SAN JOSE, CALIF. — While the infant digital versatile disc format struggles to establish itself, no packaging standard dominates.
``There will be several different types of packages, and no standard'' for now, Ron Burdett, vice president of packaging products for Alpha Enterprises Inc. in North Canton, Ohio, said in an interview at Replitech International, held June 3-5 in San Jose.
Whichever format is chosen will have to be different than the standard jewel box, to distinguish DVDs from compact discs, Burdett said.
Alpha's new Capsule product line includes a DVD package of polypropylene.
Machine seller John Kelly observed that DVD manufacturers remember other entertainment formats that failed, and they are in no hurry to buy packaging equipment.
``There is a risk in buying packaging equipment'' too early in the product cycle, said Kelly, sales manager in Hopkinton, Mass., for Toolex Alpha Inc., the North America unit of Sweden's Toolex Alpha AB.
Autronic Plastics Inc., a division of Clear-Vu Products in Westbury, N.Y., seeks to leverage its media packaging experience into the DVD market. Clear-Vu packages movie and game videotapes and provides loss-prevention systems for retailers, but does not compete in the CD market.
Clear-Vu's Trac Pac is a high-performance PP slide-out tray that locks in a shell, according to Barry Applebaum, vice president of business development.
``The shell can cost 25-28 cents [per unit] for high volume and up to 35 cents for lower volume,'' Applebaum said.
Family-owned injection molder Autronic operates 14 presses, mostly Toshibas, with clamping forces of 60-500 tons, said Harry Herz, vice president. Autronic makes emergency lights, business equipment components and entertainment packaging and is a custom molder.
Shape Inc. of Portsmouth, N.H., displayed its trademarked polystyrene Digital Versatile Case, which includes a CD-sized jewel case. Shape is a major manufacturer of packaging for audio, video and CD products.
Queens Group Inc. of Long Island City, N.Y., promoted a version of its Q-Pack, made of high-impact PS and paperboard with a two-part hinge, as a potential DVD packaging solution that would cost 60-70 cents each in large quantities.
``We look at it as a permanent storage device,'' said William Plumb, corporate design director. Other Q-Pack sizes package music and game CDs.
Regarding the trend, ``people are nervous, fearful and hesitant about DVD,'' Plumb said. ``Within three years, it will boil down to two formats'' for packaging.
Plumb has reason to be circumspect. Queens Group committed significant resources to provide Q-Packs for Sony Music & Entertainment's Play Station Game only to see the New York operation return the game to its previous jewel box packaging.
``Being burned, we are in a wait-and-see mode,'' Plumb said.
Privately held Queens Group operates five manufacturing facilities and reported 1996 sales of $195 million.
Paperboard supplier Ames Specialty Packaging Co. in Somerville, Mass., markets a case that was designed originally for the book market, but that fits the Video Software Dealers Association's recommendations for DVD packaging. The case replicates a book's appearance but functions in the manner of a jewel case.
Ames combines paperboard with crystal polystyrene or HIPS to create its Book Pak. Versions have been sold since late 1995 to ``some small publishers for use as an alternative to a big retail box'' for CD-ROMs, said Gary Traynor, vice president of marketing and sales. An Ames vendor injection molds a tray that is affixed to a paperboard cover and hinged at the spine.
Solutions for DVD packaging will boil down to automation issues, Traynor said.
``It's a Catch-22 with alternative packaging'' between hefty hand-assembly charges and buying automated packaging equipment.
Traynor characterized those in the plastics side of packaging as ``desperate for market opportunities'' and spending ``big bucks on tooling for something that is not on the market yet'' in quantity. Ames Specialty Packaging is a unit of Ames Safety Envelope Co.
To distinguish the new product from music CDs, Encino, Calif.-based VSDA recommends that a DVD package measure 5.625 by 7.375 inches with a thickness of 0.375-0.625 of an inch. The width matches existing CD music packages, and the height equals the slip-sleeve VHS package.