fact, we are a cultural touchstone and we’re embracing that now by opening our doors for more people to experience the magic and depth of Tupperware,” said Gupta.

Tupperware popup

There’s no denying the cultural significance of Tupperware. The product has become such a part of daily life for generations that, like Kleenex or Frisbee, the brand name has largely supplanted the generic terms for those products. So, it’s interesting to consider that Tupperware initially failed to connect with consumers.


As a global leader in developing and producing responsible packaging for food and beverage, pharmaceutical, medical, home and personal care, and other products, Amcor is boldly stepping up to the plate to promote plastics as the material of choice. With a goal of educating consumers, customers and other stakeholders on the benefits of plastic packaging, Amcor (Ann Arbor, MI) recently launched a “Choose Plastic” marketing campaign. The multi-pronged initiative, which includes a new web page, an informative brochure and other materials, is designed to:

  • Tell the “PET story” with truth, strength and conviction, clearing up common misperceptions regarding plastic packaging;
  • demonstrate where PET stands versus other packaging types, including glass, cans and Tetra aseptic boxes;
  • help customers educate their employees, legislators and consumers on the benefits of plastic packaging.

Amcor's PET campaign

“Plastic packaging gives our customers a safe, responsible and recyclable way to deliver products to their consumers,” said Eric Roegner, President of Amcor Rigid Packaging (ARP). “PET is infinitely recyclable and its carbon footprint is less than glass and other packaging materials. But there is still room for improvement, which is why we are working together with our customers and industry partners to boost recycling rates, increase the proportion of recycled content in the plastics we use, and reduce the waste in landfills and nature. Our goal is to create an overall positive impact for all stakeholders.”

Not only are PET bottles and jars lightweight, shatterproof, transparent, recloseable and resealable, studies also show that they are infinitely recyclable, generate up to 70% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than other packaging types, require fewer fossil fuels to produce than aluminum cans and cost less to transport than glass. Additionally, 90% of the PET that goes into recycling bins gets recycled, while only 49% of cans, 40% of glass and 16% of Tetra aseptic boxes get recycled.

Roegner also noted that 97% of Amcor Rigid Packaging’s bottles and jars are designed to be recyclable. The company has pledged to develop all of its packaging to be recyclable or reusable by 2025.

In addition, Amcor is working with organizations such as the Plastics Industry Association, NAPCOR and The Recycling Partnership to promote plastics, increase recycling rates and drive greater use of post-consumer materials. Amcor is also working with environmental organizations, such as the World Wildlife Fund and Trash Free Seas Alliance to eliminate plastic waste.

“PET has a positive story to tell,” added Roegner. “Together with industry partners, we want to make sure that story gets told.”


Lux Research (Boston) released on November 7 its Annual List of Transformational Technologies that are projected to have the greatest impact over the next 10 years.

Lux’s “20 for 2020” report identifies and ranks 20 technologies that will reshape the world, based on innovation interest scores from the Lux Intelligence Engine, along with input from Lux’s leading analysts.Lux-20-for-2020 Report Cover Square

While they are factored in, the report goes beyond megatrends, market demand and new innovations that can thrust many technologies into the spotlight by also providing a shortlist that is intended to provide “data-backed context for the ever-shifting technology landscape and insights into how companies can maximize the investment opportunities these data trends reveal.”

I mean, Lux really goes deep, poring through patents, papers, funding and more.

In short, it lists the emerging technologies that the firm is most bullish on near term and over the next decade. I thought it would be of interest to readers to pull out the ones of particular interest to the plastics community from this fascinating list—and we barely have to go into the list to find the first.

But we’ll begin with what Lux’s identifies as the top two broad transformational market drivers:

1. 5G Networks: From robotic surgery to self-driving cars, 5G will be critical to advances in the internet of things. 5G has officially left the realm of research and entered reality, with more than 2,200 patents being filed this year. 

2. Shared Mobility: With more than $10 billion in funding every year for the past three years, shared mobility—like car-sharing services—are reinventing urban transportation. This was a new entry to the leaderboard as is the next.Lux Top 20 List

And at #3, it’s…

That brings us to #3, which is the first in the list to point directly to plastics via a top-of-mind topic that’s of interest throughout the plastics community and beyond because it’s a subset, and perhaps a large one, of a circular value chain.

3. Advanced Plastic Recycling: Innovations that can convert plastic waste into a variety of valuable products, enabling a circular economy and avoiding pollution.

Mission-critical for companies from consumer-packaged goods companies to chemicals, China has invested in recycling technology in a big way, with 55% of all patents coming from that country. 

The report expands on the topic in the summary, noting…

Why it’s important: Regulations like single-use plastic bans and waste reduction commitments from brands are shaking up the plastics value chain. Plastic waste recycling is becoming mission-critical for companies from CPGs to chemicals.

What you should do: Companies need to develop waste collection and sorting and help scale up conversion technologies like pyrolysis and chemical recycling. Look for those collecting and converting to present new competition for oil, chemicals, and materials companies in the new circular value chain.


PlasticsToday had already identified this as a high-interest market when noting that reports on this topic, especially recently, appear at the top of our monthly metrics reports of the best-read content.

The Top 25 most-read articles from among approximately 900 published so far in 2019 at PlasticsToday are dominated by the overarching themes of recycling and sustainability, including also these three recent features on advanced recycling:

Dow to source pyrolysis oil feedstock made from recycled plastic waste, published August 2019;

Is plasma gasification the solution for plastics and all waste?, published August 2019;

Is an age-old chemical process the solution to today’s plastic waste problem?, published July 2019.

Some 78 articles appear using the search term chemical recycling, and there are 145 when the term is combined with pyrolysis.

Lux’s Top 5 rounds out with Solid State Batteries followed by Protein Production.

Next: Additional plastic references


Digital twin technology was originally associated with the design and simulation of products. It was then developed to also simulate the manufacturing process of those products. Now the technology has moved to packaging. In this effort, ABB Robotics has introduced digital twin technology into its PickMaster robotic software, now calling it PickMaster Twin. The goal is to use digital twin technology to shorten commissioning times of vision-guided, random flow picking and packing applications.

digital twin, robots, ABB Robotics, packaging, PickMaster Twin, commissioning, change overs
The PickMaster Twin lets users design packaging applications online and then use the same confiruation to drive the real-world version. (Imagesource: ABB Robotics)

ABB sees digital twin technology as a set of tools that can optimize the production line, shorten commissioning time, and speed change overs. “This technology improves the productivity of the full lifecycle of high-speed picking lines,” Henrik Knobel, packaging technology manager at ABB Robotics, told Design News. “As such, it shortens commissioning times from days to hours and change over times from hours to minutes.”

Creating a Simulated Line That Doubles as the Actual Line

The digital twin technology allows users to test out robotic configurations on virtual production lines before physical lines are built. The simulated twin can be directly connected to production operations, allowing the picking process to be optimized virtually at the same time as the process is being implemented. “Digital Twin technology enhances the user experiences by using the same 3D visual environment for offline design and simulation as well as for online connection, calibration synchronization, and further optimization of the picking process,” said Knobel.

PickMaster Twin was designed to offer greater flexibility and visualization of all complicated robotic maneuvers designed for flow-wrapping, tray loading, case and carton packing, and handling applications.

Designed for Ease of Deployment

Like a lot of the advanced manufacturing tools hitting the market this year, ABB’s system and digital tools are not more difficult to use just because they operate with greater sophistication. We’re seeing a common pattern of smart tools that are easier to use than their less sophisticated predecessors. “The digital twin technology makes it easier to deploy and lowers the risk of making mistakes as new recipes can be tested and optimized offline on the digital twin before they are put into operation in the factory production,” said Knobel.

PickMaster Twin was designed with intuitive interfaces built on ABB’s Ability Zenon Operations Data Management. The system provides colorful dashboards for easy data visualization. PickMaster Twin complies with OMAC PackML. The PickMaster software also features online visual tuning of the workspace in both X and Y directions in order to maximize output and increase OEE.

As for the logic behind developing digital twin tools for packaging, Knobel noted that the technology offers an overall improvement for the user. “Our interest was to make the commissioning and programing of robotic packaging programs easier and more efficient,” said Knobel. “ABB is in the forefront of driving digitalization for improving the efficiency and productivity of our automation portfolio for the fully automated factory of the future.”

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 19 years, 17 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years, he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.


Those of you with roommates are probably hoping the HBO Privacy Box is not a hoax. After all, Box is HBO’s middle name.

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 19 years, 17 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years, he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.

robots, robotic integration, automation platforms, palletizing, packaging, supply chain tools, warehouse tools, AMRs
A palletizing robot from Honeywell Intelligrated on the show floor of PackExpo 2019. (Image source: Design News / Honeywell Intelligrated) 

Rather than selling equipment to its plant and warehouse customers, Honeywell Intelligrated is creating solutions that include a range of technologies. As the name Intelligrated implies, Honeywell is acting like an integrator, by providing a range of equipment and software to solve warehouse, plant, and packaging solutions from concept to operation.

“We’re expanding our smart robotic offerings to provide end-to-end solutions to make work cells more efficient,” Joseph Lui, VP and general manager of robotics, computer vision and AI at Honeywell Intelligrated, told Design News at PackExpo 2019. “We can be a single source for autonomation for our customers. That’s automation with a human touch.”

Lui noted that the use of technology – including voice-guided solutions for workers to increase picking efficiencies and automated mobile robots for transporting items quickly – is just the start of the digital transformation of warehouse and manufacturing operations. “The next 10 years will see a revolution in how these centers work and operate,” said Lui.

Partnering to Build a Collection of Technologies

To accomplish this, Honeywell has brought together the expertise from a range of companies and equipment providers, including software vendors, universities, startups, and incubators. “In the digital technology space, we’re connecting warehouse operations to increase efficiencies by employing advanced solutions that include machine vision, smart robotics, augmented reality, and voice technologies,” said Lui.

As part of the buildout for creating solutions, Honeywell has partnered with Fetch Robotics to provide autonomous mobile robots for effectively fulfilling orders. The robots operate safely alongside human workers to transport items through distribution centers without human guidance or fixed paths. Honeywell is also utilizing a number of other robot companies. “In additional to Fetch, Honeywell has created strategic partnerships and investments in Soft Robotics and Attabotics,” said Lui.

In order to blend these technologies into solutions, Honeywell has created space where all the technologies can be integrated. “We’ve taken these investments, and established a robotics center of excellence,” said Lui.

Curating a Collection of Technologies

The investments to build out Honeywell’s logistics and packaging solutions reach beyond robotics and into advances that are still in world of academics and start-ups. “We’re investing in partnerships with software vendors, universities, startups, and incubators to create new solutions for both simple and complex needs,” said Lui.

In order to reach some of the bleeding edge technology, Honeywell has engaged Carnegie Mellon University. “Our collaboration with AI researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center is helping to develop breakthrough technologies for distribution centers,” said Lui. “The focus is on building architecture relying on artificial intelligence and advanced robotic systems for advanced supply chain demands.”

To support the packaged solutions, Honeywell has created platform that enables the technology elements. “Part of the collaboration comes from the Honeywell Universal Robotics Controller (HURC). This is a high-performance platform for vision, planning, and motion,” said Lui. “The HURC leverages the machine learning and robotic control software to provide the processing power to handle volumes of real-time data for faster perception and more effective action. The HURC uses a virtual environment for simulation, testing, and troubleshooting to drive rapid solution deployment.”

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 19 years, 17 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years, he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.


2019 October Top 5 in Packaging PT Autumn leaf

Welcome to November, which is anchored by a reflective, family-oriented holiday, Thanksgiving. The month began Friday, immediately after October’s swan song festival of Halloween where kids can be kids and adults can also dress up as whoever or whatever they want to be.

With a new month underway we review the best of October in plastics packaging, done by assessing the most popular articles of the month at the PlasticsToday Packaging channel as determined by page views. As with previous compilations across any particular timeframe, the list is populated by an abundance of sustainably centered news. In fact, sustainable packaging nearly ran the table, the lone exception being a slideshow feature of a wild invention that’s sandwiched at #3 exactly in the middle of the quintet.Coke Pepsi logo

We begin in typical reverse order with the #5 article of the month that checks in on the sustainability news from two of the world’s largest rival beverage brands, Coca-Cola Company (Atlanta) and PepsiCo (Purchase, NY).

Unfortunately, both left the Plastics Industry Association because of so-called philosophical disagreements with that organization’s strategies. Since then, both companies have launched new efforts to solve the problems that the plastics industry apparently has created for them, points out veteran plastics reporter Clare Goldsberry.

In a release sent in September, PepsiCo announced accelerated efforts to reduce plastic waste, primarily through cutting by 35% use of virgin plastic across its beverage brands by 2025, “driven by increased use of recycled content and alternative packaging.”

In a more positive tone, Goldsberry mentioned Coke’s development of first-ever sample bottles made using recovered and recycled marine plastics, demonstrating that, one day, even ocean debris could be used in recycled packaging for drinks (see First-of-a-kind Coca-Cola PET bottles made from ocean plastics, published October 2019).

For more, read What in the world of sustainability are Coke and Pepsi up to now?

Next: A K 2019 update to clarify oxo-biodegradable plastics


New Identity and Packaging for Braun Audio by Precipice Design



(Est. 2019) Braun announces a long-awaited comeback to an esteemed category: audio. After nearly one hundred years of inspirational design across a range of sectors, Braun Audio (no official link) returns with a reinvention of the timeless LE speakers from 1959. London, UK-based Pure Audio is in charge of the products: “True to our heritage and focus on beautifully crafted products, we are responsible for the development and manufacture of Braun Audio, under license from Procter & Gamble, and are pivotal to ensuring this iconic brand once again takes its rightful place as the industry benchmark in premium audio.”

Design by

Precipice Design (London, UK)

Related links

Precipice Design project page

Braun Audio press release

Relevant quote

Precipice Design is proud to announce its work re-imagining of Braun’s 1959 iconic LE speaker range. Celebrating Braun Audio’s rich heritage, Precipice Design developed all consumer and trade touchpoints including brand and product narratives, packaging, photography, iconography, digital assets, video content and point of sale concepts, helping to re-establish Braun in the premium audio sector. Inspired by Dieter Rams’ original designs, the new Braun Audio LE Series of smart speakers encapsulate the perfect combination of minimalist form and next generation acoustic technology tuned to perfection and built to last.

The imagery leans on the rich heritage of Braun while simultaneously placing the revived speaker in a modern setting. Where the original 1950s speaker would prove to be large and cumbersome in today’s home environment Precipice’s imagery shows how the reimagined speakers fit discreetly into the home. The packaging concentrates on the purity of sound and the richness of the brand’s heritage with only the key information about the product shown on the packaging. The uncomplicated packaging is typical of Braun and reflects the aesthetics of the classic speaker through dark tones and a graphic of the speaker itself.

Precipice Design provided text

Images (opinion after)
New Identity and Packaging for Braun Audio by Precipice Design

New Identity and Packaging for Braun Audio by Precipice Design

New Identity and Packaging for Braun Audio by Precipice Design

New Identity and Packaging for Braun Audio by Precipice Design

Bold claims.
New Identity and Packaging for Braun Audio by Precipice Design

New Identity and Packaging for Braun Audio by Precipice Design
New Identity and Packaging for Braun Audio by Precipice Design
New Identity and Packaging for Braun Audio by Precipice Design

New Identity and Packaging for Braun Audio by Precipice Design

Point of sale display.

Brand video.

Yes, I’m a fan of Dieter Rams’ coolness. Yes, the Braun logo is great. Yes, this packaging is very nice and sophisticated and minimalist and all the good things we associate with the Dieter Rams and Braun brand. BUT this is so unexciting and expected. While that is mostly okay because it is all elegant and nice and looking its worth I feel like this could have been a great opportunity to breathe some new, contemporary ideas into the brand. I mean, Helvetica? (Although it’s most likely Neue Haas Grotesk.) This should be packaging for an alarm clock because I’m snoozing. (This is the probably the cattiest sentence I’ve written in years, sorry!, but that’s what Helvetica makes me do.) Overall, yeah, it’s fine, acceptable, and all competently executed but yawn.

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