Innovator John Wolf
Title Vice president for global sector marketing at Sealed Air, the inventor of Bubble Wrap
Form and function
Fill-Air Flow is a device the size of a paper-towel dispenser that creates clear plastic air cushions—a cheaper, sleeker alternative to packing peanuts and the like—at a scale designed to be affordable for small businesses.
Starting in 2014, Wolf led a team of eight to develop a small-scale packaging dispenser, after Sealed Air noticed a rise in the number of small shipping operations.
The 13-by-14-by-8-inch Fill-Air Flow, hung on a wall, feeds a roll of 10-by-8-in. plastic bags into the machine’s inflator. Users can customize the desired fill volume using buttons on the front of the device.
The inflator fills as many as 20 bags a minute, sealing them with heat.
Using air cushions can make a package 25 percent smaller, Wolf says.
Sealed Air is charging $475 for the hardware, less than half the cost of higher-output competitors such as the Mini Pak’r Industrial Air Cushion Machine.
Wolf says he’s hoping small businesses will eventually account for as much as 15 percent of the roughly $2 billion global market for air-inflated packaging.
Sealed Air says the Fill-Air Flow machine will be for sale in the first quarter of next year. It’s pitching the device to small businesses at exhibitions and trade shows. “It’s so cost-efficient, it takes care of itself in a couple of months,” says HelenAnn Lally, owner of Your Neighborhood Office, a small business in Manhattan’s West Village that’s using the device. Lally says she has also saved space by getting rid of other packing supplies.