Shivani Angappan
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Union Square Donuts - Long Distance Shipping

The intent of this project was to design a method of packaging donuts so that they could easily be shipped over long distances. I designed the packaging method described in the “Final” post for Union Square Donuts, a bakery that has partnered with NuVu for the purpose of this project and three others, all working on improving the quality of the bakery’s products and facilitating the jobs of the employees at the bakery.

When a representative of the bakery visited NuVu for the first time, she listed out a set of problems that were hampering the bakery’s productivity and sales. One problem was that the current donut packaging method, using a plain pizza box to package nine donuts in a 3 x 3 arrangement, would allow for the donuts to touch each other and the insides of the box, thus increasing the hazard of toppings being smeared and jeopardizing the quality of the donut when it is finally presented to the customer’s eyes (and mouth).

At first, while Ben, Simon, and I were all together, we brainstormed ideas for ways to package donuts in general. Afterwards, when I branched off into long-distance shipping, I added a few more ideas to the plethora that we already had. Here are three packaging strategies that seemed the most promising to me, both pre-production and post-production. Sketches of all three are in the images above.

Strategy 1: Complementary Inserts Method

This strategy involves attaching removable, interlocking inserts on the inside surface of the top and bottom lids of the box. The inserts on the inside surface of the top lid would be formed in the shape of a cone with concave sides. Each top insert would also have a base (non-removable, and part of the insert itself) in the form of a cylinder with a height of around 2 or 3 mm and radius larger than that of the donut hole, to prevent donut mobility when the box is not right side up (say, if the box were sideways or upside down). The inserts on the inside surface of the box would be shaped like the intersection of two of the top inserts: two concave frusta joined at the smaller bases, and hollow, so that the top insert can fit snugly into it. Rough models of the two inserts are shown in the first image.

Strategy 2: CD Stack Method

This strategy was inspired by the way CDs are stacked in a CD case. In this strategy, we form a bar of radius slightly less that 1 inch (to fit through the holes of the donuts). This bar has holes in it for smaller bars that will serve as partitions so that the donuts do not touch each other. Each donut will snugly fit between the partitions, and there is no risk of the donuts being overturned if the box is not upright, and the amount of glaze touching the box or the bars/partitions is minimized, because the donuts are tangent to the partition bars, so the area of contact is at a minimum. This strategy has two offshoots. If the main bar is horizontal, the partitions can be a single bar through a hole. However, if the main bar is vertical, the partitions must be two smaller bars per hole, forming a perpendicular cross/+ shape. (I will post a model of these afterwards.)

Strategy 3: Slant Method

This method has already been implemented by several companies for packaging cookies, donuts, and other types of pastries. In this strategy, each donut is separated by small inclined partitions, quite like business card holders, so that all the donuts are leaning on their non-glazed side, thereby reducing the amount of glaze that touched the box. However, this type of box is susceptible to large amounts of donut damage when not placed upright. This can be remedied by combining the bar method with this: having a bar through the holes of the donuts while they rest on the partitions. (Images of the plain slant method can be found readily available on Google Images, but the bar method cannot.)

            After coming up with these top three choices for my first iteration, I decided that the insert model was the most apt for production, for several reasons. The foremost reason was that the representative of Union Square Donuts had strongly emphasized her need for an eco-friendly product. Since their pizza boxes were made of eco-friendly cardboard, I decided that folding inserts out of cardboard would save 1) time that would have otherwise been spent in waiting for a 3D printer, 2) money that would have otherwise been spent in buying a 3D printer and the plastic used to print, and 3) the ecosystem, by using biodegradable materials rather than plastic that facilitates 3D printing. Thus, I began my first iteration of the fold-up insert.

Iteration 1: This iteration of the fold-up insert set was very rudimentary. When folded up, the top insert is a simple square pyramid, and the bottom insert is a hollow rectangular prism with squares as the bases. The pyramid is folded out of triangles spaced so that the vertices of their bases do not touch each other. The rectangular prism is also folded in a similar manner, with the flaps formed in the shape of rectangles rather than triangles. 

Iteration 2: Some time after I made the first iteration, I realized the rudimentary design that I had laser-cut did not have a way to secure the foldable parts of the insert together without tape. Taping the foldable flaps together for each insert is a painstaking process (as personal experience does show), is unhygienic (the ash from the laser cutter tends to rub off on hands, and the germs from hands are transferred to the tape and then to the donuts), and looks unprofessional. Thus, I decided that I ought to find a different way to attach the insert flaps together. Instead of completely revamping the insert design, I merely designed a system where the inserts have both tabs and slots, so that they all fit together perfectly. I made the slots and tabs in the shape of one half of a regular hexagon. This iteration, unfortunately, did not succeed in its purpose—the tabs fit into the slots, but they did not stay in their designated places, because there was again no way to secure the tabs inside their slots. Thus, I created the third iteration.

Iteration 3: For the third iteration, I set about designing a new type of interlocking mechanism, having realized the various downsides to using adhesives to stick the tabs to the inserts—1) the cost would be very high, 2) the uncertainty of how would the adhesives be applied, 3) the amount of time consumed in applying the adhesive to the inserts, and 4) the cleanliness/hygiene of the donut (who wants adhesive on their donut, after all?). I decided that a double-notch system, in which each insert has two notches that fit into the other notches of the neighboring inserts, would be best fit. Thus, I designed a double notch system with the original half hexagons. I laser cut this and was delighted to find that the notches did indeed fit, and were deemed “extremely rigid” by various third-party testers. Because of these comments, I decided that the set of top inserts (the ones that folded up into a pyramid) were unnecessary. Also, the pyramid did not fit into the hollow space created by the fully assembled notched insert, so this decision would have had to be made in either case.

Iteration 4: In this iteration, I attempted to make a replacement for the top inserts. My idea to accomplish this was to first lengthen the inserts, then move the notches lower on the inserts and fold out the protruding parts to create a flaring design much like a flower with four rectangular petals. The box’s lid would push down upon these petals, thus trapping the donut in place and inhibiting any vertical or horizontal movement. This system actually works the best when the box is upside down, since this is when the force of gravity on the donuts is highest, and thus the pressure on the tops of the inserts is highest, so the inserts’ top flaps flare out even more. This iteration has been laser cut but no pictures are available at the moment, only Rhino screenshots.

The Pizza Box: This box is a simple cut-out of the pizza box, constructed similarly to Ben and Simon’s smaller to-go boxes, and optimized for shipping. This has also been laser cut but no pictures are available at the moment, only Rhino screenshots.

The Final Product: This is the combined set of the shipping shell—the pizza box—and the insert layer, which is a layer of cardboard with the inserts etched and cut out so they can be readily folded. This is meant to facilitate the packaging of donuts so that Union Square Donuts can expand their business to long-distance donut shipping.