Intellectual Property

PackIT - Material modelling software

PackIT - Material modelling software

Researchers at QUB have developed a software tool "PackIT" that will enable product designers and manufacturing engineers to develop lighter and more functional plastic packaging products. The new software provides designers and engineers with a tool to model and improve their thermoforming processes


While there are many software products that perform Finite Element Analysis (FEA) simulation, existing software tends to provide results of limited accuracy and therefore usefulness, in addressing the complex phenomenon of thermoforming plastics.  The model construction process is often complex and time-consuming.  The plastics packaging industry needs and wants focussed software that will enable it to understand thermoforming processes.

PackIt will soon be available as a module within Altair Engineering’s HyperWorks computer-aided engineering (CAE) simulation software platform.  HyperWorks is a comprehensive, open-architecture CAE solution modeling, analysis, visualization and data management solutions for linear, nonlinear, structural optimization, fluid-structure interaction, and multi-body dynamics applications.  Hyperworks has a flexible software licensing model that replaces expensive traditional licensing plans with a pay-per-use system.

Current software offerings fail to provide the range and depth of modern material models for polymers that are necessary to simulate the thermoforming of plastics.  The reason for this shortcoming is simply because they do not focus on thermoforming as a process - the few available packages do not offer a streamlined or accurate approach to building thermoforming simulations and are not seen as predictive. 

QUB’s PackIt software provides for the accurate simulation of thermoforming.  FEA analyses can now be supplied with state-of-the-art polymer material models and processing approaches.  An independent study has predicted that the advent of these innovative models and their accuracy will transform the attitude of the industrial packaging market to simulation techniques. 

This revolution in design philosophy will be fully supported by consultancy from the QUB that devised these new and evolving polymer models.  QUB has world-beating materials testing equipment - including a biaxial stretching machine, an instrumented thermoformer and specialist test equipment for friction and heat flow measurements - for characterising material performance.  This means that the simulation software is provided with material models that have been developed through robust empiricism. 

PackIt provides a streamlined user-friendly approach to simulation of thermoforming.  It is particularly useful for plug design.  Designs using will be more accurately dimensioned than those designed by trial and error and the products will cost less to produce. This will enable plastic packaging companies to reduce material usage across their entire product ranges, and suppliers of resin and processing machinery to optimise their offerings.


Peter Martin, Ciaran O’Connor

Patent Status

The software is protected by (c) copyright


Project part financed by the European Regional Development Fund under the European Sustainable Competitiveness Programme for Northern Ireland.


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