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Union Square Donuts Packaging

Food Space | Projects

  •    Union Square Donuts has been creating impeccably scrumptious and original donut flavors since 2013. Sadly, they do not have as equally creative and safe transport mechanism for these special donuts. With a box that guarantees safe transport,  their business will be able to expand. Our job these past two weeks was to create a  box that would safely ship donuts long distances, as well as a series of carry out boxes. Simon and I were given the task of creating the carry out boxes. The very first thing we did was brain storm all of the aspects that we wanted our boxes to have. After a day of brainstorming we figured out what we wanted: a box that was foldable from one sheet, because it is easer to mass produce and it folded in less than a minute; could carry both donuts and coffee, which allows people to carry out both in just one simple box; was eco-friendly, for recycling of course; and finally, a box that marketed their business, because their current box only has a single small stamp of their logo on it.
        We first started with the design of the box in Rhinoceros. One of our biggest precedents was the donut box that they currently are using, really a pizza box. We used this a lot to help us design how we fold the box. We went through multiple designs from a small two donut box – which could also carry one donut and one coffee – to a four donut box – which could hold four donuts and one coffee or up to two donuts and three coffees. We chose the diagonal line of coffee holes because even though you could fit a fourth or fifth whole, its rare for someone to order 4 or 5 coffees and no donuts. We went through multiple designs trying to get the correct dimensions as well as finding the right material to use. The box is made out of a piece of cardboard that is about 1/16 of an inch. Although its sounds a little flimsy, when folded, the box is in fact very sturdy. The cardboard is recyclable, making it eco-friendly. The logo on top (or on the side) can be either laser cut, or stamped with rubber stamps that we also made, since we know that Union Square Donuts already have a stamp system in the works.

  •         When Megan from Union Square Donuts first came to our group, she presented some of the bakery’s problems. One of the biggest problems was their boxes. The problems were in the shipping. The boxes they used were recycled pizza boxes and while the donuts were being shipped they would bounce around in the box causing them to hit the top and the sides of the box. When the donuts hit the top of the box lots of the glaze would end up rubbing off, and when they hit the sides they would get bruised. This is the problem Ben Shivani and I decided decided to solve. Megan wanted the box the box to was foldable from one piece of cardboard, so that it would reduce waist, was eco friendly, held coffee and donuts so that the customer would have a easier time carrying their order, and marketed their business.


        The first thing our team did was brainstormed ideas for stopping the donuts from bouncing around. We came up with a couple designs, but in the end decided to pursue making inserts in the boxes that the donuts could fit on but would be blocked from bouncing upwards by a insert on the top of the box that is slightly wider than the donut hole. We started on the boxes by trying to use origami to find a way to fold one piece of paper into box that had places for a donut and a coffee cup while Shivani pursued the idea of the inserts. After many failed attempts with the paper we finally made a box out of paper that had one large compartment and two smaller compartments. After this we decided to move onto Rhino and start designing a box that we could laser cut out, and then fold. We designed this box to hold coffee cup and a donut. The next day we decided to move on to another box to try to fix some of the mistakes that we made on the first one. On the second box we made the walls slightly larger so that it could hold two donuts, two coffees, or one donut and one coffee The box had two main problems, they were; the cup holes were on the bottom of the box and the walls didn't stay in there place. We fixed both this in the next box. We fixed the walls by adding tabs that slipped into slots when the wall folded. The holes were an easy fix by just moving the circles in Rhino.

        The next few days I spent working on stamps that could print the names of the donuts onto the boxes so that the customer could tell which donut is which. I first designed the stamps in Rhino that used the same font (Nashville) as they used. While I worked on the stamps, Ben worked on the box that could hold 4 donuts and 1 coffee,(their most common order) and adding their logo and social media accounts onto it. On Thursday we finished the stamps and made the second to last box. On Friday we made the final box. This box purposely had no branding on it so that we could try out the final stamps that had the Union Square Donuts logo, social media accounts and their address on them. We also only added three holes for drinks holes because using five was a waist because no one ever orders five coffees. 

  • Final:

    The Final Packaging Set is meant to facilitate the packaging of donuts so that Union Square Donuts can expand their business to long-distance donut shipping. This set 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. The layer of cardboard is not attached to the pizza box in any way, because it snugly fits into the bottom of the box. The removability of the insert layer helps transfer the insert layer to another box by the customer if desired, and also makes the pizza box reusable for other purposes (perhaps to hold an actual pizza!) The inserts are in a rectangular shape with half-hexagonal tabs and slots with double notches. These notches are meant to interlock when the inserts fold up out of the layer of cardboard. Each insert has flaps at the top that fold out in a flared manner, similar to a four-petal flower. The petals of the insert are pushed flat by the top lid of the box, and the ever-useful force of gravity. The shipping shell 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. The insert layer fits snugly into the bottom of the shipping shell.

  • 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.