Almost Genius: The Cardboard Box That Fits Anything Perfectly

An invention that might eliminate almost all of the wasted space in a cardboard box.

universal packaging system

How brilliant is this? Designer Patrick Sung's Universal Packaging System is meant to precisely fit anything that needs shipping. The individual cardboard sheets are scored with a triangle pattern that can either be fitted to an oddly shaped object, or formed into a custom fitted cardboard box:

ups

Potentially massive savings would result from all the extra shipping space saved--cutting down on how much space each package takes up, and therefore the number of gas-guzzling trucks needed during shipping.

There's just a few niggles. For one, would anyone really put up with the added hassle of folding a custom-sized box, given all the added complexity? And two, the space savings issue might be more complicated than it seems: If people pack things in oddly shaped boxes, there's every possibility that these all don't fit together well enough to actually save space. (That's why square-shaped boxes are so efficient.) But still, with a few tweaks--such as printed guidelines for easily creating boxes of different size--this could be the cleverest thing since the Puma shoebox redesign.

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18 Comments

  • Emma

    From a design point of view, I think this is epic! Of course, you wouldn't transport everything in this way and, if it is fragile then you would use padding. Would the items need to be stacked? The post office always throws your mail into a huge bag, wouldn't a similar system work just as well. Anyway, the saving on materials is a bonus, if they were sold in big enough sheets then the off cuts would still be useful for smaller items. The look of it just being a ball of tape could also be avoided by simply generalising the shape which would happen anyway if you added padding.

  • Darryl Haley

    I worked in the Corrugated Carton Industry for over 6 years as a structural designer and from my experience companies would never go for this. They all want their product to be protected when shipped and this would never hold up. A box's strength comes from the shape of the corrugate and the corners. The triangles create weak points all over the surface that could collapse even if formed into a cube as it travels in a truck. The corners wouldn't line up and so you lose the column effect that creates strength. Using strength analysis in programs like CAPE it is known that when the corners don't line up you lose 20-30% of your stacking strength. Great for a wrap to prevent burst damage though.

  • Peter Alexander

    Could be ideal for book publishers, CD publishers, et al. Our company would test it.

  • Eric MacLeod

    This is a warehouse/stockroom manager's nightmare. It's nice until you have at least two geodesic space-saving beauties that need to be stacked. This nonsense belongs in the Onion.

  • Eric MacLeod

    This is a warehouse/stockroom manager's nightmare. It's nice until you have at least two geodesic space-saving beauties that need to be stacked.

  • John Williams

    If this custom box hit the market today you are all right on the money: UPS would be pissed. However, imagine 5-10 years down the road when a sorting system is developed that can scan (or in some manner detect) the unique shape of the boxes then pack them in the most efficient way. The invention is good, but the future it may represent is much greater.

  • Futureman M

    So how do you stack these on a dolly. or in a truck? I like the concept but this looks like most of these "custom" boxes will end up a tape ball mess...

  • Whys Alives

    Is there a contest to guess what is in the oddly shaped box? I'm guessing a bronze sculpture.

    This is a clever solution with only narrow applications. Useful enough to warrant mass production? I think it'll find its niche.

  • Curtis Weeks

    Actually, just being able to shape it into different sizes and shapes of rectangular and square boxes would be a boon. Not so many worries about stacking, then. Plus, you could just buy one bundle of these, then box some things that are longer than wide (rectangular) or in small to large cubic sizes.

    I think everyone has been looking at the odd-ball picture above and thinking: oh crap, that's not very efficient! -- and ignoring all the other displayed configurations, which have 6 sides.

  • Dan Pedersen

    The boxes' squareness makes them fairly crush-proof at the corners. This thing is a just a thick wrapper and adds very little protection. Add in that it isn't stackable, and you are basically just throwing a huge pile of packages into the back of the truck and slamming the door before they collapse--a good formula for breakage.

  • Michael Egbert

    I'm sorry, but this is just way too impractical to even be useful. Most of the concern for shipping is weight and not the shape of the box. Also imagine trying to push a box that's shaped like a barbell down those roller conveyors that are used by almost every delivery company. I'm sure there are other automated and mechanized processes that handle the square boxes and to accommodate these boxes companies would have to hire more people to sort and handle all of these differently shaped objects.

    Everything now these days is automated, even at chicken factories all the chickens have to be the same size or the machines won't work correctly.

    The box is cool though, it just wouldn't be practical for parcel.

  • james FC

    Cliff = "@Sergiu---Your comment is well taken, but I think you're being hasty. In most cardboard boxes I get, the amount of cushioning space inside is way beyond what's necessary. Obviously, you wouldn't wrap a precious object to its shape, without cushioning. That's why the concept also allows you to create a box. As to stacking, we address that point in the post."

    UPS's own packaging guidelines call for a least 2 inches of cushioning between every item surface and the box wall. Why worry about fitting the object shape when you have to pad it anyway?
    UPS is also very quick to use the "insufficient packaging" criteria as a reason to refuse a damage claim.
    In addition, UPS auditors are quick to add an additional handling charge (currently $6.50) for any package that "in UPS's sole discretion requires special handling". Like for example that it doesn't stack !
    Other than failing to meet UPS own guidelines, it's a great idea!

  • RedDirt LoveGoddess

    Thumbs down. Too much potential for breakage. Now, if I were hauling my own stuff and needed to protect it from bumps and scratches, definitely. But for shipping? No way.

  • Cliff Kuang

    @Sergiu---Your comment is well taken, but I think you're being hasty. In most cardboard boxes I get, the amount of cushioning space inside is way beyond what's necessary. Obviously, you wouldn't wrap a precious object to its shape, without cushioning. That's why the concept also allows you to create a box. As to stacking, we address that point in the post.

  • Sergiu Zichil

    this is nonsense... we had "custom" boxes when they invented bubble wrap and similar products. The point of the box is the added buffer zone between the walls of the box and the product. I sure wouldn't want a custom box for a monitor or a loudspeaker.
    Plus, custom boxes don't stack! Although extreme, in Japan they made square watermelons just do deal with the stacking...
    Silly idea if you ask me... it would probably work for shipping a crowbar though...