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Packaging Undergraduate Program

Landon Holbert and Laszlo Horvath

The packaging degree option at Virginia Tech is one of the most unique packaging program in the United States that focuses on Packaging Systems and Design throughout the curriculum.

Hands-on and Real Life Experience

The undergraduate packaging program has a strong focus on hands-on experience with the incorporation of laboratories into most of our courses. 

Internships are highly encouraged for all students and are a great learning opportunity. They allow students to develop their professional skills, expand their real world experience, and develop industry contacts. We work with packaging companies to provide internship and permanent employment opportunities for our students. Internships opportunities are available with food packaging, corrugated packaging, packaging graphics, and various plastic packaging companies. Our in-house industry outreach center, the Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design, provides our students with a unique opportunity for hands on real life learning experience.

Small Class Sizes = Personal Connection

Our small class sizes provide extensive interaction between instructors and students. Collaborative team projects are a vital part of every course. Since communication skills are essential in every industry, the packaging science program provides numerous opportunities for every student to advance their presentation and public speaking skills.

Up-to-date Curriculum

By working closely with members of the packaging industry, the  faculty of the packaging program frequently modify courses to include the most current technical knowledge to ensure that students graduate with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed.


Specialty Areas for Core Coursework


Packaging Design

Offered: Every Spring      

Understanding the principles of computer-aided design in the packaging industry. Learning the basics of virtual primary package development, computer-aided design of the secondary package, computer-aided optimization of truck loading and palletization. Develop a comprehensive packaging system in a virtual environment. 

Great for students interested in packaging design or freshmen who would like to learn about the industry.

Offered: Every Winter   

The course will provide an opportunity of an in depth exploration of two major computer-aided design software widely used in the packaging industry. We will take a hands-on and project based approach to learn 2D and 3D sketching. 3D product and package design, engineering drafting and plotting. During the class you will learn how to draw plant layouts, design complex plastic packages, create assemblies, use animations, and professional rendering to present your concept.

Offered: Every Spring 

Integrated application of principles of packaging design and manufacturing. Design briefs, package development process, structural requirements, manufacturing and distribution plans, target markets and positioning. Senior Standing required.

Packaging Technology

Offered: Every Fall      

Unit load and parcel supply chains. Principles of operation and design of warehouse distribution and fulfillment centers. Principles of operation and design of shipping and distribution systems. The relation between packaging design, pallet design, and unit load design and the operation of industrial consumer goods supply chain.

Mechanical properties of wood including concepts of stress, strain, Poisson's ratio, orthotropic properties, tension, compression, bending and effects of moisture on mechanical properties. Current issues of wood mechanics in the wood product industry. Standard methods of evaluating important mechanical properties or solid wood, composites and fiber.

Offered: Every Fall

Understanding, identification, and measurement of hazards in physical distribution. Design and analysis of packaging protection against such hazards as shock, vibration, compression, and climate. Includes laboratory tests of shock, vibration and compression, and performance testing of packaging and components.

Offered: Every Fall         

Wood pallet design and performance. The design of wood containers and crates. Design and performance of unit loads. Design and performance of unit load equipment, i.e. conveyors, racking systems, automatic guided vehicles, fork trucks. Principles of unit load design. Mechanical interactions between pallets, packaging, and unit load handling equipment. Unit load stabilization techniques, i.e. strapping, stretch wrapping. International phytosanitation regulations of solid wood packaging; Principles of dunnage, blocking and bracing.

Offered: Every Spring     

Understanding the principles of computer-aided design in the packaging industry. Learning the basics of virtual primary package development, computer-aided design of the secondary package, computer-aided optimization of truck loading and palletization. Develop a comprehensive packaging system in a virtual environment. 

Great for students interested in packaging design or freshmen who would like to learn about the industry.

Industrial management topics of current interest explored from a global perspective. Current domestic and international challenges resulting from a global marketplace and the proliferation of information and technology. Industrial management and organizational performance, total quality management, business process re-engineering, leadership, organizational change, role of communication and information, and ethics. Examination and comparison across international boundaries. II

Introductory polymer, adhesion, and materials science of wood-based composites. Manufacture, performance, and testing of particulate, strand, and veneer-based composites, including wood-thermoplastic composites. Contemporary wood adhesions, binders, and matrices.




Packaging Materials

Fundamentals for food science and technology. Integration of basic principles of food safety, human nutrition, food spoilage, and sensory evaluation with the appropriate technology of food preservation and processing. II

Macroscopic and microscopic structure and basic chemical composition of biomaterials including wood, grasses, bamboo, and  bagasse.  Impact of structure on physical and mechanical properties. Identification of commercially important woods and other biomaterials.  Preparation and analysis of microscope slides and scanning electron micrographs.

Offered: Every Fall

Introduction to synthetic, natural and sustainable polymer science and engineering as applied to packaging systems. Morphology, rheology, physical and thermal properties, processing methods, and polymerization of traditional, natural and sustainable packaging polymers. Detailed study of relationships among materials, processing, and structural properties through hands-on experience. Both traditional and advanced industrial mass production technology, and global regulation and environmental impact of packaging articles.

Offered: Every Spring     

Paper and paperboard properties and types. Types and performance of flexible paper packaging, sacks, and wraps. Folding carton design, properties of corrugated fiberboard. Corrugated fiberboard container design and performance. Packaging regulations and hazards of the distribution environment. Printing, labeling and automatic identification methods.

Offered: Every Fall    

Many types of food and health care packaging. Types, materials and properties, fabrication and functions for food and health care packaging systems. Sustainable food packaging, medical device packaging, aseptic packaging, package/product interactions, smart active packaging, handling of packages, and modified atmospheric packaging.

Offered: Every Spring    

Evaluating synthetic and natural plastic packaging polymers and products as applied to packaging systems. Characterization and evaluation of rheological, morphological, thermal, mechanical and physical function and property of rigid and flexible plastic packaging system. Detailed and applied study of relationships among materials, processing, structure, properties, function and products. Advanced and practical evaluation technology of plastic packaging articles for the career in plastic packaging industry. Pre: SBIO 3284 (3H, 3C) 

Basic principles, unit operations, and equipment involved in the commercially important food processing methods and unit operations; materials and containers used in food packaging; food laws, regulations, and standards. II

Packaging Business and Management

Microeconomics. Consumer behavior and demand, firm behavior and supply, price determination and market equilibrium under varying industry structure. Applications to labor and financial markets.

Expected offering: 2013 Spring           Special Study

Study of the legal and regulatory issues affecting primary, secondary, and tertiary packaging and packaging systems.  Labeling, food and drug, intellectual property, shipping, structural, and environmental laws and regulations affecting packaging design and use.

Offered: Every Spring       

Study of marketing systems and methods used by North American primary and secondary forest product industries. Emphasis on wood product industries. Marketing of hardwood lumber, softwood lumber, panels, composites, furniture, and paper products. Role of North American industries and markets in world trade of forest products.

Offered: Every Spring

Study of the marketing process from a macro and management viewpoint. The macro viewpoint includes the role of marketing in society. The management viewpoint includes the product, distribution, promotional, and pricing decisions. Junior standing required. I,II,III,IV

An integrated analysis of individual and environmental influences on consumer decision making, purchase, and consumption behaviors with strong emphasis on implications for developing, executing, and assessing marketing strategy. Junior standing required. Pre: 3104 or 3104H. (3H,3C)